When Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Vishwanath other India cricketers were spooked by Madhavrao Scindia’s prank

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And so, the senior Congress leader and scion of the erstwhile Gwalior royal family staged a “dacoity” to spook the cricketers, including Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Vishwanath and Erapalli Prasanna.

The anecdote, on the time the cricketers had been invited to play an exhibition match in Gwalior, is recounted in senior journalist Rasheed Kidwai’s recently released book “The House of Scindias: A Saga of Power, Politics and Intrigue”.

It focuses not just on the history of the Scindias but also gives people a peek into the palace politics, intrigues and convictions of the Scindia household over generations. Madhavrao was not just a well-loved Congress leader and a former Union minister. He wore many other hats and would often take time off for a round of golf or don a pair of flannels to play cricket, his greatest passion, says the book published by Roli Books.

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The story goes that on a rest day during the exhibition match in Gwalior, Madhavrao decided to take his guests to Shivpuri for a ‘shikar’ trip (hunting was permitted then).

“At midnight, when the players had gone to bed, they heard gunshots and found themselves surrounded by ‘dacoits’ who said they would ‘kidnap’ them. All the members of the party were asked to get inside jeeps and hand over their belongings,” Kidwai writes.

Viswanath and Prasanna were in particular petrified and started howling, saying they were part of the Indian Test cricket team and the country needed them, according to the book.

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The “dacoits”, however, pretended they had never heard of cricket. The drama went a bit too far and the guests were not amused when they were told that the “dacoits” were, in fact, Madhavrao’s employees and that the whole incident had been staged.

The amusing incident was also recounted by the late Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, former India captain and a friend of the Scindias, during a television interview in which he said Madhavrao and he were hand in glove on the prank.

The book states that Madhavrao’s passion for cricket began at an early age. Encouraged by his school teacher and coach Sharief Ahmed, he had set up a palace cricket team that played against various sides. Madhavrao’s passion for cricket was well known.

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Once a young lad shouted at him for a cheeky single, saying, ‘Chal, chal (run, run)’. The brusque address had almost Madhavrao run himself out, according to the book. After the match, the lad went up to him apologising, “Maharaj, I am sorry I couldn’t address you as shrimant or maharaj in the heat of the moment!” Madhavrao laughed it off.”

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