Vikal - a tribute

August 21, 2005

In early August, Vikal Kumar (TCSCC premier player for many years) and his son Nitish (on tour with the Toronto Cricket Academy in England) were involved in a car accident. Vikal was killed instantly and Nitesh (aged 11) was seriously injured.

Vikal and Nitish

In the summer of 2004, I met Coach Brian Hale of the Toronto Cricket Academy and told him about my plans to make a film on cricket in Toronto. Somehow, I managed to convice him and his boys to be a part of the film.

I first saw Vikal and Nitish at a Tim Horton's in Scarborough. Brian had called two of his players and their parents to the coffee shop because he wanted to introduce me to them. I first spoke with captain Riyaz Sheikh and his parents. When I was done, I turned my attention to 10 year old Nitish and his father, Vikal.

As we all know, Nitish is something of a cricketing prodigy. Brian was convinced that Nitish had the talent and the genius to make a mark on the game. Nitish was shy and intense and barely spoke and, like his son, Vikal was quiet but when he spoke about his son, his eyes shone with pride and love.

We exchanged a few thoughts. I remember thinking that if I could capture this on film - the son's talent and passion, the father's love and nurturing - I would be very fortunate.

Over the course of the next few weeks in Toronto, I saw them play together often. Vikal charging in to bowl, hurling fast balls at Nitish who fended them away, or played full blooded strokes in response; I saw that while Vikal was fiercely proud of Nitish, he still treated him like a young cricketer, rather than being overly protective of his young son. On the field, he treated little Nitish as an equal - not an easy thing for a father to do, but Vikal did it with ease.

On the TCA Trinidad tour in the summer of 2004, I got to know Vikal a little better. I interviewed him repeatedly and he slowly warmed up to the idea of opening himself up to the film. Though somewhat reticent, he was always game to try, although he did wonder why I was turning the spotlight on him. Nevertheless, he humoured me. As for Nitish, although he seemed to get used to my presence, he was still shy despite Vikal constantly encouraging him to talk to me on camera.

Through repeated conversations on and off camera, through late evening chats, Vikal and I spoke about lots of things - about coming to Canada, about India, cricket, his hopes for his son and his family. We were very different and yet quite similar in many ways and I came back from Trinidad feeling that Vikal and I had managed to connect, even if for a brief while.

From the way he took his son's photographs at every venue, to their evening discussions about the day's play and Nitish's performance there; from shepherding Nitish at the cricket shop and busy street market to the way he encouraged Nitish to try coconut water; from the way they looked out for each other, I saw the wonderful way Vikal nurtured Nitish. I saw how he glowed with pride when his son was felicitated.

Luckily for me, I did manage to capture some of the bond between father and son. There is a moment in the film when Vikal, who is speaking about Nitish's passion for the game, stops speaking mid-sentence. He is so moved by his son's intensity and so touched by Nitish's love of the game that he is overcome and his eyes well up with tears of joy and love. For me personally, that heartfelt moment is beautiful and extremely powerful. It reveals so much tenderness, beauty, awe, affection that it is beyond words.

And now, he is gone in the mysterious way that life takes people. He has gone much, much too soon and left so much behind. But he has left powerful memories and touched so many of us But there are people who know him better than I do who can speak to these things. All I can say is that I was privileged and honoured to meet him.

Honour, respect - what more can a cricketer want?

Thank you for sharing, Vikal. Thank you.

Sanjay Talreja