The man with a golden heart,Rusi Surti was born on 25th May 1936. He truly was and will always be one of the best all rounders Indian Cricket ever produced. Humble by nature, combined with the most pleasing personality, a straightforward human being with a positive attitude and on the other hand he was a soft person but an aggressive batsman.This was exactly the kind of person he was…always ready to help not only his fellow team mates but everyone around him. He was a great soul who found a place in the Indian Cricket team and contributed towards the teams success in his own brilliant fashion.
Surti represented Gujarat and later Rajasthan in Ranji Trophy matches. This great man also played for the Haslingdon Cricket Club, in the Lancashire League…He further played 26 tests for INDIAfrom 1960 to 1969, scoring 1263runs at an average of 28.70, getting 9 half centuries with his highest being 99 runs. At the same time he picked up 42 wickets, with his best figures bing 5/74 and landed up taking 26 phenomenal catches. He was an opening bowler who bowled left arm medium pace,also was a left arm spin bowler and a lower order batsman. Rusi Surti possessed a very rare quality of bowling spin as well as medium pace. His style of playing was apt for limited overs cricket but unfortunately during that era there were no ODIs played. I reckon he would have definitely been a captains right arm, a go to bowler in any situation and would have truly been an asset, had he been playing for the country today…A complete team man is what he was known as and would go all out of his way to do anything that would benefit the side he was playing for. Rusi Surti was one of the very few cricketers who would be willing to bat up the order and in any situation, a gutsy player who readily took on and faced the best bowlers in the world.
When he would come out to bat, he would walk to the crease, take hisstance and hit a couple of quick runs out of the park. If you think that is the end, then you’r wrong because there is much more to come. This great gentleman was an outstanding fielder. He would come running into the 30 yard circle, pick up the ball and in the same running action would throw it back to the wicket-keeper. His approach was way different from the rest of the players who would normally wait for the ball to reach them. He thus earned the tag of the “ Poor Mans Gary Sobers”… as he played in the same era as the great West Indian, Sir Garfield Sobers.
From 1969 to 1973 he represented Queensland in Sheffield Shield, as Vice- Captain…the only Indian to be so honoured and then from 1982 onwards conducted his own private cricket coaching in Australia, as he was approved as a qualified coach by the Australian Coaching Council.
Rusi Surtiis the biggest reason why I fell in love with the game of “Cricket”. I have always been so honoured and proud of the fact that I got the privilege of being his grand niece…This is how cricket runs in my blood as I am extremely passionate about this sport! He encouraged me to follow the game and shared with me minute aspects that only a cricketer would know…and from then onwards cricket became a part of my life. We would just talk about the game when he would be around. Normally people would say that they chose this sport, but for me I have to say that it was the game of Cricket who chose me. Even today I get those surprised expressions when I share with people that I want to become “India’s youngest women cricket commentator.”A dream I dreamt, but the faith I saw in Rusi Uncle’s eyes that made me believe that someday I would achieve my goals and here I am climbing the ladder towards success. This beautiful game has taught me a lot and keeps enlightening me every single day with something new.
He was a unique personand an outstanding cricketer, always believing that “Test Cricket”is the real cricket as it tests the temperament, fitness and stamina of a player. I always kept telling him, had I been born in that era… I too could have seen him play for India. All his team mates enjoyed his company. Till the very end, when India toured Australia, this fabulous manwould always be present at their net sessions, guiding and talking to the Indian Teamespecially the likes of SachinTendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, SauravGanguly, Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan and M. S. Dhoni. At the same time, the present lot of youngsters in the team always valued his inputs. For him everyone was equal and nothing was big or small. Even today he is fondly remembered in the cricketing fraternity. His passing away so suddenly; was a big loss to Indian cricket as he created a huge impact in the minds of all his fans and followers. He would thus always keep saying “ Learn through your own experience, dedication and hard work…If I can do it so can you and that is why I had a fantastic cricketing journey.”
Before I conclude, I would like to share something withall of you…Just a couple of days before he passed away, something inside me said that it”s your last chance, go and take this historic figures autograph, which I had never done before… And this is what he wrote for me:
‘’ To Binaisha, It”s an honour to sign for you.’’
May your soul always rest in peaceRusi Uncle… you are remembered in our thoughts every single day and I know that where ever you are, you will always be by my side in spirit, guiding me all the way!
BINAISHA M. SURTI
(Grand niece of CricketerRusi Surti)