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, 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