The 1932 Indian team at Victoria station in London
The 1932 Indian team at Victoria station in London
Quotes that provide a concise history of the country's cricket
1. "In my mind's eye I saw the news flashing over the air to far-flung places in India… to dusky men in the hills, to the bazaars of the East, to Gandhi himself and to Gunga Din"
- Neville Cardus
Cardus might not have got away with that in more politically correct times, but the sentiment is understandable. In their inaugural Test, in 1932 at Lord's, India began by dismissing the then world-record holders for the first wicket in first-class cricket, Herbert Sutcliffe and Percy Holmes, as well as Frank Woolley, in the first half-hour of play. England recovered from 19 for 3 to make 259; fast bowler Mohammad Nissar finished with 5 for 93. India's scores of 189 and 187 were not enough to upset England, for whom the captain, Douglas Jardine, made 79 and 85 not out. India's lone half-century was made by their other opening bowler, Amar Singh, whose unbeaten 51 in the second innings came at No. 9. It was of Singh's bowling that Walter Hammond was to say later that "he came off the pitch like the crack of doom". The captain, CK Nayudu, top-scored in the first innings with 40.
Mankad at Lord's in the 1952 series in England
© PA Photos
Mankad at Lord's in the 1952 series in England © PA Photos
2. "It was Vinoo Mankad all the way"
- Vijay Hazare
The Indian captain's simple but eloquent tribute to his lead bowler placed India's first Test victory in perspective. It was their 25th Test, the opponents were England, and the venue Madras. The teams shared the five-match series 1-1, bringing respectability and an element of unpredictability to the Indian cause; the former was strengthened with the arrival of MAK Pataudi as captain in the 1960s, the latter was on display in 1958-59, when India had four captains in a five-Test series against West Indies. Mankad, later to stamp his name on a Lord's Test in the course of making India's highest individual score, and then going on to become the quickest to a "double" of 1000 runs and 100 wickets, ended the Madras Test with 12 for 108. England made just three fifties in the match. In England's second innings, " I discussed the necessity of bowling more spin," said Hazare, as Mankad tended to be restrictive rather than penetrative. It worked, and India won comfortably. Their batting heroes were the centurions Pankaj Roy and Polly Umrigar, who enabled them to declare at 457 for 9.
Worth waking up for: Wadekar and Chandrasekhar on the balcony at The Oval after the win
© Getty Images
Worth waking up for: Wadekar and Chandrasekhar on the balcony at The Oval after the win © Getty Images
3. "It's all over. The match is yours. They'll want you up there on the balcony"
- Ken Barrington
Spoken to India captain Ajit Wadekar at The Oval in 1971, who at India's moment of victory - their first in England - had been fast asleep. "There could not have been a better bearer of good news," Wadekar said later, "It was as if England itself had paid us a tribute." India had emerged from being merely promising in the 1960s to world-beaters under Wadekar, who had already led the team to their first win in the West Indies earlier in the year. After two Tests in England were drawn, Bhagwath Chandrasekhar's 6 for 38 gave India a chance at winning after 40 years, and in their 22nd Test in England. "On a pitch which gave him little if any assistance Chandra had vindicated a vanishing breed of bowling in a fashion which can only be described as astonishing," wrote Playfair Cricket Monthly.
The hosts had been dismissed for 101, India were set 173 to win. Abid Ali's final square cut for four off Brian Luckhurst remains one of the iconic images of Indian cricket. India won by four wickets, and Wadekar himself top-scored with 45. England had been unbeaten in 26 Tests, held the Ashes, and with South Africa banned (owing to apartheid), India felt justified in assuming they were now the No.1 side in the world.
It begins to sink in: Balwinder Sandhu, Kapil, Madan Lal and Sunil Gavaskar after the fall of the last West Indies wicket in the 1983 World Cup final
© PA Photos/Getty Images
It begins to sink in: Balwinder Sandhu, Kapil, Madan Lal and Sunil Gavaskar after the fall of the last West Indies wicket in the 1983 World Cup final © PA Photos/Getty Images
4. "Kapil's men turn world upside down"
- Headline in the Times, London
India were 66-1 outsiders, seen as the babes of one-day cricket, and had won just one match - against East Africa - in two previous World Cups. Inspired by their captain, Kapil Dev, they beat both Australia and England, while Kapil made 175 against Zimbabwe, the tournament's highest score. The odds had dropped to 50-1 for the final, against West Indies, winners of two previous tournaments, and comprising the finest players in the format. When India were dismissed for 183, it seemed all over. India, a team of lopsided allrounders (with the exception of Kapil, the others were bits-and-pieces players) then proceeded to dismiss West Indies for 140. The military medium of Mohinder Amarnath fetched three wickets; added to his 26 while batting, it earned him the Man-of-the-Match award.
It would be another 28 years before India won the World Cup again, the final made memorable by MS Dhoni's winning six. In between, they won the 2007 World T20, which led to the IPL, and a proliferation of games in the format. That too was under Dhoni, whose rise hastened the arrival of international players from the backwaters of the sport in India.
Which one's God?
© Getty Images
Which one's God? © Getty Images
5. "I see myself when I see Sachin batting"
- Don Bradman
The Don's stamp of approval might have destroyed a lesser batsman; it served to inspire Sachin Tendulkar to greater heights. Over 15,000 Test runs, 100 international centuries and 18,000 runs in one-day cricket make him the player of the team that contained some of India's all-time greats: Dravid, Laxman, Kumble, Sehwag, Ganguly, Dhoni, Zaheer, Srinath, Harbhajan. He straddled a golden era of Indian cricket, when they won more matches than they lost (78 to 60 in Tests, 350 to 286 in one-dayers) and were No. 1 for a time in both Tests and one-dayers.
"I have seen God bat," wrote the Australian opener Matthew Hayden, "He bats No. 4 for India." No sportsman has been addressed as "God" so casually, and in the hearts of his fans, with such justification. Many of Tendulkar's records - he played his first Test at 16 and his 200th and last one at 40 - are likely to remain unbroken. His influence on India went beyond cricket, a fact acknowledged by the nation's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, being conferred on him. "If I had to describe him in five words," wrote Ricky Ponting, "I would say, competitive, passionate, driven, composed, complete." The story of Tendulkar continues to be written nearly four years after his retirement.
Suresh Menon is the editor of the Wisden India Almanack
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