‘Where is Prasad Amonkar? He was a really good batsman’ said India legend Rahul Dravid to yours truly. The day was 13th December 1996 and I had just met Rahul Dravid at the launch party of MohinderAmarnaths book at the Oberoi’s in Mumbai. The next day the Indian team were due to play Hansie Cronje’s South Africa at the Wankhede stadium. Rahul Dravid spent the first 5 minutes only enquiring about Prasad Amonkar and praising his batting probably remembering Prasads fighting 42 in 1993 at Chinnaswammy, Bangalore where he single handedly defied Javagal Srinath & Venkatesh Prasad in the 2nd innings with a valiant fighting 42 on a green top for over 3 hours. I remember that day very well as I was Prasad’s opening partner at the other end and he kept motivating me as I kept hopping whilst struggling to negotiate Javagal Srinath’s in-swinging thunderbolts.
‘What’s Prasad Amonkar doing these days’ Rahul Dravid asked me again. This time we met in April 2001 at the Taj in South Goa, where I was now employed. We bumped into each other in the Spa. The next day the India team faced Australia at Fatorda Stadium. He never asked me about any other Goan Cricketer.
I remember the hours & hours of throw downs and practice that Prasad and I used to carry out at the Fatorda stadium nets in 1988 and in my Dads garage in 1989 where we used to fling wet rubber balls simulating the experience of playing bowlers at 145 to 150 kmph.
I remember the thought provoking after practice sessions where we would share a drink and more importantly talk about almost every topic under the sun besides cricket. I remember his methodical preparation when he heard there was an opening for Ranji players in Central Excise and made sure that he passed the test in flying colors.
I remember somewhere in 1998 he met with a freak accident on his motorbike rendering him immobile for many months. He was positive and cheerful never grudging anyone and never depressed. I remember him at my 50th birthday celebrations just a couple of years ago. He said he would not play but when he came to the ground and saw all his old mates on the ground, enthusiasm got the better of him and he quickly borrowed a track pant and t-shirt and joined me on the pitch and as we batted at the Arlem Cricket ground, it was like the days of the old. He even hit a massive six over midwicket, not bad for someone who had not batted for decades. After the match he was the life of the party, letting his hair down, singing, dancing and playing the harmonica, a hidden talent which we never knew he had.
My dear friend Prasad Amonkar was one of the most courageous and talented opening batsman Goa has ever known. His stats with 774 runs and four fifties don’t really tell the real story of his quality. It is absolutely shocking and mind numbing that Prasad is no more. Prasad contracted Covid-19 about a month back and fought the treacherous virus valiantly. I was in touch with him for the last 12 days while he was sinking and he did not want anyone to know, choosing to fight the virus the way he batted, singlehandedly. He promised me he would fight the virus. He promised me he would be there at my next birthday party celebrations. But the invisible enemy was too much for him and his lungs started weakening and finally Prasad Amonkar walked back to heaven’s pavilion in the early hours of June 9, 2021. RIP my dear friend till we meet again. We will miss your trademark ‘Prassy smile’. What will I tell Rahul Dravid the next time I meet him and he asks about you?
(The writer is a Former Ranji Trophy Player who has represented Goa)