Even before he was nicknamed 'Colonel', girls vied for the autograph of tall and elegant Indian batsman
Dilip Vengsarkar. He had burst upon the scene by scoring an effortless 110 for Bombay against the Rest
of India in the Irani Trophy tournament at Nagpur in 1975. He was then inducted into the national side
making his debut against New Zealand at Auckland, in 1976 and holds the record of being the first No. 1
batsman in the world, when the rankings system was introduced in 1987. Over the years, as he rose in
fame, Vengsarkar has been asked to sign on T-shirts, bare hands and currency notes. In an interview,
the legendary batsman who celebrated his 65th birthday recently, recounts what separates Indian
autograph hunters from their international counterparts
Do you remember the first autograph you ever sought?
It was in 1977 at a test match in Adelaide. I got Sir Don Bradman's signature and framed it. It is at my
farmhouse, sixty miles away from my home, where I keep all my memorabilia such as the bat I used
when I scored a 100 at Lords.
What is your earliest memory or giving an autograph?
It was in 1975 at the Irani Cup. Rest of India versus Bombay, which was held at Nagpur. I was 19 and a
few girls came up to us for autographs. During those days, access was very easy. People would come to
Have you got strange requests for autographs?
You do get silly requests. People ask us to sign on the hand, on the back of a shirt, on currency notes
etc. I tell them only the governor can sign on notes. Sometimes, people hand us torn chits of paper to
sign on, which is very upsetting.
Is the autograph hunting culture in India very different from the one abroad?
England still has a very rich tradition of autograph collecting. Everyone from children to old people collect
autographs. They are well-mannered, stand in queue and don't just barge in and attack you. They are
well-mannered. If you say "not now, later", they will wait and then, come back. While having dinner in
Australia, a family had come to take our autographs. When we asked them to wait, they waited. That's
their upbringing. Here, in India, if you tell people "we're having dinner", they will say, "No, it's ok, we will
just take photographs and leave." They don't mind intruding. Players now have come to expect that.
Is the culture of autograph seeing dying because of technology?
Yes, but not in England or Australia.
What makes an autograph significant?
It is there for life. In Australia, autographs of Sir Don Bradman are auctioned as collectors' items for a a
Were you ever concerned about the fact that your autograph might be sold?
No, you just sign it. It can be sold later or kept for personal use.
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