Bloody Nose: Bantoo Singh remembers brilliant bowler in Tendulkar

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New Delhi: Sachin Tendulkar has scarred many bowlers for life with his imperious batting but Bantoo Singh saw the 'spirit of Curtly Ambrose' in 'Little Master' when he was hit by his bouncer that left him with a bloody nose and multiple fractures during an ill-tempered Ranji match between Delhi and Mumbai in 1991.

Bantoo, one of the pillars of Delhi's batting between mid 80s and mid 90s, can now afford to laugh when he jogs his memory 32 summers back to April 20, 1991.

"Mere naak ka naqshaa hi badaal gaya Sachin ke uss bouncer ke baad. Mere paas ab naya naak hai (The design of my nose changed after that Sachin bouncer. I have a new nose now)," Bantoo said during an interaction with PTI on the eve of legend's 50th birthday.

But there was backdrop to Sachin's bouncer that had Bantoo literally ending up on all fours.

The Mumbai versus Delhi clashes in 1980s and 1990s used to be as much about ego as it was about playing the game of one upmanship.

The chaste Punjabi abuses would fly thick and fast from Delhi camp and returned in kind in 'Mumbaiyaa tapori' language.

"We had tried preparing a green top at Kotla which had good carry but it became a batting paradise. It was a heated-up game as our seamers Sanjeev (Sharma) and Atul (Wassan) bowled a few bouncers to Dilip bhai (Vengsarkar), who was playing his last season.

"I remember at least on two occasions, Atul's bouncers hit Dilip bhai on the rib cage and sledging started," Bantoo remembered.

Delhi lost the quarter-final by one run as they finished first innings on 389 to Mumbai's 390.

The second innings of both teams was a mere formality as Mumbai scored 719, riding on hundreds from skipper Sanjay Manjrekar, Sachin Tendulkar and Chandrakant Pandit.

"It was the final day and Mumbai boys were a bit pissed off with us because of short-pitched stuff that was dished. I had hit a hundred in first innings and was high on confidence. Now Sachin in those days would insist on bowling seam-up and was slightly more deceptive than he actually looked."

"Once he got the ball, I punched him through covers for a boundary and he threw a cold glance at me. The next ball, he put in effort and hit a grass patch on short of length as the ball climbed up.

"Well, I never wore a helmet with protective visor (front grill). Mine was old fashioned with fibre glass protection on ears. As the ball climbed on me, I tried to play the pull shot over mid-wicket but the ball ended up hitting the toe of my bat and came like a rocket towards me.

"In those days, when any Ranji match was held in Delhi, we would use a red ball from a local company named Keemati. Today's generation which has grown up on SG Test wouldn't know that Keemati balls were like a brick. The moment it hit me, I went blur and before I lost my balance, it was Mumbai skipper Sanjay (Manjrekar), who quickly ran from slips and I collapsed into his arms," Bantoo took a breath.

"My shirt was soaked in blood and even Sanjay had blood on his shirt as I left the field with help of my teammates."

Bantoo was taken to Sanjivan Hospital right behind Kotla and was diagnosed with multiple fractures on his nose, which required surgery. He had to stay on liquid diet for at least two months.

But Bantoo remembers Sachin, the human being.

"Mumbai team had left that very evening after the match ended. It was around 11 at night that our landline phone rang and my dad picked up. On the other end, it was Sachin, who had got my contact, I don't know how. He asked Dad, 'How is Bantoo doing? What are the doctors saying?' My dad was moved."

"Later on, whenever we met, he would ask, "Naak theek hain na tera (Is your nose alright now.)." PTI

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