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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 www.shamsnwags.com

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.