March 12, 2012

Indian singles

Players who turned out for India in only one Test

Robin Singh
Tamil Nadu's Trinidad-born allrounder Robin Singh played no fewer than 136 one-day internationals for India between 1989 and 2001. But he won only one Test cap, in a shock defeat by Zimbabwe in Harare in October 1998, when he was 35. Confusingly, the next Indian one-capper - less than three months later in New Zealand - was also called Robin Singh. That one, usually known as "junior", was a fast-medium bowler from Delhi.

The Yuvraj of Patiala
India's early teams were usually led, for form's sake, by a prince. Most of the regal leaders were not terribly good players: it's said the Maharajah of Porbandar, who captained the 1932 team in England, collected more Rolls-Royces than runs on the tour. But the Yuvraj of Patiala (later the Maharajah) was different: he was a fine batsman, and scored 60 in even time in what turned out to be his only Test, against England in Madras in 1933-34, employing what Wisden called "good cutting and driving". India's 1936 tour of England might have been a much happier affair if Patiala had been captain rather than the Maharajkumar of Vizianagram.

Lall Singh
India's first one-cap wonder was also one of their most unusual: Lall Singh was born in Kuala Lumpur, and managed to get to India for trials before their 1932 tour of England thanks to subscriptions from local cricket lovers. In England he made a name for himself with his lithe fielding, and he played in India's inaugural Test match, at Lord's, scoring 15 and 29. Wisden observed that "the agility of Lall Singh cost Woolley his wicket when the Kent batsman went rather leisurely for an injudicious second run". But, something of an outsider, Lall Singh played little first-class cricket in India, and eventually returned home. He remains the only Test cricketer to have been born in what is now Malaysia.

Yograj Singh
A handy medium-pacer from Punjab, Yograj Singh was a surprise choice for the tour of Australasia in 1980-81. He played his only Test against New Zealand in Wellington, starting with the wicket of John Wright but then falling away, not helped when he was hit in the face by the ball while fielding in the deep (he didn't bowl in the second innings). Yograj never played another Test, became more famous as a minor film star - and even more celebrated after that as the father of the current Indian superstar Yuvraj Singh.

Rajindernath
Born in Amritsar, Rajindernath was Bihar's wicketkeeper when he was called up for the third Test against Pakistan in Bombay in November 1952. He did not take a catch, and wasn't required to bat in a ten-wicket victory... but he did make four stumpings, including one of Pakistan's top scorer Waqar Hasan. It wasn't enough, apparently: Rajindernath never played for India again.

Iqbal Siddiqui
A handy allrounder, Maharashtra's Siddiqui was one of three debutants against England in Mohali in December 2001. Despite taking the wicket of Graham Thorpe, Siddiqui never got another call - although he did have the consolation of being promoted to open in the second innings, when India needed only five to win, and making the winning hit.

Baqa Jilani
Jilani, an allrounder from Jullundur, was one of the large touring party that came to England in 1936 under the eccentric leadership of the Maharajkumar of Vizianagram. Previous princely leaders had had the sense to sit out the Tests, but Vizzy wouldn't hear of that. This didn't help the divisions in the team - Lala Amarnath, India's first Test centurion in 1933-34, was sent home for alleged insubordination - and legend has it that Jilani was selected for his one and only Test, at The Oval, after insulting CK Nayudu (who Vizzy disliked) over the breakfast table. Jilani scored 4 and 12, and failed to take a wicket.

TE Srinivasan
A popular and swashbuckling batsman from Madras, Srinivasan apparently told the locals, on touching down in Australia for India's 1980-81 tour, that they should "tell Dennis Lillee TE has arrived!" It's not clear whether the message got through, as sadly Srinivasan missed the Tests there before winning his one cap in New Zealand afterwards, scoring 29 and 19.

Kenia Jayantilal
A stocky batsman from Hyderabad, 23-year-old Jayantilal opened in the first Test of India's ultimately successful tour of the West Indies in 1970-71. But he scored only 5, and lost his place to an even younger rival, who had missed the first match with a finger injury: Sunil Gavaskar piled up 774 runs in the remaining four Tests of that series, and Jayantilal was history.

MJ Gopalan
Gopalan, from Madras, had a difficult choice in 1936: should he tour England with India's cricketers, or pick up a probable gold medal with their hockey team at the Berlin Olympics? He chose cricket, and later possibly wished he hadn't - it was a fractious tour (see Baqa Jilani, above), and Gopalan did not get into the Test side. He had won what turned out to be his only cap against England in Calcutta in 1933-34, his medium-pacers removing England's top-scorer James Langridge for 70. The Gopalan Trophy, for matches between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, is named after him.

The Banerjees
India has had 48 one-cap wonders to date (including a couple who will probably add to their collection), and three of them were called S Banerjee. In fact it's not a propitious name for an Indian Test player: no Banerjee has yet played more than once. The first was Sudangsu "Mantu" Banerjee, a medium-pacer from Calcutta who did reasonably well in his first Test - five wickets against West Indies in 1948-49 - but was never selected again. Confusingly, Shute Banerjee, also from Calcutta, played later in that series, also took five wickets... and also never played again. He is best remembered now as one half of a famous last-wicket partnership: for the Indian tourists against Surrey at The Oval in 1946, he and Chandu Sarwate put on 249, and it remains the only instance in first-class cricket when both Nos. 10 and 11 scored hundreds. The last of this unlucky trio was Subroto Banerjee, a fast bowler from Bihar who played one Test in Australia in 1991-92, shortly before the World Cup there. He started well, taking the first three wickets to fall, but was then injured.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2012.

Comments