When Balbir Singh Sr left cricket stars in awe

There is an ease with which maestros imprint lessons on those watching them. The respect with which cricket ace GR Viswanath met hockey legend Balbir Singh Sr showed that an athlete's greatness can be measured by not only his sporting achievements but also the impact on champions from other disciplines.

Born six months after Balbir Singh Sr won the first of his three Olympic gold in 1948, Viswanath was simply in awe of independent India's first hero.

They did not speak much on the evening of March 7, 2018 as the hotel's poolside was teeming with celebrities assembled to pay tributes to the memory of former Test skipper MAK Pataudi at a function organised by former India cricket captain Bishan Singh Bedi.

It was no surprise to see Balbir Singh Sr show up as he shared an affectionate relationship with cricketers.

The first I met Balbir Singh Sr was in 2008 when my colleague Shailesh Chaturvedi convinced him to come over for a show on the TV channel that we were working for.

The legend stayed back for a long while, obliging everyone who wanted autographs and photographs. In fact, the humble genius sat with us to have bun and chai in the modest staff canteen.

The last I met him was 10 days after the function in Delhi. Balbir Singh Sr headlined the PlayWrite Sports Literature festival in Chandigarh and extended the visiting sports writers a warm invitation to visit him at home.

It was an evening spent admiring the neatly organised memorabilia and soaking in his myriad memories.

Yet, it was in their fleeing interaction that Balbir Singh Sr and Viswanath left an indelible impression.

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