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Veteran Indian basketball coach Rajesh Patel no more

695   //    08 May 2018, 18:08 IST

Rajesh Patel
Rajesh Patel (Image credits: SAIL twitter handle)

What’s the story?

Rajesh Patel died of a cardiac arrest when he was on his way to Ludhiana for the junior national championships on Monday. He had complained of sudden chest pain when en route to the venue. Although he was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital, it was too late and they declared him 'brought dead'. 

In case you didn’t know…

The veteran coached the women's Chattisgarh basketball team. He was decisive in ensuring the teams playing under him claimed over hundred domestic basketball medals.

One can also refer to him as a little basketball prodigy, with his rather modest frame. However, Rajesh, the harbinger had a knack of breaking records and had his name in The Limca Book of records as well. The man had been coaching girls' basketball teams at all levels. Patel has worked with the Under-14, Under-16 and under-18 teams along with the senior women's team of Chattisgarh. 

Decades of hard work and earning multiple trophies and medals helped him earn a place in the book. His contributions to the sport are simply unparalleled and he rightly holds the record for 'Most Successful Basketball Coach'.

The heart of the matter

The man will be remembered for a truly illustrious past and for being a dominant force in the national tournaments.

Patel had been helping hundreds of hoopsters since 2001 to get a chance to play for the national team or at least secure sports quota jobs. He brought in a stroke of pure luck to these children and was a visionary, always being realistic, and saw what is achievable through the sport with the given resources.

Coaching with girls from all backgrounds, he was always of the opinion that height is not the only vital factor, a player can reach tremendous heights if he/she works on his speed and defense. What is most noteworthy, however, is the impact the man had in changing the destiny of thousands of girls in the state. If it was not for him, many children would have remained malnutrition and never gone on to secure good jobs and a healthy future. 

The central figure was caring, yet stringent at the same time as some of the training sessions lasted eight hours. Identification of the right talent and nurturing him/her to be their best is what came naturally to him and he dedicated his life to this. Vikram Puraskar, Vishwamitra Puraskar, Veer Hanuman Singh Puraksar, SAIL Best Player Award, National Sports Time Award are some of the accolades he achieved for his efforts. 

What’s next?

A film is also to be made soon on Patel's life by an international production house along with Lara Dutta. He always wanted to win the Dronacharya Award. Sadly, this could not come to be true during his life but his work certainly speaks for itself and he is referred to by many as the Dronacharya of Indian Basketball.


Author’s take

The father figure for many, Rajesh Patel has left an irreparable void in the lives of many which will be impossible for anyone to fill. My condolences to the genius who left us when he was just 62. There are very few like him who have devoted their entire life to the development of the sport. 

His magnanimous contributions should not be forgotten and the development and success of Indian basketball have to be significantly attributed to Rajesh Patel.

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