I first met Ted Dexter when he landed in Calcutta, en route to Australia, flying a single-engine aircraft and was writing for a British newspaper. We met at Tollygunge Club and our friendship instantly blossomed.
Thereafter I used to meet him every summer though he visited India mostly during winters. In Calcutta, he used to stay at my place.
He was a fine gentleman, the types that are forgotten now. He used to take us to the president’s box at Lord’s when he was the president of Marylebone Cricket Club. Those days it was quite unusual to see Indians in the president’s box since it was usually reserved for the Royalty.
He always used to take me to Lord’s whenever I wanted to watch a match and similarly I used to accompany him to Wimbledon.
I remember watching him play against Charlie Griffith and Wes Hall at Lord’s when he was the captain in 1963. I used to live in a boarding house close by. He made a gutsy 70 in the first innings of that drawn Test. What stood out was his fearless approach.
He once took us to the Sunningdale Golf Club, Berkshire, near London. Once there, I asked for the club’s prospectus where it was written that he was one of England’s most promising golfers.
His association with Calcutta is well documented. He was Bengal’s jamai. His father-in-law Tom Longfield captained Bengal to their first Ranji Trophy title in 1938-39. We used to have lunch or dinner together every year, a tradition that continued till he could travel. It would take place at his chosen destination or whenever he used to drop in at my place.
Dexter played a Test in 1961 at Eden Gardens, which England lost though he scored fifties in both innings. He always relished watching Mohammed Azharuddin’s glorious 182 against England in 1993 and often referred to it as the best innings he had witnessed at Eden Gardens.
He even chose to visit Calcutta before their 50th marriage anniversary with his wife Susan, who is a painter.
I remember accompanying them to Mother House once during Christmas. They offered prayers and when Mother Teresa held their hands while they were coming out, Ted and Susan turned emotional. It was the best gift of their lifetime, they believed.
Ted was settled in France during his later years and chose to return to London after being diagnosed with prostrate cancer.
Last year Ted’s autobiography 85 Not Out hit the stands. It was mostly written by him and it’s a pity that he chose to leave us a year later. You will never get to meet such a person, full of warmth and charisma.
- Tennis ace Naresh Kumar, a close friend of the Dexters, takes a walk down memory lane with Indranil Majumdar