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 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.