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The Indian cricket team manager who made a journalist eat his own article; meet PR Man Singh

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He couldn’t quite cut it as a player but Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh hailed him as someone who eventually went on to become the ‘backbone’ of the Indian cricket team that won the 1983 World Cup

PR Man Singh is a former cricketer who represented Hyderabad in the Ranji Trophy and later went on to become the team manager of the Indian cricket team during the 1983 World Cup. He played a pivotal role in the side’s historic title triumph.

Born in 1937, PR Man Singh was a right-handed batter and an off-spin bowler who played five first-class games for Hyderabad between 1965 and 1969. 

With the lack of opportunities of making it to the playing XI in the domestic side, PR Man Singh turned towards pursuing administrative roles in cricket, starting with the Hyderabad Cricket Association.

The road to the 1983 World Cup

PR Man Singh’s first stint with the Indian team came during their tour of Pakistan in 1978. ‘Maan Sahab’ – as he was fondly called – was appointed as the assistant manager in what was India’s first tour to the nation in 20 years. 

Later, PR Man Singh was appointed as the manager of the 14-member Indian cricket team ahead of the 1983 World Cup campaign and was amongst the six-member selection committee that unanimously appointed Kapil Dev as the captain for the tournament.

“When we travelled to England for our World Cup campaign in 1983, our support staff was a grand total of one. P. R. 'Peter’ Man Singh made sure that we didn’t need anyone else,” former cricketer Ravi Shastri pointed out.

Expectations from India at the World Cup weren’t high. India rarely played One Day cricket in those days and no one expected them to even win matches. In fact, India had just won one match – against East Africa – from six games in the preceding two World Cups. Between 1974 and ahead of the World Cup, India had played 40 matches in all and won just 12 of them.

“The attitude back then was that we have been invited (for the World Cup), so might as well go and play, doesn’t matter if we lose,” Man Singh told the Wisden publication.

“Before I left Hyderabad, my father made his workers in our shop clear out a cabinet, saying, ‘My son will return with the Cup,” Man Singh laughed. “He was probably the only one thinking so.”

Their first hurdle was with excess baggage at the airport, which included carrying goodies like mangoes for friends in England. Man Singh persuaded authorities to accept payments from the cash-strapped team later.

India lost three of their four warm-up matches, including one against amateur players. But there was no pressure. Man Singh approached the team like an ‘older brother’ rather than a big brother sent by the authorities to report on the players.

Man Singh ensured the vegetarian players within the team also were catered to. Something that was not accounted for ahead of their trip. He even claimed to have flouted rules, allowing wives to accompany the players at the team hotel.

“I also allowed the wives to travel in the team bus when going to venues out of London. This was unthinkable then,” Man Singh told Sportstar.

Team camaraderie was high and the players trusted each other, including accepting Man Singh as one of their own. It played its part.

India started their 1983 World Cup campaign well. Playing in a double round-robin group stage, India had a convincing win over the mighty West Indies and then against minnows Zimbabwe. They then lost to Australia and the West Indies and were in dire straits against Zimbabwe, reeling at 17/6 before Kapil Dev’s heroics bailed them out. India then won against Australia to qualify for the knockouts.

India beat England in the semi-finals and then won a low-scoring final against the West Indies to script history.

“The win was epic and we partied late. The dressing room and later the hotel lobby was overcrowded,” Man Singh told Sportstar.

Making a journalist ‘eat his words’

PR Man Singh even made a local journalist, who had written off India’s chances ahead of the 1983 World Cup, keep his promise. David Firth of Wisden had written that he would ‘eat his words’ should India lift the World Cup.

“It was a very nasty piece he wrote… The piece was a curtain-raiser and it said that the Indian team had no standard and such teams should not be playing in the World Cup. It devalues the tournament," Man Singh told IANS.

“Back home after winning the World Cup, I wrote to him: 'Now what do you have to say, Mr David?

“I was surprised when I opened the September issue of Wisden. It carried my letter and a photograph of David with a piece of paper in his mouth with the caption 'India made me eat my words.'”

His successful tenure saw him manage the Indian team for the 1987 World Cup at home. Apart from managerial skills, ‘Mr Cricket’ PR Man Singh was renowned for his generosity amongst the players and came to their rescue during difficulties. 

Beyond the national duty

After his glorious career with the Indian team, PR Man Singh penned down his journey in his book ‘Agony and Ecstasy.’ The former India manager has listed his experiences from his tenure as a player to his experiences in the Indian dressing room. 

An unsung hero of the 1983 World Cup success, PR Man Singh’s role in the historic campaign will be portrayed by popular actor Pankaj Tripathi in the upcoming movie 83.

"He was a person who was behind the camera,” Pankaj Tripathi told PTI. “People know the contribution of the 14 players but not the role of Man Singh. The film will showcase that. When I met him, I found him remarkable. His passion for the game is unbelievable. He has an in-house museum, an entire third floor of his house dedicated to cricket.”

Featured Photo: Glyn Kirk / AFP

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