Vohra’s view: A nod to the greats we have lost this year

Bikram Vohra 18:54 23/04/2015
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Huge achievements: Billy Casper won 51 PGA titles.

Not everyone shuffles off the mortal coil to a fanfare and the sound of trumpets. Some great sportsmen have died in the year so far and even though they were extraordinary people who did extraordinary things, they are unremembered by the world.

Guess that’s the way the biscuit breaks but their achievements deserve to be catalogued.

Hoopster Earl Lloyd died at the age of 91 on February 27, but who remembers that he was the first ever black man to play in the NBA in 1950 and break that race barrier forever?

There was tangible protest against his inclusion but he went on court and became the mainstay for the Washington Capitols scoring six points and 10 rebounds in that epic first game.

If you can get hazed at a soccer game in 2015 imagine how it was 70 years back. The Titans came much later.

Golfers may be crazy enthusiasts but do they recall the most famous ‘unknown’ genius of the greens who left for the links in the sky just last month? Doubt it.

Billy Casper won 51 PGA titles, one of only seven men to achieve that figure and he also won the US Open in 1966, coming into the final round a record seven strokes behind Arnold Palmer to tie the game and earn an 18 hole playoff which gave him the title.

For those who line the Thames for the annual war between Oxford and Cambridge there may be a handful who will hear the name Daniel Topolski and say, hmmm, rings a bell.

Refused a place on the team because of his slight build he coached Oxford to an unprecedented 10 straight wins between 1976 and 1985.

Daniel sailed away forever at the age of 69 leaving in his wake an unbeaten record of consecutive victories.

For the uninitiated there is no difference between fishing and angling but for the aficionado it is both an art and science. What Lord’s is to cricket the Houghton Club is to angling.

Head Keeper of the top fly fishing club in the world, Mick Lunn died aged 88, ending a three generation legacy that began in 1897.

From Kings to Presidents, the rich and the powerful have worked for their lunch fly fishing from the banks of this idyllic Hampshire river.

With only 26 members and guest entry by invitation the import of the tradition is best described in a 1940 notification in the Club register. 

“Germany today invaded Holland and Belgium, Mr Neville Chamberlain resigned and Mr Winston Churchill became PM. A warm bright day with a poor rise. Few fish moving.”

You have to be of another generation more into the Ringling brothers and the excitement of the three ring circus to remember the famous Flying Wallendas who created the seven member pyramid.

In one performance the human ‘edifice’ collapsed and crippled Mario Wallenda for the rest of his life, confining him to a wheelchair.He died a few weeks ago at 74.

The year is only four months old and the losses have been high. 

A chopper collision in Argentina killed sailor Florence Arthaud, Olympic gold medallist swimmer Camille Muffat and Olympic boxer Alexis Vastine while they were filming a reality show for a French channel. That is beyond irony.

Add a twist of bitterness to that irony and this morning as I write from Delhi, one of India’s potential cricketers died when he struck a fellow player as they both went for the same catch.

Ankit Keshri was only 20. And had been selected last year for India’s Under 19 squad. 

He wasn’t even in the team in this match but the 12th man substituting on the field and had just come on.  

He was the 13th cricketer to die of an on-field accident since 1870, recalling the grimness of the Phil Hughes tragedy last November.

On the other side of the coin of anonymity there was a giant known to all. Richie Benaud.

A man who brought grace and dignity to the crease and the class of his commentaries set the standard for probity. They don’t make them like that anymore.

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