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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.