BK Garudachar, India's oldest first-class cricketer, dies aged 99
BK Garudachar, India's oldest living first-class cricketer, who represented Mysore (as Karnataka was called till 1974), United Province and Bombay, died in Bangalore on Friday aged 99.
A right-hand batsman and a leg-break bowler, Garudachar scored 1126 runs at an average of 29.63 from 27 matches in first-class cricket between 1935 and 1946. Born on January 13, 1917 in Chikamagalur, Karnataka, Garudachar graduated in engineering from the Benares University, and started playing for Mysore before turning out for United Province and Bombay in the 1940s.
As a bowler, Garudachar finished his career with exactly 100 wickets, which included seven five-fors and three ten-wicket match hauls. His solitary century came against the Holkar team in the 1946 Ranji Trophy semi-final. That 164 held a pride of place for Garudachar, who captained Mysore against a side led by CK Nayudu. That match against Holkar also turned out to be Garudachar's farewell to first-class cricket.
"We never knew the kind of leather hunt we were in for. Holkar played for two-and-a-half days and destroyed our attack to score 912 for 8 declared," Garudachar told journalist ES Ramachandran in the 1980s, during an interview. "Six of the first eight Holkar batsmen scored centuries with Mushtaq Ali who rarely ever failed, being caught and bowled for 2!
"I felt, if we had run all the way to Bangalore we would have reached earlier than the time we took running around the field fetching the ball from the boundary."
Former India and Karnataka batsman GR Viswanath called Garudachar's death a sad day for Karnataka cricket. "[It is] very unfortunate that he couldn't complete his century there and I could make out that he wanted to live a 100 years," Viswanath told ESPNcricinfo.
"I have never watched him play, but whenever I met former cricketers they used to mention his name. He was a very versatile cricketer and everyone felt he should have played for the country. I have met him quite a few times and listening to him you could make out his knowledge about the game."
Viswanath said he always made it a point to listen to the anecdotes that Garudachar would recount: "He himself would tell: 'Vishu, I used to bowl fast-ish offspinners but in between I used to bowl the googly and the batsman would think it was a leg break. They used to play for a leg break and it used to go in. I got quite a few wickets like that.' It used to amaze me because you always hear about googly bowlers being legspinners but it was strange to see an offspinner bowling a googly.
"Whenever I have met him he was very jovial. I used to go and sit next to him because I wanted to hear stories of cricket from his era. He used to say how my batting style was similar to [former Mysore batsman] CJ Ramdev. When people of that stature say such things it will be with you throughout."
Former India offspinner Erapalli Prasanna felt Garudachar's contributions did not receive enough credit. "He has done a lot of yeoman service for the Mysore State Cricket Association when he was playing," Prasanna told ESPNcricinfo. "In spite of his achievements and his contributions, he was very simple and straightforward. The only time I have met him was in one of the KSCA functions when he was given some award. At that point of time I congratulated him even though the appreciation was not in direct proportion to the contribution that he had done for the state."
Arun Venugopal is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo