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An English farewell for ‘well-loved’ Dicky

London, July 14: The funeral of Dicky Rutnagur, the doyen of Indian cricket writers who died in London on June 20, aged 82, was held on Friday at Golders Green Crematorium.

The mourners were led by his son Richard, with many cricket correspondents present.

It was fitting that Rutnagur received a moving tribute from John Woodcock, the doyen of English cricket writers.

It was also fitting that the final farewell took place on a warm, sunny day with England playing Australia in an Ashes series.

After the funeral, there was a gathering of Rutnagur’s family and friends in the Writing Room at Lord’s, a ground he loved above all others. From its windows, the hallowed turf looked in perfect condition. Rutnagur, who covered some 300 Tests in a career spanning over half a century, would have recognised that the wicket was ideal for batting.

Groups of Indian holidaymakers were wandering around the ground on a tour that takes in the MCC Museum.

Rutnagur, who wasn’t religious but described himself as more a Zoroastrian than a Parsee, received quite a traditional funeral with two priests, Rustom Bhedwar and Marzban Dastoor, in attendance.

Faces covered and wearing white, the priests offered prayers in the ancient Avestan language. There had been an hour of prayers at the funeral parlour as well before the hearse arrived.

The entrance music was Lionel Hampton’s September Song — September is when the English cricket season draws to a close. The committal was to Sarah Vaughan’s What a Difference a Day Makes. The exit music was the calypso, Cricket, Lovely Cricket.

Rutnagur would have loved the words: Cricket lovely Cricket/At Lord’s where I saw it/Cricket lovely Cricket/At Lord’s where I saw it/Yardley tried his best/But Goddard won the Test/They gave the crowd plenty fun/Second Test and West Indies won.

Rutnagur’s first wife, Doris, whom he met during India’s tour of the West Indies in 1962, was present. So was his middle sister, Arnavaz Dubash, who had flown in from Mumbai. Youngest sister Shehnaz could not get a visa in time.

The first tribute was paid by Dorab Mistry, former president of the Zoroastrian community in the UK, who said he had grown up, like millions of Indians, listening to Test match commentary by Rutnagur and Vijay Merchant on a transistor radio.

“Dicky was the voice of cricket,” said Mistry.

Next it was the turn of Woodcock, 86, who was cricket correspondent of The Times from 1954 to 1988 and editor of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack for six years from 1981 until 1986. He was president of the Cricket Writers’ Club from 1986 to 2004.

Turning to the casket, Woodcock, who had made the effort to come up from his country residence in Hampshire, struck an informal, conversational tone as though he was chatting with Rutnagur in the press box.

“Well, Dicky, I hope you know the affection in which you are held — and I use the present tense intentionally — not only by all of us here today, but by so many who are already with you in the great pavilion in the sky, and others who would be here now but for the Test match at Trent Bridge. It is a great privilege for me to have the chance to say so.”

Woodcock recalled: “To have covered over 300 Test matches in the days when there were many fewer of them was a remarkable tally, and when it fitted, you were in the top flight of writers on squash and badminton.

“Thank you, Dicky, from all of us, for many years of warmth and humour, for becoming one of us as naturally as you did and for keeping our friendship in repair.

“It is a very considerable thing to be able to say, without any exaggeration, that of all those brought to this country through cricket, many great players among them, you, a journalist, has been as well-loved and respected as any. What an achievement! Our gratitude to you for many fond memories. Peace be with you, Dicky.”