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Giants on whose shoulders future generations prospered: Dravid lauds class of Karnataka '74

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Bengaluru, Mar 31 (PTI) Warm spells of nostalgia washed across the room as members of the Karnataka team that won the 1974 Ranji Trophy bundled the audience into a time-capsule and took them back to an era where cricket and life were simpler.

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Unassuming those days and players might have been, but the path found by champions like GR Viswanath, Syed Kirmani, Brijesh Patel, EAS Prasanna and BS Chandrasekhar has only broadened over the years through which several ace cricketers walked through.

None among them shone brighter than Rahul Dravid, former India captain and the team's current head coach.

"It was an inspiration for all of us. Right from our U15 and U17 tours, all we could hear was how Karnataka beat the mighty Bombay against all odds (in the semifinals back then).

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"It really opened the doors for Karnataka cricket, and also the rest of the country that it is possible to beat Bombay. It was the bedrock of everything that followed as on the shoulders of these giants Karnataka cricket prospered," Dravid said here in a function organised to felicitate the class of '74.

Karnataka ended Mumbai's streak in the semis by virtue of their first innings lead, with Viswanath and Brijesh making hundreds while Prasanna and Chandrasekhar sharing nine wickets among them.

It was the first time in 15 seasons Mumbai failed to enter a Ranji Trophy final.

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In the summit clash, Karnataka went past Rajasthan by 185 runs as skipper Prasanna returned with a nine-wicket haul to bag their maiden Ranji title.

Viswanath, in his typical humble way, reminisced how Brijesh tamed a solid Mumbai spin attack consisting of Padmakar Shivalkar, Eknath Solkar, Rakesh Tandon and Milind Rege.

"Brijesh was a slightly hesitant starter for the first few balls. But once he is set, he is a nightmare for bowlers, especially spinners. Good luck to bowlers," he said.

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But these legends were not only fine players but were wonderful human beings and great ambassadors of the sport as well.

Dravid shared a couple of nuggets with the audience.

"GRV sir was my first manager. Once we went to Visakhapatnam for a match and the Andhra Cricket Association had arranged a passenger bus to pick us up from the railway station, some 20-25 kms away, and the bus driver and conductor suddenly got this idea.

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"Anyway only 15 cricketers are there, let's make some extra money by picking up people along the way, and I remember Vishy sir shouting at them – No no! You can't do this etc." Sharing another instance, the 51-year-old said: "There was this train journey to Kolkata where Vishy sir and Syed Kirmani sir accompanied us as manager and captain respectively. It was a great time over two and half days when we picked their brains and the way these giants carried themselves was an inspiration for all of us." Brijesh underlined the importance of that epochal victory for Karnataka cricket.

"Karnataka have always had some good bowlers but we did not have a strong batting line-up to back them. But the arrival of Vishy, Sudhakar Rao, Vijayakrishna, AV Jayaprakash, Sanjay Desai, Kiri, etc changed the whole complexion.

"In fact, the previous year, we had beaten Mumbai in the Irani Trophy final (Rest of India vs Mumbai, 1973) here, and that also gave us a confidence that we could beat Mumbai – home or away," said Patel.

The function was also attended by former India batters VVS Laxman, Sujith Somasundar and former India pacers Dodda Ganesh and Venkatesh Prasad.

While some other eminent names like Sunil Gavaskar, Roger Binny, Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Sunil Joshi and R Vinaykumar shared their messages through recorded videos. PTI UNG AH AH

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