Satyaji Rao: An umpire and a gentleman | Cricket News

BENGALURU: Karnataka cricket on Wednesday lost one of its oldest and finest officials with the passing of Badami Satyaji Rao. The 92-year-old former international umpire breathed his last here due to age-related health issues.
An affable man with a deep passion for the sport, Rao, began his career as an umpire with the then Mysore State Cricket Association and became a first-class umpire in 1956-57 season, making his debut in the Ranji Trophy match between Madras and Hyderabad in Salem. In an umpiring career spanning 25 years, the genial official stood in 28 Ranji Trophy matches including five finals. He also officiated in four Duleep Trophy finals.
In an era where the umpires relied more on their skill, especially with no technology in use, Rao was respected by players cutting across teams for his alertness on the field and fair decisions.
It was his proficiency and fairness which earned him the status of an international umpire in 1960. He made his Test debut in an India versus Pakistan contest at the Eden Garden in Kolkata. Over the next 19 years he officiated in 17 Test matches with India’s 1979 Test against West Indies in Kanpur being his last appearance.
Incidentally, Rao was the umpire when batting maestro GR Viswanath made his international debut against Australia in Kanpur in 1969.
Recalling his association with the soft-spoken Rao, Viswanath told TOI, “I remember, when I walked into the ground for my debut match in Kanpur, I was very pleased to see Satyaji sir as the umpire. It was comforting to see someone from my state on the field, especially since I knew him as an official through my league and state cricket days.”
Known to give valuable tips to players, among those who benefited from Rao’s advice was GRV himself. Sharing an anecdote, which the former India skipper described as a ‘lesson for life, he said, “He shared a very valuable lesson with me on the last day of my debut match. With the match heading towards a draw, I was tossed the ball. I went up to Satyaji sir and handed my folded cap to him. He asked me to stay on for a minute and I thought he was going to give me some bowling tips!”
“But, he folded the cap again. I had folded it with the crest on the inside and he folded it on the outside. He then said: ‘you are fielding the whole day and sweat a lot and if you fold the way you did, you are handing a smelly cap to the umpire. While it is not wrong, it is not courteous.’ It is a lesson I learnt and each time I went to bowl I always folded the cap the way he asked me to before handing it to the umpire,” GRV said.
Following his retirement from umpiring, Rao also served as assistant secretary (tournaments) of the Karnataka State Cricket Association. He was also the president of the Association of Cricket Umpires of Karnataka (ACUK) for a number of years. He is survived by his wife Nagamani and son Vinay Badami.

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