New Delhi: Deval Sahay, a mentor of cricket icon Mahendra Singh Dhoni and credited with preparing the first turf pitches in Ranchi, passed away in the early hours of Tuesday in a hospital following multi-organ failure, mainly issues related to lungs.
Sahay was 73, and is survived by his wife Meena, daughter Priyanka, and son Abhinav Akash Sahay.
His funeral took place at 2.30 pm on Tuesday in Ranchi, and was attended by present and former players along with officials of the Jharkhand State Cricket Association (JSCA), the Ranchi District Cricket Association (RDCA), Central Coalfields Limited (CCL), Central Mine Planning and Design Institute Limited (CMPDIL), and Metallurgical and Engineering Consultants (India) Limited (MECON).
Sahay, an electrical engineer, had worked at all three companies. After serving MECON as chief engineer, he joined CMPDIL as General Manager, and then switched to CCL as Director (Personnel), from where he retired.
Sahay, whose first name was Deobrat but was popularly known as Deval, was admitted to Jagannath Hospital due to lung and breathing problems; besides, he had Parkinson's too. Then, when he contracted Coronavirus in Jagannath Hospital he was shifted to Medica Speciality Hospital. He was discharged on October 9.
"After spending about 10 days at home, he was again admitted to Medica after he developed complications. And today at around 3 am he passed away," Abhinav Sahay told IANS from Ranchi. Priyanka, who lives in America, is in Ranchi these days.
Sahay was instrumental in preparing first turf pitches in Ranchi, first at MECON -– where Dhoni's father also worked -- and then at CCL.
While he was at CCL, Sahay hired a young Dhoni on stipend in 1997-98, after he had registered with the Research and Development (SAIL), and provide him the first opportunity to play on turf pitches.
Sahay's character has been portrayed in Dhoni's biographical film, 'M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story'.
Adil Hussain, a former Bihar Ranji captain and under whom Dhoni played for CCL on stipend, said he probably the closest to Sahay.
"He treated me like a son, and he was like my guardian. He was a true sports administrator. I never saw him enjoying his [top] positions; rather, he always worked for players, be it preparing turf pitches or something else. The reason he thought of preparing turf pitches was because he observed that Ranchi cricketers weren't able to go far, like playing in Ranji Trophy or represent the state. Due to the absence of turf pitches in Ranchi, our players weren't able to perform when they would play on the turf pitches elsewhere," Hussain told IANS.
Hussain, who played 24 Ranji Trophy matches between 1987-88 and 1995-96, pointed out that when the layout of a small stadium was being made in the MECON employees' colony in Ranchi, Sahay ensured turf pitches were prepared there on which Ranji Trophy matches were played later.
"The result was that every year three-four Ranchi-based players were picked in the Bihar Ranji team [before Jharkhand was formed in November 2000], and one of them is legendary Dhoni. He also hired players on stipend for MECON, and later for CCL. His contribution to Ranchi is unparallel and unmatched," he said.
Sahay would enter various Ranchi-based teams in the Sheesh Mahal Tournament, an annual summer fixture played in Lucknow. That also provided varied exposure to players and that benefitted them immensely.
Former Ranchi cricket secretary Sunil Singh said that Sahay was made for cricket and was always available for it.
"Even while holding big posts, he was always present on the field. His biggest contribution was the appointment/job that he provided to cricketers in whichever company/department he worked with. His other major contribution was developing infrastructure at a time when cricket was played on matting wickets in Ranchi. He developed turf pitches, and provided those to players like Dhoni to play on. He, in fact, made a big contribution to the entire [Bihar/Jharkhand] state, not just in Ranchi," Singh told IANS.
When Sahay was the working president of the Ranchi district association, for about 10 years, he was chairman of the selection committee as well. "I was the association secretary [from 1995-2013] and convenor of the selection committee, and Dhoni was first selected for the district in 1997 during his chairmanship. Deval da was a cricket institution in himself," said Singh, who was also district convenor at the JSCA.