Chetan Chauhan. (TOI Photo)
CHANDIGARH: Whether scoring three back-to-back centuries with a broken jaw in the Ranji Trophy or facing the fiery duo of Dennis Lillie and Jeff Thompson with a broken thumb in Australia, Chetan Chauhan was a gutsy cricketer. But Chauhan, who had been diagnosed with Covid-19 and died from complications on Sunday at the age of 73, was a fighter off the pitch too.
Former North Zone cricketers recollected how Chetan Chauhan came to the rescue of Navjot Singh Sidhu and Rajinder Ghai on train after assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984.
The incident took place on ‘Jhelum Express’ when the players of North Zone and Central Zone were returning from Pune after playing their Duleep Trophy semifinal.
Recollecting the incident, former Haryana off-spinner Sarkar Talwar told TOI, “The match ended on October 30 and next morning when we were getting ready for the airport we came to know that the PM had been assassinated. So our team manager (Prem Bhatia) got us first-class tickets on Jhelum Express. It was a nightmare journey and it took us four days to reach Delhi.”
“At one of the stations, around 40-50 people entered the compartment looking for people from the Sikh community. We had three Sikh players -Navjot Singh Sidhu, Rajinder Ghai and Yograj Singh – in our team. I vividly remember, Chetan Chauhan and Yashpal Sharma had a heated argument with the mob and once they realised that they were Indian cricketers, the mob got off the compartment,” recollected Talwar.
The players were so scared that they hid Sidhu and Ghai below the lower birth and behind their kit bags. Former Indian all-rounder Yograj Singh even told Sidhu to cut his hair. “It was very scary, they were burning trains and after their face-off with Chetan Chauhan and Yashpal, I asked Sidhu that let me cut your hair. He refuted and said, ‘Paaji I have been born as a Sardar and will die like one’,” recalls Yograj Singh, father of cricketer Yuvraj Singh.
“I remember one of the people from the mob shouted at Chetan paaji and said, ‘We are here to kill the sardars, nothing will happen to you.’ Chetan paaji yelled back, ‘They are my brothers and you can’t touch them.’ The way Chetan Chauhan dealt with the situation was quite commendable,” he added.
Gursharan Singh, who was in the different compartment too recollected the incident and said, “If not for Chetan Chauhan, I don’t think that any of us would have survived. I and Rajinder Hans (former left-arm spinner of from Uttar Pradesh) were on a different bogie and when we came to know about the incident it left us very scared. But Chetan Chauhan came to us and reassured us that we would be safe and the mob would not trouble us.”