Dancing to the Calypso Tune .. Part 1

It has always been a breeding ground for Indian Batting Heroes, and a group of countries where all Indian Cricketers are loved! No doubt the Indians love the West Indian team too! The flamboyant brand of cricket the Caribbean cricketers play, their easy go lucky, laid back attitude, doesn’t affect their quality of performances.

Calypso
Calypso

Well, rather it didn’t till recently.

Still, even remembering the past series India played in the West Indies, reading about, and watching footages of a few which were played even before I was born, have always been a source of joy to me!The West Indian team, started into the international arena in 1928, and even then, were good enough to challenge the best. The all-round capabilities of (later Baron) Leary Constantine, the fiery pace of Manny Martindale, Herman Griffith and George Francis was backed by no batting prowess, but that changed swiftly after the advent of George Headley, the ‘Black Bradman’, as he was called. Inducted in the West Indian side in 1930 series against England, he quickly stamped his authority by taking 21 and 176 in the match, of the attack consisting of Bill Voce, Wilfred Rhodes, and Nigel Haig. For many years, he carried the torch of West Indian batsmanship alone, until the Bajans Everton Weekes and Clyde Walcott got into the team. Then on, the West Indies had a batting unit as formidable as any in the world, for the next six decades.

1951-52
The earliest Indian tour of West Indies I have read about was their first one, in 1951-52. In their earlier visit to India, the Caribbeans had plundered the Indian bowling for 11 centuries, (four of which in consecutive innings, by Sir Everton Weekes, and add a 90 run out in the fifth innings) and the Indians were expected to go down meekly when playing the West Indians on their home turf. But this was not the case, and the Indian team put up a very good resistance. True, that the Windies had only one genuine quick bowler in Frank King, but they had the most dreaded spin duo of the time, Alf Valentine and Sony Ramadhin. Indian team then found a few batting heroes, who in the coming years went on to become the backbone of Indian batting. Polly Umrigar, Madhav Apte, Vijay Manjrekar, Pankaj Roy, Vinoo Mankad, all were amongst runs, and they did put up a decent fight against the mighty batting of the West Indians, namely the 3Ws (Weekes, Walcott and Worrell). Everton Weekes got 207 in the first Test, and followed that up with scores of 47, 15, 161, 55 not out, 86, 109 and 36. Weekes did not spare Indians in the colony game against Barbados: he got 253. Walcott got 98 in the second Test, 125 in the fourth and 118 in the final Test. Worrell was grace personified, he would bat superbly for 30 or 40 runs and invariably got out to a marvelous catch. The Indians used to tease Worrell: “The other two Ws are murdering us, why don’t you get some runs?”
He would reply: “Don’t worry, it will come soon.” And it did, in the final Test, where he got 237.
It was a good tour for India, who were considered to be minnows in International cricket, where they could secure four honorable draws, and lost only in the second test in Bridgetown, Barbados, where they were running neck to neck with the hosts for victory, and in the end were done in by a magical spell of bowling by Sony Ramadhin, who took five for 26. The Indian bowlers performed well on the tour too, with Subhash Gupte taking 28 wickets, Mankad 15, Phadkar 9.

The most inexplicable event after the tour was the disappearance of Madhav Apte from International Cricket. He opened the batting in all five Tests, and had scores of 64, 52, 64, 9, 0, 163 not out, 30, 30, 15 and 33. With a tally of 460 runs (average 51.11) he finished second to Polly Umrigar in the Test figures and ahead of Hazare, Mankad, Roy and Manjrekar. His century was a marathon innings that helped India to draw the match after they were in danger of defeat. And after the tour, Apte was gone. He had been dropped like a hot potato.
It was during a tour match here, against Barbados, the Indians got a glimpse of a 17 year old all-rounder, Garfield St. Auburn Sobers. He was to continue entertaining the world for two decades after that. It was also a tour where Subhash Gupte found the love of his life, when he met Carol in Trinidad. He married her and made Trinidad his home.

1960-61 :
The 1960-61 tour was a bad one. India did actually have a very balanced team, with batsmen like Umrigar, Jaisimha, Durrani, Rusi Surti, Chandu Borde, Vijay Manjrekar, Tiger Pataudi, Dilip Sardesai and Captain Nari Contractor in the team. The bowling Unit contained Ramakant Desai, Surti, Durrani, Bapu Nadkarni, and Vasant Ranjane. A very balanced team, and a strong one too. Alas, it was so just on paper.
The score cards of the matches in the West Indies were a correct reflection of the players’ form on the tour, but certainly not an accurate index of the strength of the side when it left India.
All the batsmen, barring Umrigar, and occasionally Durrani failed, and the bowlers were lackluster too. To be fair to the touring Indians, they did not come to the West Indies in the best of conditions.
Circumstances, to an extent, militated against the touring side touching peak form in the West Indies. The heavy domestic season, which had started in August instead of in November, had taxed their energy, determination and concentration beyond measure, and it was folly on the Board’s part to hustle them into a tour in so short a time after the end of the home season.

The Indians took the field under a hot Trinidad sun within twelve hours of arrival from wintry London and New York. A crop of pulled muscles and stomach disorders was inevitable, and throughout the tour the players’ nostrils were filled with the odours of drugs and liniments.
A nasty accident to Contractor, the captain and opening batsman, half-way through the tour, had the team in a state of shock, anxiety and extreme unhappiness. What most of the outside world heard about the incident was that Contractor was struck through ducking to a ball delivered by Charles Griffith, which never rose beyond the height of the stumps.
Contractor did not duck into the ball. He got behind it to play at it — he probably wanted to fend it away towards short-leg — but could not judge the height to which it would fly, bent back from the waist in a desperate, split-second attempt to avoid it and was hit just above the right ear. A few hours later, in his second over of the second innings of this match in Barbados, Griffith, a fast bowler, was no-balled for throwing by the square-leg umpire Cortez Jordan.

Indian batting side in the West Indies looked one of the finest ever, especially after a successful series against Ted Dexter’s English side. No longer did the Indian batsmen show that hysterical uneasiness against pace, and one felt that if Wes Hall was played with, determination and good sense, India should have always been able to put up sizable scores. This was not the case.

India also sadly missed Subash Gupte, and never more than in the last two Tests, when West Indies had to bat a second time. In spite of Gupte’s absence, the spin bowling was of the highest class, though it sorely lacked variety. Often, when runs were being scored too fast, Nadkarni and Durani had to bowl opposite each other, and the versatile Surti delivered orthodox spinners as often as he bowled with an upright seam. When free from fibrositis of the back, Umrigar bowled his off breaks with admirable steadiness, valor and hostility.
Durani was the foremost wicket-taker, and Borde performed creditably till Pataudi took over the captaincy. Having learnt and played most of his cricket in England, Pataudi seemed inexperienced in the handling of spinners, a chink in the armour which the Prince removed very shortly.

The saving grace of the Indian’s performance on this tour was their ground fielding, which was as good as that of any contemporary Test side. Surti was outstanding. If the catching had touched even half these heights, the Indians would have saved themselves a lot of humiliation. Isn’t that a very surprising statement to make when one is speaking of the Indian Cricket teams of the past? To look at the other side of the coin, there were few chinks in the West Indies’ armour, and these were not fully exposed because of the limitation of the opposition.
One of their most glaring weaknesses was at the top of the batting order, with Hunte experiencing probably the leanest series of his career.

Lance Gibbs emerged as a world class spinner in this series. So masterly was his variation of flight that he appeared capable of succeeding on the truest pitches. Sobers again proved his versatility with the ball. As a purveyor of the Chinaman and the left-hander’s googly, he looked a vastly improved bowler than when he toured India in 1958-59. And he was to improve to such an extent, that he ruled the cricketing world as the most complete cricketer that ever was, for the next 14 years.
The next trip to the West Indies by the Indians, was to prove a milestone for Indian cricket, though.

1970-71 to be covered in the next part..

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

Top 4 Unconventional Bowling Style

In this segment, we bring to you the bowlers with most Unconventional Bowling Style. Let’s have a look in the reverse order. 

 Sohail Tanvir Shamsnwags
4) Sohail Tanvir
No. 4) Sohail Tanvir- Left Arm fast bowler from Pakistan lands on wrong foot at the time of delivery. Normally at the time of delivery, in the final stride, a left handed bowlers ends up on right foot. But if you closely watch Sohail Tanvir, he ends up landing on the left foot. This unconventional style has not affected his bowling and he has never tried to change his action.
Lasith Malinga Slinga Malinga Shamsnwags.com
3) Lasith Malinga ‘Slinga Malinga.
No. 3) Lastih Malinga- This deadly fast bowler from Sri Lanka fondly known as ‘Slinga Malinga’ has a round arm action. His arm does not come from behind the ears. It comes from the side and from a very low height which makes it difficult for the batsman to spot the deadly Yorkers. When he plays for Mumbai Indians, the entire crowd goes Malinga, Malinga. His smile is as addictive as his lethal deliveries.
Patrick Patterson Shamsnwags.com
2) Patrick Patterson
No 2) Patrick Patterson- When we talk about unconventional style, how can one forget the Caribbean fast bowler Patterson. When we talk about the unique thing about his bowling, one must see his final stride of delivery. He had this habit of dragging his right foot along with the ground, as a result, he had no choice but to “strengthen the toe end of his shoes with Steel’
Paul Adams Shamsnwags.com
1) Paul Adams

No. 1) Paul Adams- If there were any award for the most unconventional bowling style ever, there is no doubt that there would be any difficulty of choosing the winner-Paul Adams, chinaman from South Africa. He held the ball with two fingers of his left hand (thumb, and the index finger) . He would look skywards at the time of delivery.He also had a very interesting style of celebrating a dismissal with a somersault.

These are top 4 Unconventional bowling styles that we have thought. There will be more such segments coming up, until then keep reading www.shamsnwags.com

Cricket’s 10 Greatest Rivalry

The game of cricket is full of rivalries spanning across generations of players and teams. Let’s take a look at Top 10 greatest rivalries in cricket:

1 Australia vs England: It’s the battle between Australia and England for the Ashes Urn. The Ashes urn is made of terracotta and about 15 cm (six inches tall). It is reputed to contain a burnt cricket bail. Ashes history – Test Matches.

2 India vs Pakistan: Across all formats of cricket, the rivalry is always intense. Pakistan has never won against India in any of the ICC Tournaments.

3 Australia vs New Zealand: Their rivalry is more of Fist against Face being neighbouring countries. Its called ‘Chappel- Hadlee’ series.

4 West Indies vs Australia: Goes back to time when WI dominated cricket world 70’s 80’s.

5 India vs Australia: After breaking Oz’s winning juggernaut in 2000-2001 series, the rivalry has become fierce with time. Not to forget the famous ‘Monkeygate’ scandle. Series is currently called ‘Border-Gavaskar’ Trophy.

6 Pakistan vs Bangladesh: The excitement and emotions are always high when these two nation play against each other. Bangladesh was once part of Pakistan (called East Pakistan) till 1971. The high point for Bangladesh was when they defeated Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup and all Wasim Akram could say is “We lost to our brothers”.

7 India vs South Africa: The first series was played between these nations after RSA made a comeback to International arena in 1991. Since then the rivalry has been pretty healthy between these teams.The series is currently called “Freedom Series”

8 Pakistan vs Sri Lanka: Their rivalry has grown more in past two decades. It has increased post 2009 incident where Lankan team was attacked on their series tour to Pakistan.

9 South Africa vs Australia: The contest between these two nations is for the battle of supremacy and top the ranking table. Being two of the most consistent team’ in world cricket as far as record book goes there rivalry runs really high on emotion. Who could forget 1999 World cup Semi Final Tie between these two teams.

10 CSK vs MI : Yes, you read it right. It’s not the odd one in list. As we all know IPL is most popular T20 league in the world and what better when you see 2 giant franchises contesting each other. Both these teams are consistent in IPL in every term and their rivalry on field is worth watching. Not to forget it’s that time of the year when Shams n Wags become Shams Vs Wags. (Shams support CSK, while Wags is ardent MI follower)

KHADDUS! The Mumbai batsmen !

Rohit Sharma
This guy Rohit Sharma is totally putting me off while I watch test matches. He simply doesn’t look like a batsman who is willing to stay at the crease. Well, though Rohit’s performance at Fatullah is not exactly the inspiration I had for writing this article, but it is certainly a trigger. And a forceful one.
I am not being territorial or favoring one region, but the Indian test match teams have been over the past nearly eight and a quarter decades been having batsmen from Mumbai, and all of those (well, I now have to say nearly) known for their Khaddus attitude. Khaddus elsewhere might be an expletive, or a berating word, but when talking about batting in Mumbai cricket, it is the greatest compliment a batsman can receive. A Khaddus batsman means one who will make it as difficult as possible to the bowler to dislodge him from the crease. The batsman who knows the value of occupying the crease, and realizes that the runs only come when you are at the crease. And that is THE essential for test match batting in all situations than not. And Khaddus is a quality which will always be required for test batsmanship, be one batting at any position. It is all about spending time at the crease and surviving, before one’s batting begins to flow, and then the runs come automatically.
Just take a look at the batsmen who have been mainstays of the Indian batting lineup over the time since India started playing test Cricket in 1932.You will encounter the names of Merchant, Hazare, Vijay Manjrekar, Polly Umrigar, Vinoo Mankad, Ajit Wadekar, Dilip Sardesai, Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Ravi Shastri, Sanjay Manjrekar, Sachin Tendulkar, Vinod Kambli, (a few might be surpised at his mention in this list, but will come to that later in the article), Pravin Amre, Wasim Jaffer, and after a big void of time, now Ajinkya Rahane.
Not that only Mumbai batsmen have been Khaddus, in Indian team, there have also been Mohinder Amarnath ( My most favourite cricketer in all the 30+ years I have been following Cricket), Anshuman Gaekwad, Arun Lal, Navjot Singh Sidhu, now more known for his verbal diarrhea rather than his batting exploits. Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman (a real Khaddus artist) Chheteshwar Pujara….. A few players who batted in the lower order also depicted this quality in abundance! Bapu Nadkarni, Ramakant Desai, Syed Kirmani, Shivlal Yadav, Madanlal, Roger Binny, Balvinder Singh Sandhu, Arshad Ayub, are a few names which come to the mind. But having experience of playing majority of my cricket in and around Mumbai, will stick to the Mumbai batsmen, and try to analyze what actually has ingrained the Khaddus mentality into the Mumbai batsmen’s’ minds right from an early stage. Let’s take a look at the structure of Mumbai cricket, to understand the point better. Mumbai, traditionally known for its batting talents (much lesser Mumbai Bowlers have represented India as compared to batsmen) the cricket is majorly played on proper turf wickets. The wickets are generally “pata” i.e. unresponsive for the bowlers. And there, when it would seem that ALL Mumbai batsmen are blessed with ideal batting conditions, the seed of insecurity gets planted in their minds. Any batsman who gets his eye “in” on these wickets can make huge runs, and then typically the batsmen batting in the middle order or lower order keep thinking, “When would we get to bat”. The competitiveness creeps in the young Mumbai Cricketers’ minds at that early age, and then whenever they get chances they have to survive at the wicket, and make big scores…. If we take a look at the junior level top scores of Mumbai batsmen who made it big internationally, one would come to know. Here are a few -Ajit Wadekar – 324, Sunil Gavaskar – 327, Sachin Tendulkar – 329, Vinod Kambli – 348 …..
Even the newest sensation of IPL, Sarfaraz Khan (originally from Ajamgarh brought to Mumbai by his dad with the sole purpose of making him a cricketer worth his salt) in UP scored 439, the record broken recently by Arman Jaffer (498) who is Wasim Jaffer’s nephew. Wasim Jaffer himself had a Harris shield top score of 403. To say the least, even considering that all these cricketers were mere schoolboys when they scored these runs, and were facing schoolboy attacks, these scores are gargantuan! And despite the quality of attacks faced by these batsmen, the sheer application, hunger and stimana to stay at the wicket and score runs shown by these players is something very uncommon. And I feel, at least the insecurity is THE element which motivates these young cricketers’ minds to inculcate these qualities going beyond their ages. But it is not the mere application, grit, and hunger to stay at the wicket makes a batsman worthy. The skills are required too.And when it comes to honing of skills of surviving on difficult wickets in difficult conditions, and still keeping the concentration going, the Times shield and Kanga league tournaments, which are typically played in the monsoon season play an important role. Typically played on the famous maidaans of Mumbai, the Azad, the Cross, the Oval, and various gymkhana maidaans like Hindu, Islaam, Police, Shivaji Park, Dadar Union, Dadkar maidaan, in Mumbai, in knee high grass growth, pouring rains, and very often multiple matches simultaneously going on in a very small place. Each player has to always “be on the ball” of his own match all the time. How’s that for grooming of concentration! It is also notable here, that majority of players travelling to these maidaan use Mumbai’s public transport, the BEST busses and the local trains. Someone who has a reasonable amount of experience of these journeys will testify, that the journey from Kalyan or Dombivali to CST, or that from Viraar to Churchgate itself saps energy from an individual, which is not less than that consumed for batting 25 overs in on a sun soaked day! Despite that, the drive for the game these players have, the energy they put in the game, and the zeal with which the game is played in the Metropolis is something to be seen for one’s own believing. No local train service holdups due to rains, no waterlogging issues, and no other circumstances deter these players from making a full-fledged attempt to reach their respective match venues in time for the match. The stories of the Kanga and times shield matches are truly ridiculous. The fans too used to watch the Kanga league (and times shield (Inter Office Tournaments) with amazing regularity and zeal. And why wouldn’t they? Most of the players were employed by some corporate, and used to be seen extremely regularly in these matches. Ones who couldn’t just afford going to a Wankhede or Brabourne stadium due to the high ticket rates here, used to please their eyes watching these players sitting on the Marine drive katas of the Gymkhanas, or standing in the Azad, Cross or the Oval maidaans. And watching players like Gavaskar, Sardesai, Wadekar, Vengsarkar, Shastri, Sandeep Patil, Ashok Mankad, Chandrakant Pandit, Sanjay Majrekar, Pravin Amre, Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli playing on these Maidaans used to be real thrilling, as I have experienced during my growing years. And for the younger lot of players, despite their average lifestyles and strenuous ways of commuting, it would be worth turning up for the matches so that they can rub shoulders with their idols, play alongside them, and pick their brains.
However, these hardships were viewed always as challenges, and not deterrents by the Mumbai young
players. My dad remembers having met Bapu Nadkarni in a second class local train compartment frequently in spite of after Bapuji being an Indian regular test player, and not complaining about the meagre money paid by the BCCI to the test cricketers then. So much for the cricketers and the way cricket is played in Mumbai.
Coming back to the reason behind most Mumbai players being Khaddus at crease, let’s look at the chances they have got (and even created at times) and the way they have grabbed them. The first one I saw on our new television set, was a lanky left arm spinner coming in at 6, albeit surprisingly, despite his dismal batting performance in the last three Ranji seasons and the only 3 tests he had played till then from number 10. Rising to the occasion, Ravi Shastri made a defiant 33 and surviving 133 balls, and then India had discovered a batsman, who would put his life on the stumps, and spend all the time at the crease guarding it. Shastri then went on to open for India, and became a batsman of some distinction, making an impact in the shorter form of cricket as well.
A fairytale debut which would come to mind, is, an opener, who went as a rookie to the West Indies tour in 1971 and was surprisingly hailed by none other than Vijay Merchant, as “ … though he is the youngest member of the side, all the senior batsmen would do well to take a leaf or two of this man’s book as far as batting technique is concerned. The guy missed the first test of the tour due to a freak injury, made twin fifties in the second that India won, and the rest, as they say, is history. Enter Mr. Sunil Gavaskar to the arena of test cricket! It is well worth for readers to go through the careers of Vinoo
Mankad, Eknath Solkar, Pravin Amre, Vijay Manjrekar, Vinod Kambli, who did come from a bit of underprivileged background, but made their mark in Indian cricket. But this article is not for such stories.
Another point I would like to make is, that the Khaddus attitude was not only seen in the players who came from middle, or lower middle socio economic backgrounds. Even players who came from influential families, like Vijay Merchant of the Thackersey’s and Madhav Apte from a very well placed family owning a textile business, had the same attitude. Having had an opportunity to interact with Madhav Apte, I was astonished at the down to earth approach he carried to his game. He said, “Mumbai

Cricket was, and to a large extent, still is Meritocracy my dear boy! If you won’t have that Khaddus attitude, won’t grab all the chances that come your way with both hands, you will be chucked into oblivion. The family which you come from, and your talent can’t earn you a permanent place in the Mumbai side. !” It was also an astonishing uncertainty of Indian cricket revealed, when Mr. Apte was inexplicably out of the Indian Test match team after a series in west Indies in which he had made 460 runs in 4 tests at an average of 5 1! Dropped like a hot potato after playing 7 test matches in Toto…
The Khaddus nature, also has a lot to do with Mumbai’s psyche as a city, I’d think. Mumbai, this city does come across as a mean place where one just can’t let go of anything he has earned / achieved. There is enough competition in every walk of life, even to the level of getting in the queue for the ticket to catch a train in time to get to office, you will find people jostling and furiously fighting for their place or space! So once a place is earned, may it be in the local train, or in a bus, or in a team, or at the crease, a Mumbai man won’t just leave it. Will cling to it tooth and nail! HE would do everything within his powers, to make sure that his place is secured, and won’t give it away easily. You would see, that Steven
Waugh is considered as an equal (if not better) by Mumbai cricket connoisseurs to Mumbai’s very own Sachin Tendulkar. TO them, the fact that Steve Waugh won’t give his wicket away easily is a quality which laces him at par with Tendulkar, who was head and shoulders above Waugh in the department of talent. Not a quarter given, not a quarter asked for, is an attitude highly respected in Mumbai Cricket, and that has reflected in the nature of their batsmen. Khaddus! You will find many a cricket fans still angry over Dilip Vengsarkar’s habit of throwing away his wicket almost instantly after he used to reach the 3 figure mark in his early days.
Hence this chap Rohit Sharma irritates me. Hopefully he’ll learn quickly, because a man of his talent and
artistry is too difficult to condemn.
Special thanks to Sanjeev Sathe , who is an avid cricket fan and a dear friend of ours for contributing this wonderful article

Cricket, Cricket and Cricket