It was the mid-1990s. I was travelling to Odisha with the Bengal under-16 team. My father had come to the station, where this tall and handsome man with a booming voice told him there was no need to do that. There were people around to take care of his son.
The late Prabir Mukherjee was then the joint-secretary of the Cricket Association of Bengal. I immediately realised here was a person we could confide in and he remained a father figure since. In Prabirda’s death, budding cricketers not only lost a fine pitch curator, but also a guardian.
Outside Bengal, he’s known for his alleged spat in 2012 with M S Dhoni, who demanded a turner at Eden Gardens for the England Test and got flatly refused. Man of principles, he stuck to what he believed. Whether he could have produced livelier pitches more regularly is a different matter, bowing to pressure or petty interests was beyond his nature.
He was unbelievably committed to work. Bengal team members of a few years ago will remember he was at the ground days after losing his daughter. We knew he was dedicated, but to see him overcome grave personal loss for the call of duty is something I won’t forget.
He was respected by groundsmen, who could share problems with him. To motivate others and stay motivated to do a thankless job year after year with full sincerity is something we won’t come across very often. Thanks Prabirda. RIP.
(The writer is minister of state, sports & youth affairs in West Bengal, and former India cricketer. He spoke to Atreyo Mukhopadhyay)