All posts by Sanjeev Sathe

An explorer of life, a small time writer, nearly ex- cricketer, and a salesman by profession. Intellectually Backward. :) Cricket and Reading is in his lifeblood.

From CK To VK. Indian Skippers In England- Part 6

In the latest part- From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 6, our story moves on to Mansoor Ali Khan (Tiger) Pataudi (The 9th Nawab of Pataudi)
After the 1959 debacle, India set out to play in England in 1967 and were granted only a 3-test series. Another prince was appointed to lead India, but this time none of his cricketing credentials were questioned. He had actually lived a heroic life even till then and had come up on the top. Like his father, he went to England for his education, earned the coveted Oxford Blue, broke all the batting records there (Including Jardine’s record of most runs scored for the University in a season which had lasted for 50 years, – A sweet revenge on the man who cut his father’s England career short when papa Pataudi Sr. was probably in the form of his life), made a name for himself with extremely attractive batting, lost an eye, yet made a come-back, debuted in tests for India one eyed, scored a fifty and a hundred in the first series, and in the next series, when Nari Contractor was appointed as the Indian Captain after a near-fatal injury was inflicted on Contractor by Charlie Griffith. And the rest as they say, “is history.”

From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 6
Mansoor Ali Khan (Tiger) Pataudi (The 9th Nawab of Pataudi)
Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi was only 26 in 1966-7 tour of England. There were all- rounders like Chandu Borde, and Rusi Surti, who had proven their mettle in the international arena, quality batsmen like Ajit Wadekar, Hanumant Singh (Who incidentally was a prince too- Of Banswara), Farrokh Engineer who was a great wicket-keeper too and three prodigal spinners in Bishan Bedi, Bhagwat Chandrashekhar and Erapalli Prasanna. The team was not a very strong one yet was not a bad team.

As in the first five tours, India lost the first test. But this six-wicket loss was not a display of ineptitude as were the first tests in the previous five tests. England piled up 550 in the first innings. Boycott scored an unbeaten 246 (& was dropped in the next test for selfish batting), Basil D’ Olivera scored a handsome 109, Barrington missed his hundred by 7 runs and Graveney scored 59. Indian bowling in this innings was dismal.

India replied with 164 in the first innings, Engineer making 42 and the captain 64, and were promptly asked to follow on. With 386 runs in arrears in their second essay, India lost make-shift opener Surti at the score of 5. Then the Bombay duo of Engineer and Wadekar put on 168 runs and India looked in a healthy position at 173 for 1. India then lost 3 quick wickets in the space of 53 runs and Hanumant Singh walked in to join his captain. The two put on 134 runs (which Steven Lynch certifies as the highest partnership in test cricket between 2 princes 😊). India avoided innings defeat and Tiger had made an assertive statement with his nonchalantly elegant batting. Here are a few glimpses of his innings.
Tiger rates this as the best innings of his life. England were set to get 125 to win and eventually got there losing four wickets.

The next test was at Lords, and the Indian agony at Lords continued. India made 152 in the first innings and Wadekar (57) was the only batsman to show some fight. England made 386, riding on a stylist 151 by a forty-year old Tom Graveney and 97 by Ken Barrington. Indian wickets in the second innings too fell in a heap, and India lost by an Innings. Tiger scored a brace of 5s in the match. Budhi Kunderan made 47 in the second innings. The series was lost.

England were relentless though. The third test was a dead rubber and England were tested, They made 298 in their first innings. John Murray made 77. India played four spinners and all of them shared wickets pretty much evenly. India replied with a Sorry 92, none of the batsmen making any contribution. England made 203 in the second innings and India were again set a huge target of 410 to win. They could make 277. Wadekar made 70 and Pataudi 47. India were whitewashed 3-0 in the series.

Yet, it was Tiger Pataudi who instilled self-belief in the Indian Cricketers. Instead of cribbing about India’s depleting fast bowling resources, he focussed on spin, and it was during his tenure that the great Indian Spinning Quartet became India’s most potent bowling force. He also made sure that his players rise beyond their regionalities and differences when they represented the nation.

Bishan Bedi once said, “He was our first captain who introduced a sense of Indianness in the dressing room. He’d say: ‘Look, we’re Indians first. We’re not playing for Karnataka or Delhi or Mumbai or Madras. We’re playing for India'”

And he was also the one with his feet always on the ground. He wore his royalty, fame and when he was stripped of these, he never cribbed. On the contrary, he was more comfortable without these. As a player, he was never shy of aggression and with his dry and occasionally wicked wit, Tiger Pataudi was one of the best conversationalists, in spite of being a man of few words.

Limelight was not new to him. His dad was a prince and a famous international cricketer, he married one of the most sought-after actresses of Bollywood, his son, daughters and daughter in law have been successful actors, and yet he maintained the dignity in his public life with a calm aloofness and a dry and honest wit. Tiger Pataudi was the first Indian Cricketer to overthrow the awe of the British from the minds of Indian cricketers.To conclude, I share this anecdote of his which pretty much sums up the kind of person he was.

Tiger had scored his maiden century against England in the 1961-2 series. He was keenly followed by the English right from his schooldays and they were pretty sad when he had lost his eye. The British press was wonderstruck with his comeback in tests, and he was asked, “When did you feel that you can make a comeback and play international cricket?”

“When I saw the English Bowling.” Pat came the reply.

Hope you liked- From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 6.Until then, stay tuned and keep reading

From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 5

From Part 4 of the Series- From CK to VK- Indian Skippers in England lets move on to Part 5. Datta Gaekwad at 89,is India’s oldest living international cricketer. Vijay Hazare debuted in the 1946 England tour and went to his next tour (1952) of England as a captain of the side. Datta Gaekwad debuted in the 1952 England tour for India and went to the next England tour (1959) as the captain of the side. Both Played for Baroda. And as far as the test match careers are concerned, there end the similarities. Hazare, between 1946 and 1952 had impressed in test cricket, scoring courageous runs both home and away.

Datta Gaekwad
Datta Gaekwad
Datta Gaekwad, however never established himself as a batsman at the international level. He was extremely prolific at the domestic level and had been a pillar for the Baroda middle order for a decade before this tour. An extremely disciplined man, he was chosen to lead the Indian side after Colonel Hemu Adhikari, who had led India in the preceding home series against the West Indies was mysteriously overlooked for selection.

It is said that Dattajirao was made captain due to his being a Gaekwad (the Royal family of Baroda), but much that the writer of this piece is baffled at the exclusion of Adhikari, I refuse to admit Dattajirao Gaekwad must have used any of the royal influences to become a captain. Having met the man, I can vouch for that. Gaekwad had made handsome runs in Ranji trophy for nearly a decade was probably the best batsman in the country at that time, and hence got the nod for he captaincy. He had led Baroda to Ranji Trophy title in 1958-59, and that must have been a factor in Making him the captain of the national side. Yet he disappointed.

Gaekwad had a reasonably talented bunch of players in his squad, but they were inexperienced. Out of the proven players, Manjrekar had gained weight as voraciously as he used to gather the runs and was a liability in the fielding set-up.

Umrigar took much time (until the fourth test when the fate of the series had already been sealed) to find form, and the lapses in the techniques of Contractor, Chandu Borde, Ramakant Desai and Bapu Nadkarni were inexperienced, and the captain himself was not in the greatest of batting forms. Wicketkeepers Nana Joshi and Naren Tamhane, though excellent with the larger gloves, contributed precious little with the smaller ones.

As is proved over past the past 138 years of test match cricket being in England, the team having the maximum capacity to stay on the crease comes up on the top, as once the swing and the seam movement is negated, runs can be easily scored. That precisely was lacking until England took an unassailable lead of 3-0 in the series, and then when some Indian batsmen started exhibiting some resolve at the crease, the series was already lost.

The first test followed the pattern of the first tests in the earlier four tours. England piled up 422, Captain Peter May made 106 and Godfrey Evans, Ken Barrington and Horton made half centuries. Subhash Gupte picked up 4 for 102 runs. India made 206 in the first knock, all their batsmen got starts and threw them away. Pankaj Roy made 54, Gaekwad 33. Made to follow on, they put up an even worse display, folding up for 157. Roy 49, Gaekwad 31. Fred Trueman and Brian Statham simply blew India away with their combination of pace, accuracy, swing and seam movement. Innings victory for England.

In the second test, Gaekwad, Borde and Nadkarni were injured, so Roy captained India. Contractor, hit by Statham, batted with a cracked rib but still made almost half of India’s first innings runs, with a determined 81. Greenhough took five for 35 as the last six wickets fell for just 24 runs. The Indian bowlers then hit back and reduced England to 80 for six, but Ken Barrington, with another 80, found unlikely batting allies in Statham and Moss, so England claimed a lead of 58.

Trueman dismissed Roy and Umrigar in the first over and though Manjrekar and Kripal Singh added 89 for the fifth wicket, the last six wickets fell this time for 34 and England required only 108, which an unbeaten 63 from Colin Cowdrey easily achieved.

In the third test at Leeds, England made six changes, bringing in a lot of their fringe players. Yet, India made only 161 in first innings and England piled on 483/8. Cowdrey made 160, Barrington, Pullar, and Parkhouse all made 70+, drowning India in torrent of runs. India, in the second innings, showed no fight and were all out for 149. Only Borde (41) and Umrigar (39) showed some resistance.

Again the scourges were Trueman and Statham, this time helped by the chucker Harold “Dusty” Rhodes who claimed 4 wickets in the first innings. At Manchester, India fought, but the rubber had already gone England’s way. India had roped in a handsome Oxford blue by the name of Abbas Ali Baig in the playing eleven.

England made 490 Pullar and MJK Smith made centuries, Barrington and Cowdrey made half centuries. Surendranath bowled valiantly to take the first five for of the series. Indian first innings amounted to only 208, Borde making a fighting 75. Yet, England batted again and declared their innings closed at 265/8, and setting India a monumental target of 548 runs to win. This time India tried to win.

Debutante 21 year old Abbas Ali baig became the third Indian batsman to score a century on debut, after Lala Amarnath and Deepak Shodhan. Polly Umrigar made 118, and at last Indians had started scoring centuries in the series. Contractor made 56. Yet India could score only 376 all out, and lost the test by 171 runs. Gaekwad didn’t play this test due to an injury, and India was skippered by Pankaj Roy.

In the last test of the tour, India batted poorly against Trueman and Statham and only a late partnership of 58 for the eighth wicket between Tamhane and Surendranath brought any comfort. The innings of 140 occupied five hours and 85.3 overs. England relied on a third wicket partnership of 169 between Raman Subba Row, who made 94, and MJK Smith (98), and then Illingworth and Swetman made maiden Test 50s in putting on 102 for the seventh wicket. England made 361 India’s second innings was more spirited than their first, with Nadkarni making 76 in four hours, yet they folded up for 194 and but the result was never in doubt.

Datta Gaekwad went on to play one more test for India. And played for Baroda for 5 more seasons. His son Anshuman represented India too, and with far greater success. An attractive stroke maker when he started, Anshuman Gaekwad was known for his heroic resistance against the West Indian Pace attack, and his batting in the 1976 Jamaica test is actually an interesting story, but that is for another day. Gaekwad lives in Baroda, with his son Anshuman and Grandson Shatrunjay, who all have played first cricket. He still keeps in touch with the game, and voices his strong opinions too, albeit now only at home. To quote a recent interview of his by Wisden,“Now there’s too much cricket. Everyday there is a match, whenever I switch on TV. I get fed up watching it,” he says, summing up world cricket’s problems in simple terms. “And somebody is doing this (reverse sweep), somebody is doing this (Dilscoop) – this is the sort of cricket going on.”

Thats all about Part 5 of series- From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England. Untill then, stay tuned and keep reading

From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 4

Vijay Samuel Merchant
Vijay Samuel Hazare
Vijay Samuel Hazare had a curious cricketing career. He burst on the Indian Cricket horizon in the 1933-34 season as a promising allrounder from the nondescript cusbah of Jat in the Sangli district of the Bombay presidency (now Maharashtra). Yet despite of his birth in such a remote place, he was coached by none other than Clarrie Grimmet, one of the best legspinners the world has ever seen, and a key member of Bradman’s Australian team. The Maharajah of the Jat state had arranged for Grimmet to come and teach his offspring’s cricket, and since there were players needed to make a complete eleven a young Vijay Samuel Hazare was drafted in to the coaching programme. Hazare then made the most of this godsend opportunity, and how! Hazare had the most unorthodox stance and technique, but since he seemed to be batting well inspite of it, Grimmet advised him to stick to it.

He scored tonnes and tonnes of runs in the pentangulars and the Ranji Trophy and hit the first of his many purple patches. He scored 1,423 runs. He made scores of 248, 59, 309, 101, 223 and 87, reaching 1,000 runs in only four matches. As soon as the second world war was over, he was drafted in the 1946 touring party to England. He had won his place in the squad by the sheer weight of runs scored. In tests there, he scored a few 30s and 40s, but no big scores came.

It was the 1947-48 tour of Australia when Vijay Hazare actually arrived in International cricket. He became the first Indian batsman to score two hundreds in a test match. His maiden hundred (116) came in the first innings of the Adelaide test and he quickly followed it up with 145 in the second innings. He wasn’t very easy on the eye to watch, but was extremely difficult to dislodge once he got his eye in. After the twin hundreds at Adelaide, Hazare become the man for the crisis for the Indian cricket team. He bowled handy medium pace, good enough to get twenty international wickets.

And with this reputation behind him, Vijay Samuel Hazare set out on his voyage to England, as the leader of the Indian team. Barring the last- minute conferring of captaincy to CK Naidu in 1932, Hazare was the first Indian captain to be chosen on pure merit. He had just three months ago guided India to their first test match win after 20 years of being granted test match status: against the same opponents, albeit at home. And for his performance, he did not disappoint, but the team did not keep up the expectations of the fans. India had played nine lead-up matches going into the first Test. They had lost one game, won another and drew the rest. Most of their frontline batsmen were in form, especially Polly Umrigar; and GS Ramchand and Ghulam Ahmed were outstanding with the ball. Morale was reasonably high.

But, they had to face fire right from the first session of the first test. England had included a 21-year-old Yorkshire rookie in their team and captain Hutton wasted no time in unleashing him on the Indians. Fiery Fred Truman reduced India to 52 for 3 in no time, sending back Datta Gaekwad, Bespectacled Pankaj Roy and Polly Umrigar back to pavilion in quick succession. The onus of constructing the innings fell on the lean shoulders of Vijay Hazare. He found an able allay in namesake Vijay Manjrekar, and both the Vijays added 222 runs for the fourth wicket. The rest of the batsmen did nothing better than merely recording their attendance at the crease, and India was all out for 293. England too started shakily and lost Hutton, Richardson and May by the time they had reached 62. But then Graveny, Evans, Watkins and Jenkins batted responsibly to give England a first innings lead of 40 runs.

Again Fred Truman wreaked havoc, reducing India to the infamous score of four wickets down without a single run scored.At 26, Umrigar got out. Again, Captain courageous came to rescue and with Dattu Phadkar, steered India to a somewhat respectable total of 165. Hazare made 56 and Phadkar made 64. England got the required 126 runs to win the match losing 3 wickets, and the tradition of India losing their first test of the series was kept intact.
India lost the second test at Lords too, but this time they put up a very good fight, courtesy Vinoo Mankad. A man for all situations, Mankad was made to open the innings and he responded by scoring a polished 72 at the top. Hazare made 69 and India were all out for 235. England made 537, riding on centuries from Hutton and Godfrey Evans, supported by half centuries by May, Graveny and Simpson. In a mammoth bowling effort, Mankad took 5 for 196 in 73 overs. India was 302 runs behind and staring at an innings defeat. But not for nothing is this test called “Mankad’s test”. Mankad again opened the innings and scored 184. Hazare made 49 and Gulabrai Ramchand 42 to take India to 378. England needed a small matter of 76 runs to win, which they got easily to take an unbeatable lead of 2-0 in the series.

The next test at Manchester was nothing to write home about for the Indians. England made 347 for 8 and declared their first innings closed. Hutton made 104, Evans and May made half centuries. India were bowled out for 58 and 82 in their two innings. Indians just couldn’t handle the pace of Truman and the swing of Bedser. Their both innings put together were finished under 58 overs. India was completely outplayed. Hazare scored a pair of 16s.
The last test at Oval looked destined for a similar fate as Manchester, but for the rain gods saving the visitors. England made 326 for 6 and India were all down for 98. Hazare top scored with 38.

Hazare didn’t play long after this series. He retired after a couple of years and became a very good cricket administrator. He had risen to great heights from the ground level and he had sympathy for cricketers coming from small towns. It was he who had drafted a young 21-year-old parsee from the then small town of Godhra in the Indian team, and that man grew to be the best captain of India till his time. This boy was called Nariman Contractor. Hazare then retired into seclusion in his Baroda home. His brother, son, nephews and grandson played first class cricket too.

Hazare left the crease of life scoring 89 years, and towards the end fought a valiant battle with a very hostile and wily bowler called Cancer of the intestine who eventually claimed his wicket.

Special thanks to Sanjeev Sathe, who is an avid cricket fan and a dear friend of ours for contributing this wonderful article

From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 3

Iftikhar Ali Khan (The 8th Nawab of Pataudi)
Iftikhar Ali Khan (The 8th Nawab of Pataudi)

After the 1936 tour of England, Indians hardly played any international cricket owing to the volatile situation around the world due to the second world war. With only 11 first class matches happening in the first Post War in 1945, the fans all over the world were thirsting for some quality cricket to watch.

India were invited to play a 3 test match series in England, and as usual, the selectors’ plotting and scheming started before selection of the squad and more importantly, it’s captain. The garland of captaincy landed on the shoulders of the 36 year old Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi, the 8th Nawab Of Pataudi, a small riyasat in Haryana. He had earlier represented England briefly with fair success, and with his experience of playing in English conditions (He played County Cricket for Oxford University and Worcestershire, in his college days and after that)

Another England tour, another prince as a captain, and India sailed to England to play the first international cricket series after the great war. But this was a much better prince. As compared to the viciously whimsical Vizzy, Pataudi (Sr.) was as suave, cultured and talented as they come. He was a fine gentleman, a well-educated one and above all, appeared disarmingly oblivious to his prince hood. He was liked a lot by his team mates. However, at the time, Pataudi (Sr.) was past his prime as a cricketer, and none of his fine qualities could avoid India’s series defeat and his own dismal performance on the tour. He did a lot to inspire his players, though.

Mushtaq Ali, in his autobiography “Cricket Delightful” states that Pataudi was to be appointed Indian captain several months ahead of the tour of England in 1936. The idea was that he could watch the players in the winter series against the visiting Australians Servicemen and a few other players led by Jack Ryder and pick the side he wanted. All these plans were rendered null and void when Pataudi withdrew in February claiming he was not fully fit. It was ten years later that he finally led an Indian team to England, when he was, a mere shadow of his best self as a cricketer and had played little first-class cricket in the preceding years.

Born as the eldest son of the 7th Nawab of Pataudi Muhammad Ibrahim Ali Khan and Shahar Bano Begum of Bhopal, on March 16, 1910, Pataudi (Sr.) was educated in Lahore, and later, in Oxford where he earned the coveted “blue” after a two- year apprenticeship, scoring 106 and 84 in a match against Cambridge University and saving the match for his team. Post that, the Nawab never looked back. He went on to pile up heavy scores for the University, and the 1931 season, he scored 1,307 runs for Oxford and finished with a batting average of 93, heading the Oxford averages. In the University Match that year, Alan Ratcliffe scored 201 for Cambridge, a new record. Pataudi declared that he would beat it and hit 238 not out on the very next day. This stood as a record for the University Matches until 2005. Pataudi qualified to play for Worcestershire in 1932 but played only three matches and scored just 65 runs in six innings. However, his slaughter of Tich Freeman with marvelous footwork during an innings of 165 for the Gentlemen at Lord’s in July 1932 brought him to the England selectors’ notice. He was selected as a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1932. These performances earned him a passage to Australia to play the 1932-22 Ashes tests. He did not take long to impress. In the first test at the Sydney Cricket ground, coming in to bat with an ideal launching pad of 300 for 2, Pataudi (Sr.) didn’t let the advantage slip out of the hands of the English side. He scored a resolute 102 in five and a half hours, doggedly defying the Australian attack of Bill O’Reilly and Clarrie Grimmet, had a 123 run partnership with Herbert Sutcliffe and shepherded the tail to guide England to 524 against Australia’s first innings score of 360. He was the last batsman out in that innings and had followed Ranji’s footsteps in scoring a 100 in the debut test and doing it in the Ashes. And he had lived his only moment of glory in International Cricket.

But this fairy tale beginning ended abruptly. As mentioned in an earlier article of this series, the Bombay born England Skipper Douglas Jardine hated to lose, and would resort to any means, fair or unfair to achieve a victory. In the second innings of the Sydney test, Jardine adopted the notorious tactic of making the bowlers bowl at the bodies of the batsmen, thereby threatening them with injuries and making them fend at the ball awkwardly to the close in fielders who would gobble the catches up. A true sportsman, the Nawab disagreed with this, but kept mum in the English victory at Sydney. However, his reluctance for fielding in the close was not noticed by Jardine then. In the second test, Pataudi told Jardine that he would not play his cricket this way, and he wouldn’t be party to this blood shedding tactics of the England Captain. Jardine remarked, “Ah ! His Highness seems to be a conscious objector! You would never play for England again.”

Pataudi (Sr.) played no more tests in that series. However, it was Jardine who had to swallow his words an year later, when he was sacked from England Captaincy following the bodyline series, and His Highness earned a recall in the 1934 Old Trafford rest against Australia. However, Pataudi failed to perform in that test and never played for England again. His 3 test career with England was over.

The Nawab played little cricket thereafter, owing to a busy Royal Schedule and poor health.

Still, he was named captain for the 1946 series. Mushtaq Ali, in his autobiography says, “The late Nawab of Pataudi, a great cricketer in his own right, had done nothing to earn the captaincy for the 1946 tour in preference to Vijay Merchant.” The tour was a disaster, as the players couldn’t unite and the captain was much lost in himself and indifferent.

The team was fatigued after a busy home season and then playing unofficial test matches with the Allied forces teams, and the fatigue showed in all the test matches. There were 3 test matches and 33 first class fixtures played on the tour, and India fared well in the first class fixtures, winning 13, only 3 and drawing the rest. However the tests were a different cup of tea altogether.

In the first test at Lords, India won the toss, batted first and was skittled out for 200 with Alec Bedser taking 7 wickets on debut. Russi Modi made 57. India never really recovered as Joe Hardstaff’s 205 propelled England to 428. In their second salvo, India fared slightly better by making 275 largely due to fifties from Vinoo Mankad and Lala Amarnath. England made the required 48 runs to win in the second innings without losing a single wicket. The captain made 9 & 22 in the match.

At Manchester, in the second test, England made 294 in the first innings thanks to fifties from Hutton, Washbrook, Compton and Hammond. Amarnath took 5 for 96. India, despite Merchant (78) and Mushtaq Ali (46) adding 124 for the first wicket, folded up for 170. Bedser and Pollard broke the spine of Indian batting. In the second innings, England declared their innings closed at 153 for 5, Compton making 71 not out. India were to chase 278 for a win on an extremely wet wicket and they made no pretense of trying to win. All the batsmen tried to play out time, yet India lost 9 wickets. Bedser took his second seven-for of the series, yet Sohoni and Hindlekar hung on grimly till close of final day’s play and saved the match for India.

In the last test, Indian batting fared much better. Play didn’t begin until the tea time of the first day, but Merchant and Mushtaq Ali added 79 runs and kept their wickets intact in the two hours play that was possible. The partnership couldn’t blossom further with Mushtaq (52) getting out with the score on 94. However, the rest of the team played around Merchant who scored a chance-less 128 and India crossed 300 for the first time in the series. They made 331, and England had made 95 for the loss of 3 wickets when the rains drew a curtain on the match.This was Pataudi (Sr.)’s last cricket match.

The numbers don’t reflect the quality of cricket the Indian team played though. Syed Mushtaq Ali, who opened the batting for India in the series says, “Though India didn’t win a single test, but considering that the first test was won for England by practically one man, the second ending in a thrilling draw despite holdups and the third test being abandoned, ours was not too mean a performance.” He was right. India had tested the mettle of debutants Vinoo Mankad, Abdul Hafeez (who went on to captain Pakisan), Vijay Hazare, Rusi Modi and Sadu Shinde (He died young, but his Son in Law went on to head BCCI and the ICC), and they came through good for India in the future years. Stalwarts Merchant and Amarnath performed well too. And the captain, well past his prime kept encouraging his players and egging them on to improve.The state of Pataudi became part of the newly independent India in 1948.After Indian independence, he was employed in the Indian Foreign Office till the time of his death.
The 8th Nawab Iftikhar Ali Khan of Pataudi died on his son’s 10th birthday (January 5, 1952) aged 41. His son went on to represent India with great success and became arguably the best Indian captain of all times.

Special thanks to Sanjeev Sathe, who is an avid cricket fan and a dear friend of ours for contributing this wonderful article.

From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 2

Vijay Ananda Gajapathi Raju, Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram aka Vizzy
Vijay Ananda Gajapathi Raju, Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram aka Vizzy
Though one can write about C K Nayudu with awe and respect, the same is not true about the man captaining India on its 1936 England tour. It is said that the captain is always only as good as his team, but this man, though having a much balanced and talented team compared to the 1932 sojourn with the Colonial masters, he was not able to make good use of his players. On the contrary, in this tour it was the captain Lieutenant Colonel Vijay Ananda Gajapathi Raju, (Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram) aka Vizzy who was the chief detriment to his team’s performance.

There was an excellent ppening batting pair of Vijay Merchant and Syed Mushtaq Ali. The middle order boasted names like Syed Wazir Ali, C K Naidu and L P Jai. There were two world class allrounders in Amar Singh and Lala Amarnath and one of the best wicketkeeper in Dattaram Hindlekar. This was a formidable squad, yet it didn’t perform to it’s potential in England.

In the first test at Lords, England won the toss and put India in. India started well with Vijay merchant and Dattaram Hindlekar defying the new ball and putting on 62 runs for the first wicket. But after that, the batsmen went to the wicket to bat and batted as if they were very concerned about the scorers and thought that it was better if the scorers not be troubled by scoring runs. Here, the captain played a captain’s knock as well as his limited abilities would allow him and from 97 for 6, guided the Indian team to a somewhat respectable score of 147. Vizzy’s opposite number, Gubby Allen was the wrecker in chief, taking five wickets for a mere 35 runs.

India covered up their bad batting performance by responding well with the ball. Amar Singh took 6 wickets for 35, Nissar 3 for 36 and CK Naidu took one for 10. In spite of Maurice Leyland’s defiant 60, England were skittled for 134, giving India a slender lead of 13 runs. In the Indian second innings, Gubby Allen took his second five wicket haul of the match, Headley Verity claimed four wickets, and Indian innings folded up for 93, which was the first of the many subsequent spineless Indian batting performances at Lords.

England needed a mere 107 runs to win, which they easily got losing a solitary wicket of Mitchell and Harold Gimblett scoring 67. India had lost by 9 wickets. In the second test at Manchester, one of the most dazzlingly audacious performance of the Indian Cricket team was seen. In the first innings, nearly all the Indian batsmen got starts, but couldn’t convert them to big scores. India scored 203, with Syed Wazir Ali top-scoring with 42. England responded with a mammoth 571/8 declared, with the mighty Hammond making a handsome 167, and Stan Worthington, Joe Hardstaff Jr., Headley Verity and Walter Robbins getting half centuries. England plundered the Indian bowling, which looked toothless.

India went in to bat again, facing an innings defeat, and least would have anyone expected what happened after that. An ideal opening partnership, where one dashed and other blocked was made. The stoic Vijay Merchant scored 114 and the debonair flamboyant Mushtaq Ali scored a blistering 112. Mushtaq beat Merchant by minutes to score India’s maiden test match century overseas. His batting was superlative in that innings. The great Neville Cardus wrote,’ There was suppleness and a loose, easy grace which concealed power, as the feline silkiness conceals the strength of some jungle beauty of gleaming eyes and sharp fangs. At times his cricket was touched with genius and imagination.’ Cotar Ramaswamy scored 60, CK Nayudu scored 34, and Amar Singh a brisk 48 not out. India scored 390 for the loss of 5 wickets, and the match ended in a draw.

Vizzy remained not out and didn’t score a run. He presented Mushtaq with a gold watch. India needed inspiration from second innings of the second test, Indian batting considerably improved in the third test at Oval. The hosts, riding on Hammond’s double hundred and Worthington’s 128 scored 471/d in the first innings. Nissar took another five for, and India was again up against a mammoth total. Merchant and Mushtaq again started well, scoring 52 apiece and putting on 81 for the first wicket, but the rest of the batsmen contributed little precious and the Indian innings card showed only 222 runs.Allen immediately imposed the follow on, sensing an innings victory. But in the second innings, India defied the hosts well. Merchant, Naidu, Dilawar Hussein and Ramaswamy batted well and India made 312 in the innings. Naidu made 81, which was his top test score. Given a mere 64 runs to chase, England achieved victory losing only Arthur Fagg. Vizzy’s tour was over, and so was his international cricket career.

The 1936 tour to England was perhaps one of the most acrimonious in the history of Indian cricket. He was fickle-minded, and whimsical, and the dressing room atmosphere was always polluted with plots and schemes to ensure disunity in the players. A few of the occurrences masterminded by Vizzy will remain like eyesores on the canvas of Indian crickets.

Vizzy’s cricketing ability was much inferior to the likes of Lala Amarnath, Mushtaq Ali, Vijay Merchant, Nissar, Amar Singh and CK Nayudu, and he was tremendously jealous of these better players. He had Amarnath sent back for “disciplinary” reasons after humiliating him repeatedly and also had a feud with Nayudu. He asked Baqa Jilani to insult C K Naidu at breakfast and rewarded him with a place in the test 11. He had also famously asked Mushtaq Ali to run-out Vijay Merchant during the second Test in Manchester, but they went on to have a 203-run stand.Lieutenant Colonel Vijay Ananda Gajapathi Raju, Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram aka Vizzy was a prince, a scheming man, a bootlicker of the British Government and if he called himself a cricketer, was a very very ordinary one. He, however was extremely well connected, was filthy rich and had an ambition to lead India in test cricket.
To his credit though, Vizzy had made space for a cricket ground in his palace in Banaras, and invited international greats like Jack Hobbs, Herbert Sutcliffe, Leary Constantine to India, paying them handsome sums of money, and arranged for them to play in matches in various locations in India, thereby granting India a glimpse of their geniuses. He was also instrumental in the development of Syed Mushtaq Ali, Dilawar Hussein and Baqa Jilani. But his was nothing compared to the huge damage he caused to Indian Cricket. Vizzy died 26 days short of his 60th birthday in Banaras, in 1965.

Special thanks to Sanjeev Sathe, who is an avid cricket fan and a dear friend of ours for contributing this wonderful article.

From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 1

And as has always been the case with Indian cricket since, selection immediately courted controversy. The Maharaja of Patiala, one of the richest patrons of Indian cricket, was first named captain He withdrew, and, then “Maharaja of Porbandar” Natwarsinhji Bhavsinhji was signed as the captain and Ghanshyam Sinhji of Limbdi as vice-captain. Maharaja of Porbandar was later dropped out for reasons of health and Ghanshyamsinhji took over the team just two weeks before the trip. But Ghanshyam Sinhji too suffered a back injury that ruled him out of the Test and just before the start of India’s Test match debut, C.K Nayudu- The First Indian Captain was appointed as the captain of the Indian team.

CK Nayudu
CK Nayudu

CK was 37 years old at the time and had experience of playing first class cricket for 16 years for the Hindus and Holkars’ (Indore) teams. A very hard hitting Right hand batsman and a wily offbreak bowler, Naidu was a respected figure in Indian Cricket purely due to his abilities, and not for merely being a blue-blooded prince. The other two Indian Princes at that time had chosen to represent England, and hence the loyalty of royalty towards India was always questionable. Ranji, Dulip and Nawab of Pataudi (Sr.) all played for England with great success, but never thought of representing India till then.
CK was idolised in India cricket those days, as VK is today.
CK regularly played first-class cricket till 1958 and then returned for one last time in 1963 at the age of 68. In 1923, the ruler of Holkar invited him to Indore and made him a Captain in his army for both the land and air troop. Later he was awarded the honor of a Colonel in Holkar’s Army.
In the England tour of 1932, CK was by far the best Indian Performer. He played in all the first-class matches, scoring 1,618 runs at an average of 40.45, including five centuries and a highest score of 162. In the 1933 edition of Wisden, Nayudu was selected as one of the five Cricketers of the Year for 1932.

Earlier in India, when Arthur Gilligan had brought the England eleven to India, Nayudu caught the eye of the cricket lovers worldwide with an innings of extraordinary flare and audacity. Walking in to bat with his team precariously placed, Nayudu responded by hitting 153 which includes eleven 6’s and thirteen 4’s out of 187 deliveries in just a little over hundred minutes for Hindus against A. E. R. Gilligan’s M.C.C. team in 1926-27 at Bombay. One of the sixes, in the ball of Bob Wyatt, he landed it on the roof of the Gymkhana. The MCC presented him with a silver bat in recognition of that innings.

Despite a painful hand injury received when fielding, Nayudu made the top score, 40, in the first innings of the first test where India debuted as a national cricket team. Nayudu was a taskmaster and a strict disciplinarian, yet he did a lot to instil self-belief in the Indian team, at a time when a whole lot of Indians considered themselves inferior to the British, and the remaining ones didn’t want to play against the British as they saw it as a dent to the freedom movement. A number of players, including Vijay Merchant, refused to participate because of unrest at home and in support of Mahatma Gandhi who had been arrested in January 1932.
The strict daddy of the 1932 Indian Squad was not the one to be bogged down by reputations. Just a week before the beginning of the test match the English opening pair of Percy Holmes and Herbert Sutcliffe had created a world record opening partnership of 555. Yet Naidu had enough confidence in Mohammad Nissar, the Indian pace spearhead. Nissar sent both the openers’ stumps cartwheeling with lethal in-swinging yorkers before England reached the 20s. Then Frank Wooley was run out by a cracking throw by Lall Singh from wide mid-on, and England were staring down the barrel at 19 for 3 before the first hour of the game had ended. Looked like England would fold up cheaply, but their captain, Douglas Jardine hated to lose. He formed crucial partnership with the formidable Wally Hammond (who scored 35) adding 82 runs, and then Leslie Ames and Walter Robbins added swift 63 runs in just half an hour to give England a respectable total of 259. Mohammad Nissar finished with India’s first five-for in test cricket. He took 5 for 93. Nayudu and Amar Singh took 2 wickets each.
Indian batting was a bit like Afghanistan’s in the recently concluded test. The top order got starts but couldn’t convert them to substantial scores. CK was hit on his forearm by a express delivery from Bill Voce, yet braved the pain to score 40 valiant runs and becoming the top scorer of India’s maiden test innings. Naoomal Jeoomal Makhija scored 33. India was skittled for 189.
Leading by 70 runs, England started their second innings, but this time Mohammad Jehangir Khan wreaked havoc. He took four wickets for 60 runs. Yet again Jardine (85 n.o.) stitched up a partnership of 89 with Eddie Paynter (54) and England declared their second innings closed at 275 for 8. India was to score 346 runs, if they were to win their first test match. Nissar took one wicket and Amar Singh two, while CK went wicketless.
India didn’t fare better than the first innings in their second knock too. They were all out for 187, with Vazir Ali (39) and Naoomal Jeoomal Makhija (25) offering some token resistance. CK got out cheaply for 10.

Nayudu went on to play 6 more tests for India and played a couple of memorable innings in the tests. He scored 67 in a partnership of 186 with Lala Amarnath when the Lala was scoring the first test match hundred for India at the Bombay Gymkhana. The match was also Lalajee’s debut test match. CK was the captain for this home series against England, but didn’t contribute with the bat or the ball apart from making that score of 67.
He also went to England with the 1936 team, where, after failing in the first two tests, and the first innings of the third test in the series, where the scheming Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram was the captain of the team, he scored a valiant 81 to deny the hosts an innings victory. Nayudu was hit by England’s captain Gubby Allen hit Nayudu below his heart.After dropping his bat, he made a quick, successful attempt to continue batting and hooked the next ball to the fence. His 81 denied England an innings victory and it was his highest Test score. Sadly, this was to be Nayudu’s final test for India, at the age of 41. However, CK wouldn’t exit cricket until much later.
He continued his cricket career for six different decades (1910s to 1960s). He made his last first-class appearance at his 62 years of age in the Ranji Trophy back in 1956-57 where he scored 52 in his last innings of his career for Uttar Pradesh.
This legendary captain of India died on November 14, 1967, at Indore.

Special thanks to Sanjeev Sathe, who is an avid cricket fan and a dear friend of ours for contributing this wonderful article.

Lord of Lords- Part 3

१९८६ के लॉर्ड्स टेस्ट में भारतीय टीम के तेवर बदले हुए थे. १९८३ के विश्व कप और १९८५ के बेन्सन-हेजेस कप के जीतने के बाद भारतीय खिलाड़ी अपने आप को विश्व के किसी भी टीम को टक्कर देने के काबिल समझने लगे थे. उन में एक नया आत्मविश्वास आ गया था, गावस्कर, वेंगसरकर, अमरनाथ विश्व के उस समय के सर्वोत्तम बल्लेबाजों में गिने जा रहे थे, कपिल देव दुनिया के चोटी के आल राउंडर्स में शुमार थे, और रवि शास्त्री और अजहरुद्दीन विश्वस्तरीय बल्लेबाजों के रूप में अपना स्थान बना चुके थे.

Dilip Vengsarkar
Dilip vengsarkar
इस के विपरीत, इंग्लैंड की टीम १९८५-८६ में वेस्ट इंडीज से पिटकर इंग्लैंड लौटी थी, बोथम गांजाखोरी के विवाद में फंसे थे, माइक गैटिंग माल्कम मार्शल की गेंद पर नाक तुडवा लेने के बाद खौफ़ खा चुके थे, और कप्तान डेविड गावर की अपने टीम के ज्यष्ठ खिलाडी गूच, प्रिंगल, आदियों से बनती नहीं थी.और वे बहुत अछे फॉर्म में भी नहीं थे.भारत के पास लॉर्ड्स पर अपनी पहली जीत दर्ज करने का यह बढ़िया मौका था.
भारत के कप्तान कपिल देव ने टॉस जीतकर प्रथम फ़ील्डिंग करने का निर्णय लिया. गूच और रॉबिन्सन ने ६६ रन जोड़े, और कपिल ने गेंद थमाई बाए हाथ के स्पिनर, बिशनसिंह बेदी के चेले मनिंदर सिंह को. मनिंदर ने रॉबिन्सन का विकेट छटकाया. कप्तान डेविड गावर और गूच ने और २८ रनों की साझेदारी की, और लग रहा था, कि ये दो महान बल्लेबाज़ अब इंग्लैंड के लिए विशाल स्कोर खड़ा करेंगे. तब बोलिंग करने आये चेतन शर्मा. चेतन अपने नाम पर लगे कलंक को मिटाने के लिए बेक़रार थे. छह हफ्ते पहले शारजाह में जावेद मियाँदाद ने मैच के आखरी गेंद पर छक्का लगाकर भारत के शारजाह में ट्रॉफी जीतने के सपने को बेरहमी से तोडा था, और गेंदबाज़ थे चेतन शर्मा. लेकिन शर्माजी लोग तब बड़े जिद्दी होते थे. चेतन शर्मा ने गावर को विकेटकीपर के हाथों कैच आउट कराया, और तुरंत ही आए माइक गैटिंग के स्टंप भी बिखेर डाले. उनके बाद आये ऐलन लैम्ब भी कुछ ख़ास नहीं कर पाए, और चेतन शर्मा ने उन्हें श्रीकांत के हाथों कैच देने पर मजबूर कर दिया. इंग्लैंड ९८ के स्कोर पर ४ छोटी के बल्लेबाज़ खो चूका था, और मैच में उनका पलड़ा पलटने की पूरी संभावनाएं नज़र आ रही थी. लेकिन नाबाद गूच ने डेरेक प्रिंगल के साथ पारी को सम्हाला और १४७ बहुमूल्य रन जोड़े और इंग्लैंड का स्कोर २४५ तक पहुंचाया. इस स्कोर पर ११४ के निजी स्कोर पर गूच को चेतन शार्मा ने बोल्ड किया, और बाकी बल्लेबाज़ कुछ ख़ास नहीं कर पाए. इंग्लैंड की पारी २९४ के स्कोर पर सिमट गई. प्रिंगल ने ६३ रन बनाए. शर्माजी ने ५ और बिन्नी ने ३ विकेट लिए.

भारत की शुरुआत अन्य लॉर्ड्स टेस्ट की तरह ही लडखडाई. श्रीकांत ने अपने ताबड़तोड़ अंदाज नमें खेलना चाह, लेकिन वे २० रन बनाकर डिली की गेंद पर आउट हो गए. उनके बाद आये मोहिंदर अमरनाथ ने गावस्कर के साथ पारी को कुछ हद तक सम्हालने की कोशिश की, लेकिन स्कोर ९० तक पहुंचा था, और गावस्कर का भी विकेट डिली ने ले लिया. अब बल्लेबाजी करने उतरे लार्ड ऑफ़ लॉर्ड्स, दिलीप वेंगसरकर. अगर उन दिनों की बल्लेबाज़ी की औसत की बात करें, तो उस समय के विश्व के सर्वश्रेष्ठ बल्लेबाज़ वेंगसरकर थे. PWC रेटिंग्स में भी वे अव्वल बल्लेबाज़ थे, और स्पिन और फ़ास्ट बोलिंग को बड़े आराम से खेल रहे थे. वेंगसरकर ने मोहिंदर अमरनाथ के साथ ७१ रन जोड़े, और २५० मिनट जूझने के बाद मोहिंदर अमरनाथ ६९ रन बनाकर एडमंड्स की गेंद पर आउट हुए. फिर वेंगसरकर ने फुर्तीले, जवान अजहरुद्दीन के साथ पारी को आगे बढाया, और भारत का स्कोर २३२ तक पहुंचाया. यह साझेदारी वेंगसरकर के लिए बड़ी ही कष्टदायक थी. अजहरुद्दीन कम उम्र के थे, गेंद को फील्डर से बस थोडा ही दूर प्लेस कर के तेज रन चुराने में विश्वास रखते थे, और वेंगसरकर को भागने से बहुत नफरत थी. बहरहाल, उन्होंने अपनी विकेट बचाए रखी, और खेलते रहे. आगे के बल्लेबाज़ ज्यादा रन नहीं बना पाए, और दोनों छोरों से स्ट्राइक अपने पास रखकर खेलते हुए वेंगसरकर ने अकेले ही भारत के स्कोर को ३४१ तक पहुँचाया. वे १२६ रन बनाकर अविजित रहे. दूसरी पारी में कपिल देव (४ विकेट) और मनिंदर सिंह (३ विकेट) की शानदार गेंदबाजी के चलते इंग्लैंड १८० रनों पर आउट हो गई. और भारत के सामने लॉर्ड्स अपनी पहली जीत पाने के लिए लक्ष्य रखा गया १३४ रनों का. श्रीकांत और अमरनाथ को छोड़कर सारे भारतीय बल्लेबाजों ने २०-३० रनों का योगदान दिया, और कपिल देव ने एडमंड्स की गेंद को मिडविकेट बाउंडरी के बाहर मारकर भारत की ऐतिहासिक जीत पर मुहर लगा दी. वेंगसरकर ने इस पारी में ३३ रन बनाए.

वेंगसरकर इस पारी को अपनी सर्वोत्तम पारी मानते हैं, और गेंदबाजों की सहायता करने वाले पिच पर खेली गई इस मैच में श्रेष्ठतम बल्लेबाज़ के रूप में सामने आये. और लॉर्ड्स पर जमाये हुए पहले दो शतकों से भी यह शतक उन्हें ज्यादा प्रिय है, क्योंकि वह भारत की जीत की नीव रखने के काम आया. वेंगसरकर ने इस श्रुंखला में अपना फॉर्म कायम रखा, और लीड्स टेस्ट में भी शतक और अर्धशतक जमाकर भारत को सिरीज भी जीता दिया.
कलात्मक और फिर भी कड़े प्रतिस्पर्धी रहे इस खिलाड़ी की लॉर्ड्स के मैदान के साथ यह प्रेमकहानी आगे भी खिलती, लेकिन १९९० के लॉर्ड्स टेस्ट में, जब वेंगसरकर ५२ का स्कोर बनाकर खेल रहे थे, तब अंपायर के गलत निर्णय का शिकार हुए, और लॉर्ड्स पर चौथा शतक बनाने से वे वंचित रह गए.
लॉर्ड्स पर ८ पारियों में ७२.५७ की औसत से वेंगसरकर ने ५०८ रन बनाए, जिस में ३ शतक और एक अर्धशतक शामिल थे. हालांकि इन में से केवल एक ही पारी भारत के जीत का कारन बनी, फिर भी वेंगसरकर ही थे लॉर्ड ऑफ़ लॉर्ड्स !

Special thanks to Sanjeev Sathe, who is an avid cricket fan and a dear friend of ours for contributing this wonderful article.

Lord of the Lords- Part 2

Dilip Vengsarkar
Dilip Vengsarkar

३६ साल हुए आज, १९८२ का लॉर्ड्स टेस्ट. भारत बनाम इंग्लैंड. किस्सा १९७९ से कुछ ख़ास अलग नहीं था. भारत ३०५ रनों से पिछड़ा हुआ, फॉलो ऑन कर रहा था. सुशील दोशी के शब्द उधार लेकर कहूँ, तो “भारत अब इस पारी की शुरुआत से ही पराजय की कगार पर” था. सलामी बल्लेबाजों में भी सुनील गावस्कर के साथ भरोसेमंद चेतन चौहान नहीं थे. गावस्कर के साथ उतरे थे गुलाम परकार. मैं ग्यारह साल की उम्र में कान में ट्रांजिस्टर को ठूसे हुए मैच का आँखों देखा हाल सुन रहा था. टेस्ट के चौथे दिन की सुबह, दोपहर के ३ बजे, स्कूल से आकर सीधे ट्रांजिस्टर ऑन कर के मैंने अपनी माँ की नींद खराब करने का पाप तो कर ही दिया था. माँ से बचने के लिए बाहर कॉलोनी के ग्राउंड में जा बैठा. ग्राउंड में बैठने के फायदे थे. जब मैच के हाल के हिसाब से आनंद, या गुस्सा व्यक्त करने की नौबत आती, तब कुछ नए नए सीखे शब्दों का भरपूर इस्तमाल किया जा सकता, बिना किसी के डर के.

सुनील गावस्कर और गुलाम परकार तो पहले ही पवेलियन लौट चुके थे, और लार्ड ऑफ़ लॉर्ड्स वेंगसरकर के साथ रवि शास्त्री बैटिंग कर रहे थे. उन्होंने करीब ६० रन जोड़ लिए थे. शास्त्रीजी सुबह का खेल के शुरू होते ही, “ट्रेसर बुलेट” की तरह पवेलियन लौट गए. १९७९ में वेंगसरकर के साथ मैच बचानेवाले गुंडप्पा विश्वनाथ आए, लेकिन ६ गेंदों का सामना कर के वे भी लौट गए. अब मेरे ११ साल वाली जुबान पर भाषा कैबरे करने लगी थी. उस उम्र में भी मेरा गुस्सा अब जुबान के रास्ते फूटने लगा. बिल्डिंग के बगल वाले रास्ते से आने जाने वाले लोग एक बच्चे के मूंह से ऐसे शब्द सुनकर चौंकते, मुझे आँखे दिखाते, और चल देते. यशपाल शर्मा आए, जैसे लॉर्ड्स पर घर बनाकर आये हो. वे ३ घंटों तक आउट नहीं हुए, ३७ रन बनाए, और वेंगसरकर के साथ डटे रहे.

अगर दिलीप वेंगसरकर की कलात्मक बल्लेबाज़ी उस दिन किसी सुन्दर पेंटिंग की तरह थी, तो यशपाल की पारी उस पेंटिंग का कैनवास थी. इस इनिंग्स की रेसिपी कुछ १९७९ की ही तरह थी. अगर गेंद आगे पिच की गई हो, तो उसे बड़ी ही नज़ाक़त के साथ वेंगसरकर ड्राइव कर देते जैसी कोई सुन्दर लड़की किसी को बलखाते नाज़ुक हाथों से रास्ता दिखा रही हो, और अगर गेंद छोटी हो, तो उसे निर्ममता के साथ कट या पुल कर देते, जैसे कोई आरी से किसी की गर्दन काट रहा हो. जब दिलीप आउट हुए, तब भारत का स्कोर २५२ था, और दिलीप के १५७ रन थे. उनका उस समय का वह उच्चतम टेस्ट स्कोर था. करीब साढ़े पांच घंटे क्रीज़ पर डटे रहकर वेंगसरकर ने २१ चौके लगाए थे. इस पारी के बाद ही क्रिकेट पंडितों ने दिलीप की तुलना ग्रेग चैपल के साथ करनी शुरू की.

हालांकि यह शानदार पारी भारत की पराजय न टाल सकी, लेकिन फॉलो ऑन करीब करीब बचा लिया था दिलीप वेंगसरकर ने. उनकी विकेट गिरने पर उतरे बल्लेबाज़ कपिल देव ने T२० स्टाइल में ५५ गेंदों पर १३ चौकों और ३ छक्कों की आतिशबाजी कर के भारत को न ही केवल ३०५ के पार पहुँचाया, बल्कि ६५ रनों की बढ़त भी दिला दी, जो मैच जीतने या बचाने के काम न आ सकी.
वेंगसरकर की यह पारी उनकी सर्वश्रेष्ठ पारीयों में से है, ऐसा कई क्रिकेट पंडितों का मानना है. लेकिन वेंगसरकर खुद इस पारी से बिलकुल खुश नहीं थे. अपने उच्चतम स्कोर से बराबरी कर लेने के बावजूद दिलीप अपनी इस पारी के बारे ज्यादा बात नहीं करना चाहते. वे कहते है, जिस पारी ने मेरी टीम को हारने से नहीं बचाया, उसे बखानकर क्या फायदा? वे बड़े ही कड़े प्रतिस्पर्धी थे, और टीम की जगह उनके मन में व्यक्तिगत कीर्तिमानों से बहुत ऊंची थी.

चार साल बाद वेंगसरकर ने फिर लॉर्ड्स पर शतक जमाकर अपनी टीम को जीत दिलाई, उस पारी के बारे अगली किश्त में.
Special thanks to Sanjeev Sathe, who is an avid cricket fan and a dear friend of ours for contributing this wonderful article.

Lord of Lords- Part 1

भारतीय बल्लेबाज आम तौर पर इंग्लैंड में अच्छा प्रदर्शन नहीं कर पाए हैं. एशिया के सूखे विकेट्स पर रनों के ढेर खड़ा करने वाले भारतीय बल्लेबाज़ इंग्लैंड में स्विंग और सीम होनेवाली गेंदों पर अक्सर चकमा खा जाते हैं.लेकिन कुछ भारतीय बल्लेबाज़ हैं, जिन्होंने अपने बेहतरीन प्रदर्शन इंग्लैंड के खिलाफ इंग्लैंड में ही किये हैं. मसलन, विजय मर्चंट, सुनील गावस्कर, सचिन तेंदुलकर, राहुल द्रविड़, सौरव गांगुली, और…दिलीप वेंगसरकर. वेंगसरकर का नाम सुनील गावस्कर और विश्वनाथ की श्रेणी में नहीं लिया जाता, लेकिन जानकार क्रिकेट प्रेमियों के लिए उन की बल्लेबाज़ी देखने से ज्यादा मनभावन दृश्य कोई न था. अपराइट खड़ा स्टांस, एकदम सीधे बल्ले से खेले गए बेहतरीन ड्राइव्स और छोटी गेंदों पर कट और पुल के निर्मम प्रहार. उन की बल्लेबाजी ग्रेग चैपल की याद दिलाती थी. १९७९ में, दिलीप वेंगसरकर पहली बार लॉर्ड्स पर खेल रहे थे, और पहली पारी में बिना कोई रन बनाये आउट हो गए थे. अकेले उन ही का प्रदर्शन खराब नहीं था, भारत की पहली पारी ही ९६ रनों में सिमट गई थी.

Dilip Vengsarkar
Dilip Vengsarkar

सन १९७४ में भारत लॉर्ड्स पर ४२ रन में आल आउट हुआ था, और बुरी तरह हारा था, उस समय के जख्म फिर से हरे होने लगे थे. भारत के ९६ के जवाब में इंग्लैंड ने ४१९ का विशाल स्कोर खडा किया, और फिर से भारत की इनिंग्स डिफिट होने के असार नज़र आने लगे. दूसरी पारी में पहले विकेट के लिए गावस्कर और चौहान ने ७९ रन जोड़े, और चौहान आउट हो गए. गावस्कर के साथ पारी सम्हालने के लिए उतरे दिलीप वेंगसरकर. लेकिन और बीस रन बनने पर गावस्कर भी आउट होकर पैवेलियन लौट गए. अब साले की जगह लेने आया जीजा. गुंडप्पा विश्वनाथ बल्लेबाजी के लिए आ गए. अब भी भारत २२४ रनों से पीछे था, और शेष भारतीय बल्लेबाज़ अच्छे फॉर्म में नहीं थे. विश्वनाथ और वेंगसरकर पर बहुत बड़ी ज़िम्मेदारी थी, और उन्हें यह सुनिश्चित करना था, कि भारत अगर यह मैच जीत नहीं सकता, तो कम से कम हार का सामना तो नहीं करना पड़े. अगले छह घंटों तक ये दोनों क्रीज़ पर डेट रहें, और उन्होंने २१९ रनों की लम्बी साझेदारी निभायी. हलाकि दोनों भी मैच के अंत तक नाबाद नहीं रहे, लेकिन जब ये दोनों आउट हुए, तब तक उन्होंने जीत को इंग्लैंड की पहुँच से बाहर कर दिया था, और अपने देश के लिए मैच बचा लिया था. दिलीप वेंगसरकर मैन ऑफ़ द मैच बन गए. यह बात तो है, कि मैच बचने में विश्वनाथ का भी उतना ही योगदान था जितना वेंगसरकर का, लेकिन मैन ऑफ़ द मैच एक ही बन सकता था. जब यह इनाम घोषित हुआ, तब वेंगसरकर नहा रहे थे, और उन की जगह पर उन की और से मंच पर जाकर विश्वनाथ ने अवार्ड स्वीकारा. यह है पोएटिक जस्टिस का नमूना. लेकिन इस पारी से वेंगसरकर के उस कीर्तिमान की शुरुआत हुई, जो न ब्रैडमन, गावस्कर, सोबर्स, रिचर्ड्स, चैपल, तेंदुलकर, द्रविड़, पॉन्टिंग, कैलिस आदियों को भी कभी हासिल नहीं हुआ.


Special thanks to Sanjeev Sathe, who is an avid cricket fan and a dear friend of ours for contributing this wonderful article.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni- Test Retirement!

Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Having salvaged the situation for India at the MCG, what happened in the end is something that no one would have expected. For us, it was surely shocking news, more of a disbelief. With the end of the test match at MCG, we saw closed curtains for Mahendra Singh Dhoni from the five-day format of the game.
Was it sheer pressure, or the timing was planned is something that only MSD can tell us. With recent debacle of the team in test format, and more so, in the overseas matches, India lost on 15 counts, two drawn matches and only one victory to boast about.
Starting as a small town basher, the guy went on to become one of the most successful Indian Cricket Captain. He placed India at the top in all the three formats of the game, winning the T20 and ODI world cups, and also getting India ranked at Numero Uno in the ICC Test Rankings. A goodish wicketkeeper (wouldn’t call him one of the best), a very aggressive batsman, when he gets in, and a very astute, and attacking leader, for most of his career (He appeared a bit lackluster due to loss of motivation probably, towards the fag end of his Test Captaincy career).
Coming from the Steel City of Ranchi, MSD was like any other School kid, wanting to play sport, rather than studying. He had to get working as early as the age of 19, when he got recruited in the Indian Railways as a Ticket Checker, but kept playing the sport he loved. Our earliest remembrance of Dhoni was a double century partnership of his with Shikhar Dhawan against Pakistan, in 2005-6 and both were slaughtering the hapless attack going hammers and tongs. He didn’t change this style of batting all through his career. Just backed himself, and let it go. A few innings of his “attack is the best defense” approach which come to our mind are, a couple of 90s he scored in England, his top score innings of 224 against Australia, and his batting in the last series in England. In all these situations, he looked by far the best batsman in the Indian batting line up. Explosive batting, out of the book Technique and strokes employed, and refusing to get bogged down, had been his forte all his career.
As a wicketkeeper, he never had the best technique, had hard hands, but made up for it by his cat like reflexes. He did drop a few catches, but has still ended up having the maximum dismissals in test cricket by an Indian Wicketkeeper. He did prove it here too, that not going by the book, isn’t always wrong!
As a captain, we would rate Dhoni as inspiratory. He never appeared to be agitated, irritated, or never did his shoulders sag in adversity. Dropped catches, bad batting displays, typically Indian bowling woes overseas, nothing could ruffle his feathers anytime when on the field. He looked like a tower of peace, notwithstanding what was going on around him. That doesn’t mean that he was off guard or unaware of his job. He did it well, most of the time. He gambled quite a lot, and also had the guts to back himself in tough situations. More often than not, he was also able to inspire his players to rise to the occasion. It is not so easy to captain a team which has a Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, and Kumble in it, but MSD did this with consummate ease, and to a very good effect. He didn’t like criticisms. He kept backing players like Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, though they were not always consistent performers, and could extract flashes of brilliance from them, nurtured Virat Kohli’s potential, and also the senior players were not far behind in contributing.
People who go by stats, forget that by changing or sacking or blaming a captain, they are doing no good to the game or to the team more so in case of Dhoni. 9 years back , MSD made his test debut for India against Sri Lanka on 2nd December 2005.Seldom did he know that one day he would lead India in all formats of the game and become a successful captain ever. But one thing he did, was he had a dream and had a belief in him to achieve it. With years passing by, he achieved one dream after the other and set a benchmark that are difficult to surpass.

As the year comes towards the fag end, Dhoni has decided to quit Test Match format and that will surely have lot of impact in the entire cricketing fraternity with the kind of leadership determination, and success he has lead the team all these years.

What is the legacy MSD leaves behind then?
1. Back your instincts, and go all out
2. Keep your restlessness in your mind. Once it reflects in the body language, your team panics, and your opposition senses an opportunity.
3. Back your decisions and stand by them
4. Don’t pay heed to criticisms

Finally it was a typical MSD type cool Signoff.In a flash.No farewells,and no emotional speeches!
With the baton passed on to Virat Kohli, who is yet another example of a good leader, we hope he will be able to fill in the big shoes of the cricketer we love and admire- Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Credits to Sanjeev Sathe for sharing his views and thoughts, who himself,is a class batsman and an ardent cricket fan.