Indian cricket has produced many stars over the years and these stars have entertained the cricket lovers with numerous memorable performances.
Some of these knocks and wickets have won matches for India, some have saved test matches and some brought home the World Cups. And cricket lovers across the country will be able to give every minute details of these acts of heroism even in the state of half asleep.
However, there is one performance which may not be known to all. This is despite the fact that it can easily be considered as one of the most important knocks in the history of Indian cricket. Let me take you back in time 92 years ago at the iconic Bombay Gymkhana.
Hindus had a formidable line-up
It was the 1926-27 tour of India by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) led by Arthur Gilligan. The visitors had arrived in Bombay (now Mumbai) after being unbeaten in matches played at Karachi, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Ajmer.
The first match at Bombay was against the Hindus who had a formidable line-up comprising of DB Deodhar, LP Jai, P Vithal and Col. CK Nayudu. But this did not mean that anyone was expecting the Hindus to challenge the then rulers of India.
The visitors batted first and scored 363 runs with Guy Earle scoring 130 runs with the help of 8 sixes in about 90 minutes. Day one ended with Hindus having lost one wicket and the score reading 16 runs. Next morning, they batted steadily before losing their second wicket at the score of 67 runs.
In walked CK
And in walked Col. CK Nayudu, a man who had earned himself some reputation in the Bombay Quadrangular. But then the MCC attack was no ordinary attack having English First-Class and test cricketers.
CK, as he was fondly called made his intentions clear from the outset. He started treating the MCC bowling with disdain hitting sixes and fours at will.
Describing his sixes, Australian writer Edward W Docker wrote, “Crack another six, this time to the right of the pavilion and not only the ground burst into tremendous sustained roar, but even the umpires were seen to clap vigorously.”
Now readers of today might think that this is no great deal as hitting sixes is the norm in the age of T20 cricket.
However, we are talking of a time when hitting the ball in the air was many times considered nothing short of blasphemy. Also, the bats in those days were much thinner and weighed only a fraction of what it is today.
153 runs, 11 sixes & 13 boundaries in about two hours’
During the research of my book ‘A Colonel Destined to Lead’, I had the honour of meeting former first-class cricketer and historian Vasant Raiji, who is one of the few people alive to have witnessed the mayhem at Bombay Gymkhana in 1926.
He told me that although he was too small to remember the details of the match, but he remembers a lot of shouting on the sixes being hit.
For the records, CK did hot quite a many of them. He scored 153 runs with the help of 11 sixes and 13 boundaries. His hit of 11 sixes was a First-Class record then.
Riding on CK’s brilliance, the Hindus ended the innings just seven runs short of the total made by MCC. In reply, the MCC scored 74 runs for the loss of no wickets in the second innings and the match ended in a draw.
While the match was over, the entire city of Bombay was still going gaga over CK’s innings. Probably for the first time, even the British media was acknowledging the performance of an Indian cricketer.
The MCC even presented a silver bat (which resides in the Cricket Club of India, Mumbai) to CK as a mark of recognition of his innings.
A statement was made
With that knock, a statement had been made that the Indians were ready to play the games of the Britishers on equal grounds.
This led to serious considerations being given for India’s elevation to test status and Gilligan having seen CK’s performance on the first day of December in 1926 himself lobbied for India’s test status.
India, eventually played their first test match in 1932 under the leadership of CK who had laid the foundations of India’s test status with his knock of 153 runs.