| Former India captain Sudip Chatterjee breaks down at a Calcutta hospital where former colleague and long-time friend Krishanu Dey passed away Thursday. Former stalwart P.K. Banerjee is on the left. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: Krishanu Dey was virtually a legend in his time. His extraordinary ball skills and his even temperament made him not only the most sought-after soccer star of the Eighties, but also the most loved one.
Krishanu’s peers and seniors were unanimous in saying that his death was all the more painful since he was also an exceptionally nice man, apart from being a player of extraordinary ability, at least by Indian standards.
Even still, Krishanu was perhaps an underachiever as well, given his limited success at the international level despite possessing such loads of talent. Krishanu is no more but this sense of incompleteness — the emptiness caused by not getting the maximum out of the best on the big stage — will linger.
Perhaps, it all lay in his nice nature, his tendency to relax after getting what was needed to net full points, or maybe, in his apparent reluctance to play real tough. Perhaps that is why, barring a few occasions, Krishanu was never quite a force at the international level that he could have been with his mesmerising left foot.
“He was breathtaking on the field. So subtle that I often found myself short of words while commentating on TV or radio. His vision was phenomenal,” said Sukumar Samajpati, a stalwart of the Seventies. “He was always modest, often to a fault. Maybe he needed to show more ‘aggro’, but perhaps he thought it was below his dignity.”
Syed Nayeemuddin had similar things to say. “A total ball-player with tremendous imagination. He knew when and where to deliver. He was sort of ‘softy’ in his early days but into the Nineties, he got quite tough,” the former India coach and captain said from Hyderabad.
“Had he worked harder in his early days, given his calibre, he could surely have become one of the most prominent players in Asia. The biggest plus, however, was his behaviour on and off the field,” Nayeem remarked.
“His left foot was perfect and Krishanu was of the intelligent kind,” noted Mohammed Habeeb. “Undoubtedly, he was one of the finest ball-players on the Indian scene in recent times.”
Bikash Panji, with whom Krishanu formed a famous partnership from 1981 to 1995, was finding it difficult to speak. The two not only played for the same club during that period, they worked in the same office and went on to become dearest of friends.
“He was a fine player, one of the best of our times, that everybody knows. But what many don’t know is the fact that he was such a nice person. No air about anything even at his peak… Always polite. I’ve never seen such a well-mannered footballer,” remembered Bikash.
All agreed Krishanu was a player of rare quality, who could have been more successful or effective. None disputed he was a fine player and a greater human being.