“bowling bowling!!!” he roars and the entire press box snaps to attention. A hundred Test matches, 98 One-Day Internationals, over 500 Ranji Trophy ties and unstinting applause from the world’s finest cricket writers haven’t altered the stance of this unassuming, self-appointed scorer-statistician.
“Rahman brings to his chore of reading out the bowling figures the zeal of Demosthenes. Like the best orators, he stands up while his disciples sit clustered around him; in his left hand he holds a book, with the relevant notes on which to base his discourse…No larynx could conceivably rival Rahman’s,” Scyld Berry wrote in his Cricket Wallah.
And Berry wasn’t the only ‘phoren’ scribe smitten by Rahman’s charm and industry. John Woodcock declared in Wisden 1979: “Rahman is the best scorer in the world and there is no substitute for him.” Mike Coward, Peter Laker and Allan Lee — the cream of cricket critics have, over the years, struck up a deeply personal chord with the 52-year-old devout Muslim, who never misses his namaaz on Fridays and keeps his roza without a break.
An office manager with Eastern Railway(senior DME, Sealdah), Rahmanbhai started his innings as off-break bowler-cum-scorer for Rajasthan Club back in 1962. After his first-class ‘debut’ (Bengal vs Bihar) in 1964, he went to Dhaka (then in East Pakistan) in 1966 to keep scores for the Quaid-E-Azam Trophy.
“My big year was 1969, when I did the scoring against Bill Lawrie’s Australia at the Eden Gardens, my first Test match. Since then, I have covered most of the venues in the country,” he declares proudly. Incidentally, Rahman completed his Test ‘century’ also at the Eden, during the recently-concluded drawn tie against Carl Hooper’s West Indies. BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya gifted him a “special tie” and the Calcutta Sports Journalists’ Club felicitated him on the occasion.
Rahmanbhai learnt the techniques of scoring from the late B.B. Mama, former statistician to Sportsweek magazine. “He was impressed with my diligence, and suggested that I take up scoring seriously.”
His seemingly endless reserves of patience and painstaking meticulousness were tested to the hilt in the India-England Test match at the Eden during the 1976-77 series.“Bishan Bedi bowled 12 consecutive maidens to Tony Greig and I was marking each over with a coloured pencil of a different hue. But I had only 12 colours in my box and was wondering what to do. Greig saved me by pushing for a single to point to break the sequence of maidens in the 13th over,” he smiles.
Beneath the smiles, Rahman has one regret -- his dreams of travelling abroad remains a distant dream, with no no-objection certificate from his employers in sight.