A homecoming for Douglas Jardine
Partab Ramchand - 12 November 2001
The performance of the first official Indian team to England in 1932 had so impressed the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) that they decided to send a fairly strong team for a return visit in 1933-34. At the helm was Bombay-born Douglas Jardine, the captain who had formulated the Bodyline tactics that had curbed Don Bradman's scoring and had played a pivotal, if controversial, role in defeating Australia 4-1 in the the previous Ashes series. The members of the team included such well-known names as Cyril Walters, Arthur Mitchell, Hedley Verity, Fred Bakewell, Nobby Clark, Morris Nichols and James Langridge.
And what kind of ammunition did the home team possess to take on this formidable array of batsmen and bowlers? After some needless squabbling over who should lead the side, CK Nayudu was installed in his rightful place as captain. The side was a mixture of the squad that had gone to England and a few new faces. Still around were Naoomal Jeoomal, Wazir Ali, Nazir Ali, JG Navle, Mohammad Nissar and Amar Singh; joining them were Vijay Merchant, Lala Amarnath, Mushtaq Ali, CS Nayudu, Dilawar Hussain and the Yuvraj of Patiala.
Behind by 219 runs, India made a bad start, losing two wickets for 21 runs. But Amarnath and Nayudu came together in a partnership that not only raised Indian hopes of saving the match but also helped earn a new respect for Indian cricket. With Nayudu playing a rather unfamiliar supporting role, Amarnath blazed away with dazzling strokes that had the crowd screaming for more.
England were obviously the favourites, but the Indians seemed to have the nucleus of a side that would put up a fight. Indeed, there was much good cricket played by the Indians, and the comments made by Jardine at the end of the tour evoked much interest. Speaking at the farewell dinner on the eve of the team's departure, he surprised everyone by saying, "I firmly believe that India will be on top in the cricket world in 10 years time." Dour and austere Jardine was not given to making idle remarks, so it was taken at face value and not just as an after-dinner platitude. Although Jardine proved to be way off the mark, the Indians did play the kind of cricket that won not only the hearts of the average spectator but also impressed the connoisseur of the game.
During the tour, it was obvious that the Indians were natural players and that the immense talent available was only beginning to be tapped. The unusually gifted Amarnath batted in glorious fashion in the first Test, played at the Bombay Gymkhana, the first of the city's three grounds to stage Test matches. It was also the first Test to include play on Sunday. In the first innings, Amarnath top-scored with 38, but it was in the second innings that he showed why he was being hailed as one of the brightest of the many new stars on the horizon.
Behind by 219 runs, India made a bad start, losing two wickets for 21 runs. But Amarnath and Nayudu came together in a partnership that not only raised Indian hopes of saving the match but also helped earn a new respect for Indian cricket. With Nayudu playing a rather unfamiliar supporting role, Amarnath blazed away with dazzling strokes that had the crowd screaming for more. The pair added 186 runs for the third wicket, but, within minutes of each other, both Amarnath and Nayudu were out. The captain went for 67, and Amarnath was out for 118 the first three-figure knock by an Indian in Tests. Amarnath's ton also made him the first Indian to hit a century on Test debut, a feat recently repeated by Virender Sehwag.
Besides Amarnath, Merchant too showed glimpses of the form that was to make him India's master batsman. There was no single razzle-dazzle innings, but knocks of 23, 30, 54, 17, 26 and 28 marked him out as, in racing parlance, a stayer rather than a sprinter. To an extent, the talent of Mushtaq Ali was also on display, even if he did not bloom fully. It was obvious that these three young players were the future of Indian cricket.
Nayudu did what was expected of him; besides his 67 at Bombay, he also got a dogged 38 in the second Test at Calcutta, successfully saving the game. Wicket-keeper Dilawar Hussain top-scored with 59 and 57 at Calcutta, becoming the first Indian to get two half-centuries in a Test. But more was expected from brothers Wazir Ali and Nazir Ali, and India were also handicapped by the injury to Naoomal, who retired with a gashed head when he edged a ball from Clark onto his face in the final Test at Madras and could not take any further part in the match. The batting of Yuvraj of Patiala in the Madras game, however, was a bonus. Courageous and defiant, the young prince scored 24 and 60 in what turned out to be his only Test.
The bowling still depended too much on Nissar and Amar Singh, and when the former was injured and could not take part in the final Test, the attack wore a crippled look. Amar Singh carried on manfully, bowling 44.4 overs in the first innings to take seven wickets for 86 runs. Nissar, in the first Test, had turned in a gallant performance when he took five for 90 in England's first innings. The support bowling, however, was woefully inadequate in the first Test; 41-year-old Rustomji Jamshedji, still the oldest Indian to make his Test debut, could only take 3-137 with his left-arm spinners.
For the record, England won the first Test by nine wickets and the final Test by 202, runs while India denied them victory at Calcutta by some obdurate batting. Verity was verily the star of the series; the great artist bagged 23 wickets in the three games with his left-arm spin, and Indian crowds also saw much good batting from Valentine, Jardine, Walters, Langridge and Bakewell.