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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > News > Report

Happy Birthday, Achmat!

Ashish Magotra in Cape Town | March 06, 2003 11:49 IST

The Indian team was at a party hosted for the media by team manager Jyoti Bajpai on Wednesday night. All of them seemed to be enjoying themselves when, suddenly, they all said their goodbyes and disappeared.

They were off to another party. Not any ordinary one either.

It was the team's chief baggage handler in South Africa, Achmat's birthday and they had all decided to pay him a surprise visit.

"Achmat has been fantastic," says the local media liaison officer, Sundara Reddy. "He has made sure that the team has had nothing to worry about and has made life so much easier for the players. They only have to worry about their cricket."

As the team got ready to leave for Achmat's place, one could see India coach John Wright go to each player and get their autograph on a copy of the book 'Western Cape: Welcomes the World' that was the team's present for Achmat.

Just before they left, Rahul Dravid was heard saying to Srinath, "I hope he doesn't mind all of us gate-crashing into his party. Only 6 or 7 of us were scheduled to go."

To Achmat, a very big fan of the team, this gesture will mean a lot.

Sundara Reddy, another unsung hero, roams around with a bag all the time. He had it with him even as he entered the media party from which the team exited.

Out of sheer curiosity, I asked him, "What do you have in there?" The answer surprised as well as amazed me. The bag contained everything that an Indian cricketer might need at any time -- check-books, money, medicine, photo-copies of their passport, their travel plans, sweets, etc.

When I heard "sweets", my eyes lit up. It was something I was craving for a lot. After popping one in my mouth, I told him, "Are these especially for Parthiv?"

"No, no," he said, "Javagal Srinath (at 33, the oldest man in the team) eats the most sweets in the team."

Reddy was the Indian team's liaison officer when they last toured South Africa for the Summer Spice series in 2001. So when the team asked for him again during the World Cup, Reddy says he was honoured.

Reddy, 39, was born in South Africa and can't speak a word of Hindi but he supports the Indian team out and out. He is a man of strong beliefs and has a very good sense of right and wrong. During the apartheid years, he along with his wife went to jail thrice for believing that discrimination is wrong.

"People here in South Africa think the Indian team is snobbish but that is not true. They are afraid to make eye-contact because when they do that, people come rushing asking them for autographs and other things."

During the Summer Spice, all the players visited his home and one entire wall in his house is covered with autographs of the Indian team: "They are very good at heart; they do a lot of good things."

Sachin Tendulkar called Reddy into his room after the match against Pakistan and presented him with his bat: 'To Sundara Reddy, Thanks for all the help. Sachin Tendulkar.'

"That is the greatness of the man. He is such a great player but is so humble," says Reddy.

Nothing would give this motley crew more pleasure than an Indian win at the World Cup. And that is exactly what the whole country is hoping for.

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Number of User Comments: 3

Sub: Nice show

It is really heartening to know the heart of these guys is in the right places. Keep the good work up guys !!!

Posted by Karthik R

Sub: Good Show

A week ago, an article appeard in Rediff about some NZ players have a brawl in a club. It is also known that many teams ...

Posted by Venkat

Sub: Kudos

Kudos. Thanks to the author for this article. Its been a long time since anyone said a word about the unsung heros of our team. ...

Posted by Nathan


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