Most North Indians love their Tandoori Chicken. Not many can resist the smoky, juicy and succulent dish. Certainly not batting stalwart Mohinder ‘Jimmy’ Amarnath. “I am a Punjabi and I love my Tandoori Chicken. I grew up eating that and I still drool whenever this crispy, tangy and luscious preparation is placed in front of me,” the cricketer shares in his trademark laugh, which is why his teammates and contemporaries around the world knew him as the happy-go-lucky hook shot expert.
The Comeback King, as he was referred to, has always bounced back with renewed force and vigour, even after experiencing his fair share of bruises. From fracturing his skull, being knocked unconscious, having his teeth dislodged to cracking his jaw and always being rushed to the hospital to get stitches during an innings, Jimmy was still regarded by one and sundry as one of the finest and bravest players of pace bowling. He acknowledged his father Lala Amarnath, India’s first post -Independence captain, for the valour, “It’s a Punjabi thing, it was in my blood and my father had trained us. When you’re a batsman facing a fast bowler, it’s like being in a boxing ring—you can’t expect to have a friendly match. He bowls hard and you need to hit back, otherwise he gets the upper-hand. Cricket is a game, injuries are common and you can’t run away from them. You need to take it for your team, your country and always bounce back.”
Train Hard, Play Harder
In his early days, the fearless batsman would often practice his batting strokes in front of the mirror to master his technique and his father was his first coach. “I learned a lot from my father and then carried on from there. My cricket training began at a young age, and my brothers Surinder, Rajinder and I would train and play together, and were made to work hard from the get go. We would stretch, skip and run, besides practicing our skills.” Match fitness was of primary importance. “From my generation, I remember Bishan Singh Bedi being focused on fitness and that’s how it trickled into the rest of the team. Unfortunately, we didn’t pay too much attention to our fielding. From the current Indian team, Virat Kohli is the fittest. If youngsters want a role model, Kohli is the one to look up to.”
Amarnath was also an accurate medium pace bowler and admits that during his cricketing days, there were no restrictions on food like the current lot of cricketers need to abide by. “As professionals, we were wise enough to know what is good for us and what isn’t. We enjoyed our chicken, mutton, rice, paratha. Cuisine wise, I love Indian food. My wife makes sumptuous fish curry and railway mutton.”
The gutsy batsman didn’t flinch in front of his opponents, but he’s quite the romantic at home. “I try to cook and help out my wife in the kitchen. I learned to cook a few dishes because cooking was a skill you needed to acquire when you live alone. So I experimented back in my day, but I am nowhere near good or professional. I can cook basic dal-sabji,” admits Amarnath. The ex-cricketer spends most of his days in Goa and frequently flocks to Martins Corner for good Goan and seafood fare, reminiscing about the good old days of cricket no doubt.
Watch Mohinder Amarnath with Sunil Gavaskar, in conversation with Sandeep Patil on Taste Match, Saturday, May 20, at 8pm, only on Living Foodz.
Illustration conceptualised by Vartika Pahuja
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