No. 13 March 20, 2010

India's entry into Test cricket

Amit Varma
A CK Nayudu innings against the visiting MCC in 1926 made all the difference


Cricket and India started off as wary bedfellows. The game began in India as an elitist pastime, part of the imperial avocation of civilising the natives by moulding them in one's image. It was hardly a mass sport in the early years of the 20th century - the English regarded cricket in the USA in purely patronising terms. Thus, when Arthur Gilligan led an MCC side to India in 1926-27, consisting of worthies such as Maurice Tate, Andrew Sandham and the future England captain Bob Wyatt, they were expected to steamroll the opposition. And so they did on the first leg of the tour, all the way until they came to Bombay.

With one innings it all changed. Twenty-five thousand people trooped into the Bombay Gymkhana grounds on December 1, 1926 to watch the Hindus take on the might of MCC. India, in those days, was charged with a sense of destiny; did these men feel it too? At 84 for 3, the Hindus were on the back foot when CK Nayudu unleashed an assault that would reverberate far beyond the confines of that packed stadium. In 116 minutes of dazzling strokeplay, he made 153 runs, treating the bowlers - county stalwarts, all - with a disdain that would have befitted the likes of Victor Trumper or Gilbert Jessop. His innings included 14 fours and 11 sixes, then a world record.

A few days later, a masterfully crafted 148 from DB Deodhar ensured that India took the first-innings lead in the first unofficial Test against MCC. These were not flukes, to be applauded patronisingly and forgotten - they testified to the growth in Indian cricket, and brought about a paradigm shift in the way it was perceived. Gilligan, MCC's captain and an influential figure in English cricket, lobbied for India's elevation to Test status, which led to the formation of the Indian cricket board in 1928, and India's first Test match in 1932. Things have come a long way since then - but the first rays of sunshine came through on a winter's day in December.

Amit Varma is a former managing editor of Cricinfo. This article was first published in Wisden Asia Cricket magazine

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Alok on March 22, 2010, 5:00 GMT

    India's initiation into test match cricket must have been a day of unbridled joy, and hope, for a nation struggling to carve its own identity. Its nostalgic to read such an article, and it is well written too. It is also relevant that: a) Maharaja of Porbandar, the tour captain, realised his limitations and handed over captaincy to CK; b) India missed two of its 'test match material' princes - Duleepsinhji and Pataudi Sr. Even today, Duleepsinhji is rated among the best ever to play for England. Poor health limited the display of his awesome strokeplay; c) CK was among India's first cricketing heroes. So were Amar Singh and Mohd Nissar. The team was balanced, if only it had Duleepsinhji and Pataudi Sr! and d) It is said that Baqa Jilani 'earned' his test cap for insulting CK over breakfast in 1936. Also, Lala Amarnath was sent back from that tour. In its formative years, Indian cricket was a concoction of princes' and England's politics and commoners desire to exalt.

  • Sujoy on March 22, 2010, 4:15 GMT

    Articles on the early days of cricket in India almost invariably start with tales of the Colonel, Lala Amarnath and perhaps a few Maharajas. It is a pity, however, that one of the the original flag-bearers of Indian cricket, Baloo Palwankar, seems to be consigned forever as a footnote in the history of cricket in India. Anyone from Cricinfo listening?

  • Gareth on March 21, 2010, 23:17 GMT

    ha ha - good one firstly get a quote completely wrong and then mistakenly attribute it to Neville Cardus (because he and Wally Hammond were so alike!) and have to be corrected by your fellow posters and then all of a sudden this is somehow Cardus' fault and part of an anti-India agenda on his part as opposed to evidence of you just being too lazy to get your facts right before posting a message. Brilliant.

  • Dummy4 on March 21, 2010, 9:35 GMT

    we should thank such stalwarts like ck who really played with pride while representing their motherland. wish we had more of such committed circketeers to represent our country and bring more glory.

  • P Subramani on March 21, 2010, 5:19 GMT

    I must thank Kedar-1969 and bis_d for their rap on my knuckles with my failing memory. I am not surprised that it was indeed said by Wally Hammond considering that he was at the recieving end of this doom. But then in English cricket writing, such words were usually attributed to Cardus. When purple prose mattered as much as cricket, often in a camouflaging role.

  • Ambrish on March 21, 2010, 1:34 GMT

    @Pradeep Kanchan: There are two trophies named after Col. C.K.Nayudu:

    a. The Under-22 National Championship is named after Col. C.K.Nayudu

    b. The C.K.Nayudu Trophy awarded for Lifetime Achievement: This is the highest honour the Indian board can bestow on a former player. Mohinder Amarnath was the most recent recipient of this award.

  • Bis on March 20, 2010, 21:50 GMT

    excellent article and comments. having googled it comprehensively i can confirm that it was of amar singh that wally hammond said that "He came off the pitch like the crack of doom". CK was of course a legend but unfortunately past his prime by the time India were granted test status - his true successor in style, attitude and combativity was the incomparable Mushtaq Ali. And let us not forget that a certain Mr Duleepsinghji and a certain Mr Iftiqhar Ali Pataudi were then plying their wares in England and aspired to play for England rather than India - much as Graham Hick later opted to play for England rather than new kids on the bloc Zimbabwe. A stirring yarn well spun - the great cricketers it turns out always respect each other more than the geopolitics of international relations conveys. Thus even Douglas Jardine, for many the archetypal colonial master, could muse that he would like to take Amar Singh with him to combat Bradman. Of course he couldn't, so he took Larwood instead!

  • Dummy4 on March 20, 2010, 21:03 GMT

    cricket in USA? did u mean India?

  • Dummy4 on March 20, 2010, 20:58 GMT

    Why isn't there a Tournament, Trophy...SOMETHING to celebrate this Giants legacy.

    He was our first Indian Cricket Captain!!!!

  • Kedar on March 20, 2010, 14:31 GMT

    Excellent piece Amit, keep it coming. I agree with Majr's musings too, the only thing I note is that my recollection of the famous "crack of doom (not dawn as it was a reference to a whip)" was a quote at the end of the play by Wally Hammond, who when asked about the Indian new ball attack singled out Nissar and likened his pace,bounce and seam movement to a whip the force of which resembling crack of doom". High praise indeed, esp when the Brits genuinely viewed the natives as inferior!

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