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Commentator, television presenter and writer

A rivalry of which nostalgia is made

India v England may have started off as a contest between subjects and rulers, but over the years it has evolved into so much more

Harsha Bhogle

November 16, 2012

Comments: 39 | Text size: A | A

Graham Gooch lofts the ball during his 333, England v India, 1st Test, Lord's, 1st day, July 26, 1990
Graham Gooch during his 333 against India at Lord's © Getty Images
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It is not surprising that a series against England stirs the senses in India. In recent times, encounters against Australia have produced a little more vitriol, and cricket against Pakistan tends to consume everyone, often for the wrong reasons. But, in spite of the fact that the Empire is now a distant memory and the Commonwealth merely a reason to bring together some fine athletes, India v England has a gravity to it. India's first Test at Lord's was 80 years ago and the most significant one in recent times came in Chennai in December 2008, when England admirably returned after the Mumbai terror attacks and did both India and cricket a huge favour.

It is the history that does it for me. It is everywhere: in the crumbling books in our house, in sepia-toned photographs at cricket grounds, in magnificent literature in the anthologies (and even though cricket writers back then inevitably looked down on India, they still produced excellent prose). I sometimes wonder if they actually made up some of it, but even if they were tales, they were told enchantingly. There was a generation to whom India was a land they ruled, and so taking the odd liberty with the Indian way was thought to be okay. We'd bristle at any such suggestion now but in an era where rupees were few, and pounds unthinkable riches, where a visit to England got you a photograph in the local paper back home, even Indians seemed to accept being portrayed like that.

And it is the history that I turn to, now that another series has got underway. Mine begins as a little boy reading Sport and Pastime in a neighbour's house and imagining Tiger Pataudi making 64 and 148 in Leeds in 1967. He was a charming and handsome man who learnt his cricket in England and led India with pride. His father, of course, is the only man to have played Test cricket for both countries, but Tiger's story was more remarkable. His passing away last year was very sad, and increasingly we lose such bridges between our nations. I know the Anthony de Mello Trophy exists but there must be a way of making Pataudi that link between India and England. We will lose an opportunity if we do not do so.

And then 1971, on short-wave radio, all my heroes, Sunil Gavaskar, Bhagwath Chandrasekhar, Farokh Engineer, and of course Abid Ali, had a role to play. We waited and waited as India crawled, stopped and crawled again. Last year, some of those romantics gathered in Mumbai to celebrate 40 years of that event. Sadly we listened too, in parts, to the "summer of 42" in 1974, and first saw television highlights with the distinctive BBC title music in 1979. The radio was a friend in 1976 too, when John Lever ran through India in Delhi. In the middle of a movie we heard someone listening in to the commentary and were reassured that Gavaskar was still batting.

That was when we were first aware that Vaseline could do things to a cricket ball, and a couple of smart alecks amongst us tried using it on a hard cork ball without much success. In later years, Tony Greig, captain of that side is reported to have said, "Vaseline no, lip ice maybe." Mike Selvey, who was on that tour and is now back as a very fine cricket writer, swears there was nothing to it.

And after the most dreadful series in 1981-82, only remembered for Geoffrey Boycott having had enough after breaking the world record, England returned in 1984 to run into Mohammad Azharuddin and the mystifying legspin of Laxman Sivaramakrishnan. Siva, another colleague now, took 12 wickets in Mumbai and was so much fun to watch. I would give anything for footage of that Test, though I would rather it was without the audio track, which featured a certain young man also in his first Test.

Lord's 1990 was a great Test match, and I rub my eyes in disbelief at the fact that someone who played that game is playing this one in Ahmedabad

I will pause only once more, since more recent encounters find their way onto the 24-hour cricket channels with some regularity, for the Lord's Test of 1990, which had more drama in it than most full series can. Graham Gooch, also in India at the moment, made 333, and he smote the ball, as did Kapil Dev. In a moment of high drama, when India needed 24 to avoid the follow-on, Kapil chose to clear the boundary, where the giant mushroom-shaped media centre now stands, four times in four balls. Just visualise that. Narendra Hirwani is at the other end. In a team of No. 11 batsmen, he would bat at No. 11. India need 24 to make England bat again. Four blows, four sixes, and Hirwani gets out first ball of the next over. India still lost, but Azharuddin, then naïve and generous, played an innings no one can ever forget. It was a great Test match, and I rub my eyes in disbelief at the fact that someone who played that game is playing this one in Ahmedabad. I won't be surprised if Sachin Tendulkar approaches this one with the same excitement he showed so many years ago.

And now, our two nations, with so much in common, will make many more memories. These are very different, more equal times. An Indian company (Tata) is now among the largest private-sector employers in the UK, young English players want to complete their cricket education by coming to India, visitors travel and stay in a fair degree of luxury and can see as many Premiership games live as they could back home. But Indian lawyers still read judgements from British courts, and my hotel in Ahmedabad serves bangers and mash (the one in Nottingham did an Indian curry).

My three favourite India-England Tests since I started covering cricket are Lord's 1990, Leeds 2002 and Chennai 2008. Maybe I will be able to add to that list in the month ahead.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

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Posted by jay57870 on (November 19, 2012, 6:21 GMT)

Pataudi Sr objected to Douglas Jardine's tactics in the infamous 1932-33 Bodyline Series - in which he debuted with a ton at SCG - only to be dropped from the tour! He later led India on an England tour. Tiger too challenged the system by decoupling the "subjects & rulers" links & imposing a "will to win" attitude. This was most evident in 1971, when India won for the first time on English soil (after a similar series win in WI). I was there at The Oval to witness the epochal event! Although he wasn't in the team, there's no doubt they were Tiger's men. Yes, the Pataudi name epitomises this rivalry. But I'm not sure the Pataudi Trophy is the right choice. The de Mello Trophy already exists. Let's preserve it. Why not instead dedicate a Pataudi Oration - like the Bradman Oration or Cowdrey Lecture? Shakespeare in his oratory masterpieces proclaimed: "Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them"! Words of wisdom: He must have had Tiger in mind!

Posted by jay57870 on (November 19, 2012, 6:13 GMT)

Harsha - Yes, Pataudi is a historical link between two great cricket-playing nations! Fresh from Oxford, Tiger made his debut against Ted Dexter's side in 1961. I saw him make his mark, in just his 2nd Test, at the storied Eden Gardens with attacking batting (64, 32) & agile fielding. India won the match, and the next one too with Tiger making a maiden century, to capture the series 2-0: a dramatic change from its previous "defeatist" mindset. Months later, at age 21, he was thrust into the hot seat as accidental captain on the ill-fated WI tour. It was an inflection point: Tiger became the change agent who led the transformation of Indian cricket into the modern era. Still, spare a thought for the many toiling Indian cricketers of the 30s, 40s & 50s: they are the true founding fathers of Indian cricket. Tiger built on it & propelled it in a positive direction. Coincidentally, his father was also one of the key founding fathers with a unique identity: played for both England & India!

Posted by   on (November 19, 2012, 3:41 GMT)

Simply brilliant, Harsha. Thank you for the nostalgia. And the trivia about a "certain young man's debut". That young man is a Hyderabadi and I am sure that you aren't referring to Mohammed Azharuddin.

Posted by Nampally on (November 17, 2012, 19:35 GMT)

Harsha, My interpretation of this article is: over the last 80 years, England Vs. India matches have progressed from "the Ruler Vs. the Ruled" to Tests between 2 individual Nations who have a common bond thru' Cricket. This transition has enabled India to develop its own team which became #1 Test Nation too. Many commenters appear to be misreading. An independent India has not only progressed to high levels in Cricket but also in all Technologies which makes India amongst the top 10 Nations. I summarized in my earlier comments the "real McCoys" who led the Indian Cricket to what it is today. These older Cricketer were the pioneers to the modern Indian Cricket like Nehrus & Gandhis! Instead of Hazare, Umrigar & Mankad we have Pujara, Kohli & Ojha/Yuvraj. Yes thinking back to those days is nostalgic. Many younger commenters do not seem to be interested in this historical background. I found interesting to read your 3 favourite Tests & I am sure every one has his own -Test & cricketer!.

Posted by myawan on (November 17, 2012, 9:57 GMT)

Its so funny to hear, first India had rivalry with Pakistan only, then they added on Australia and now England. Lolz.

Posted by TyrantInShorts on (November 17, 2012, 7:01 GMT)

"Subjects and Rulers" ? Empire ? What is this -- 1948 ?! Weird to see the colonial hangover is still alive for some Indians even though the British empire is long dead and never coming back !

Posted by CricFan0101 on (November 17, 2012, 6:52 GMT)

Harsha, please for God's sake stop writing like an "Anglo" Indian writer from the 60's and try and evolve. Writing long and complex words to indulge yourself or maybe because that's your USP in the cricketing world will work only so many times. Try and modernize your commentary, move with the times, talk about today's game. Its really silly to talk about the British Empire in an article about cricket in 2012 and its even sillier to try and prove that India has now arrived and become "equal" just because a couple of Indian companies have gone multinational. I am Indian, and India still has a long long way to go and a lot of hurdles to cross. Anyway try and stick to cricket and I am sure you will find your niche and your audience.

Posted by AdityaMookerjee on (November 17, 2012, 4:37 GMT)

It seems, India was perhaps fifth in the list, to have played England in Test matches for the first time, and hence enter membership to the I. C. C. Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and the West Indies, must have played Test Cricket with England for the first time, before India did, probably. It might be that New Zealand was later in membership to the I. C. C.

Posted by pknn on (November 17, 2012, 3:50 GMT)

remember mankad's 184 at lords. The highest score by an Indian at lords till date, 1952 series. what a player !

Posted by shrikanthk on (November 17, 2012, 3:10 GMT)

Hammond - I am not in the business of digging up past or scuffling feathers. But afirm response is necessary when someone utters falsehoods like "England is a relic". From what I can see England is one of the most tolerant, malleable countries on earth, which is why it has been the seat of so many cultural/political/scientific innovations over the past 400 years. What's often forgotten is that even the "corrupted" forms of cricket like 60 over/20 over games originated at Lord's! Not at Eden Gardens or Cape town.

Posted by Batmanian on (November 17, 2012, 3:10 GMT)

Technically speaking, as India and England played their first Test in 1932, a year after the Statute of Westminster made them 'equal in status', it was not between masters and subjects at all.

Posted by yorkshirematt on (November 17, 2012, 1:24 GMT)

@sweetspot While I see where you're coming from regarding the past not being important I do take issue with your comment about "not furthering the popularity of the game". Is actually inventing the game and bringing it to your country not enough?

Posted by Hammond on (November 17, 2012, 0:16 GMT)

@shrikanthk- mate a dangerous thing to give the British any credit for anything, it just isn't politically correct. Saying cricket is an intrinsically English sport (although completely factually correct) is likely to offend lots of people.

Posted by Nampally on (November 16, 2012, 21:46 GMT)

An interesting article Harsha. However you missed out the development phase of the Indian Cricket - 1932 to 1972. During that phase there were some truly great Cricketers who played for India for literally "Pea Nuts". They were tremendously talented who in this era would have been Hero Worshipped. Nissar, Amar singh, Amarnath, Mushtaq, Merchant, Hazare, Umrigar, Phadkar, Mankad, V.Manjrekar, S.Gupte, Ghulam Ahmad, Kundaram, S.Roy,Borde & many more. That phase was really the golden age of Cricket in India - Transition from British Raj to Independent India.These were great Cricketers who played the game for the love of it. They were the real pioneers of the game that you see today. Today's Cricketers owe their millions of dollars salaries to these guys who made the game popular with no TV cameras, no helmets, arm & thigh guards & playing on uncovered wickets + matting. Many of the modern Cricketers would have found difficult to find a place in the Tests competing with them. Applaud them!

Posted by AdrianVanDenStael on (November 16, 2012, 21:32 GMT)

It's strange that both England and India supporters go on about how boring the series of 1981-2 was, without mentioning the 1996 series. The latter was dreadfully uninspired and followed pretty much the same pattern (home team takes a lead in the first test and thereafter exhibits no interest in playing cricket of any interest)

Posted by   on (November 16, 2012, 21:29 GMT)

Perhaps the only constant over 80 years - English whining over 'dustbowl' Indian tracks.

Posted by dropzone on (November 16, 2012, 20:18 GMT)

I have the entire Leeds test (2002) on VHS which I hope to tansfer to DVD. The batting of Dravid was exceptional.

Posted by   on (November 16, 2012, 20:15 GMT)

I remember when I was 11 years old, the 92 series. I didnt have enough money to buy a ticket, so paid 8 Rupees and did some errants for the Ticket person to get me in :) Cricket was that big of a agenda for me that early ;)

Posted by shrikanthk on (November 16, 2012, 16:00 GMT)

Cpt Meanster : England a relic eh? I often wonder - the world as a whole doesn't quite realize how much it owes that medium sized north european island.

You talk disparagingly of England and its monarchy, yet forget that it is in England that the monarchy was rendered powerless by parliament. England is the birthplace of constitutional, limited government. The language in which your comment is written is also of English origin. The games you love - be it cricket (whatever the format), football, tennis are also largely of English origin. The courts you rely on also draw heavily on English common law tradition. Let's face the facts - This much-reviled island is the birthplace of most things modern.

Yet nobody wants to acknowledge the painful realities of history because it hurts their false pride.

Posted by Mahesh4811 on (November 16, 2012, 15:59 GMT)

@Cpt.meanster: I 100% care about test cricket and many indians do. It makes us 'BIG 0' difference about what happens in IPL (or whatever that is).

Posted by sweetspot on (November 16, 2012, 14:13 GMT)

@Hammond & getsetgopk - It is only in the last few years that the BCCI has had any say at all in the way cricket is developed and furthered. So, pretty please, thank you for the invention, but enough already with a 100+ years of England running the show and having only 9 national teams that play the game at the "top level". The IPL has provided a decent living to so many cricketers from all over the world in six short years of its existence. How many cricketers before the advent of the IPL could afford to retire in financial security? More importantly, if you want the truth about how the BCCI has changed lives, read the transcript of Rahul Dravid's Bradman oration. Who donates cricket kits to schools in the USA? And NO, I don't have any respect for history just because it stands for something that happened in the past and a lot of people attach importance to it. As for DRS, that's too silly a whine to bring into this topic.

Posted by brusselslion on (November 16, 2012, 13:08 GMT)

Have the people who say that Test cricket and/or England-India doesn't matter looked at the number of posts about this series?

Posted by moBlue on (November 16, 2012, 12:47 GMT)

@Cpt.Meanster: yo, dude! chill! "no indian today..." blah, blah, blah?!? you could not be more wrong, if you are speaking *for* me!!! i *am* an indian, the last i checked. :) ...and i *do* derive extra pleasure when we kick ENG's behinds [more so than when IND beat anyone else! ...and yes, including PAK] and i hated it when we got humiliated in ENG 4-0 recently [much more than when oz did the same thing to us!] because - and only because - ENG ruled and pillaged IND for 3 centuries!!! ...and i am not ancient by the way, just 44 ...and speaking of test cricket, i *live* for test cricket... yeah, that is that 5-day variety played by men [as opposed to the 20-overs-each variety played by impetuous children!] who are tough as nails and who are tested to the limit - just ask steve waugh in 2001 in IND or laxman, the hero of that series, but the villain of the piece in 2012 in oz... so, please, refrain from making generalizations about your countrymen, and stop disparaging tests, won't ya?

Posted by gsingh7 on (November 16, 2012, 12:17 GMT)

@nutlet -- india have surpassed england in economy , watch some news, so india should not be part of commonwealth anymore , ipl is future (in my view ) as can be attested by indian cricket population and hoardes of foreign players, england is past of cricket as u can see the economy of england is dwindling and less people are able to shell out for cricket

Posted by AbAdvani on (November 16, 2012, 12:07 GMT)

I vividly remember Graham Gooch's epic triple hundred -Kiran More dropped a sitter when he had hardly scored and he went to make a triple hundred -More probably got his name enshrined in Guiness book of World records for the most expensive drop by a wicket keeper -the BCCI later honored him by making him the chairman of selectors.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (November 16, 2012, 11:59 GMT)

@CptMeanster: I'm amused that you speak for all Indians; I think that what you should've said: all Indians that happen to share my prejudiced views (Ref your 3rd sentence). Let's move on. India is, as far as I know, a member of the Commonwealth, not a commonwealth on its own. England had that for 10 years or so in the mid 17th Century (it wasn't very popular). Didn't India host the Commonwealth Games a while back? (so you wouldn't have approved of that). And Test cricket is a little more than self-denial? In what ways would that be? Exercising patience possibly. I've found that patience is frequently necessary (like waiting for an Eng Test win in India!) & experience tells me that there is often a reward for patience, just as is there is for being tolerant of views that are very far away from my own. Rather than developing a seige mentality (I'm right & anyone who doesn't think the same way is wrong) it's better to be open to the ideas of others. And in a democracy be tolerant, hey!

Posted by   on (November 16, 2012, 11:27 GMT)

@Cpt.Meanster: The love towards T20 will wane as the thrill will always be missed. its like just watching the climax of the movie, it may be interesting but you will never understand the plot.

Posted by   on (November 16, 2012, 9:47 GMT)

England v India always stirs the emotions for me. My first memory of cricket is 1986 when India toured. I went to see the ODI and my hero David Gower got out first ball! He was then sacked as England captain after the 1st Test! I think I was his bad luck charm! Also, I remember at school I had a lot of Indian friends (mostly Gujarati) who used to poke fun at the Sri Lankan team (I am Sri Lankan) for various reasons. Only now do they understand that I had more reason to support India, as there are far more Tamils who represent the Indian national team than Gujaratis!

Posted by getsetgopk on (November 16, 2012, 9:39 GMT)

@sweetspot: I dont understand. What have India done to further the popularity of the game? Banning media to enter cricket stadiums or ask Sky to pay rediculous sums of money for a mere studio? Indian players are not allowed to play in foreign leagues, is this the idea of spreading the game? BCCI has arm twisted other boards to make IPL work and has runined WI and NZ cricket. Why is jessie ryder not playing for NZ? India has done nothing to improve the game and by the looks of it, it isn't going to do anything. Look at their stance on DRS and technology. A sane person would know that nothing can be a 100% accurate but its better than an onfield umpire yet here we are. Asking for IPL window but what about cricket elsewhere? India is a market, most of the top players today come from countries other than India. India is a market that doesn't mean you go on and ruin world cricket.

Posted by Hammond on (November 16, 2012, 8:52 GMT)

@sweetspot- funny comment really showing the complete disdain of someone that ignores history. England is the reason why cricket even exists, if you know anything about the history of the game then your "England failed to further the popularity of the game when it could have" is one of the more breathtakingly ignorant comments I have read on this site.

Posted by   on (November 16, 2012, 8:00 GMT)

very well said sweetspot! i second that.

Posted by inhotpursuit on (November 16, 2012, 7:02 GMT)

Interesting read as ever Harsha. However, England Team in India? Come on. India in England creates much more interest in cricketing fraternity. The '84 trip was an exception though. Cribbing about food, pollution, hotel facilities etc is all that comes to my mind when the Pommies land in India. England is the most hopeless of visiting sides in the subcontinent, the Kiwis fared better than them if you watched the first day's play. Add to it their dreadfulness against spin bowling in the dust bowls of India to the recipe and you get a 'bowl-full of most boring cricket. Virender Sehwag or Yuvraj Singh toying with English bowlers hardly makes for enchanting viewing

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (November 16, 2012, 6:22 GMT)

"Subjects and rulers" ? Give me a break. No Indian today CARES about England or the monarchy. India is a republic and PROUD to be. I don't even know why India is considered a commonwealth. We should quit the council. I also agree with sweetspot, England is a relic. They don't represent the present. At least when it comes to cricket. I know India are far from being a good test cricket team BUT India's heart in cricket is at the right place - in T20s and ODIs. Test cricket to me is about self denial. It has NO place in the modern, FAST and FURIOUS 21st century. A majority of Indians care less about test cricket. England can continue to embrace it. After all, it's they who invented it. Ironically, they too invented the T20 which is the pretty much the ONLY format that's attractive in cricket. To me it makes zero difference. I catch highlights of tests which is nothing but T20 in white clothes.

Posted by   on (November 16, 2012, 6:19 GMT)

well written Harsha. I hope you will also remember Tony Grieg cradling GRV when the latter scored a hundred( a great one that) in Eden Gardens-Circa 1972-73. Great sport Tony was.Wish him speedy recovery.

Posted by   on (November 16, 2012, 6:02 GMT)

Loved the line, no 11 in a team of no 11s. Wish some1 would compile an alltime team of no 11s.

Posted by jithoosin on (November 16, 2012, 5:57 GMT)

Nothing. There is nothing between Eng and India. Unlike Oz these players never complain about smell, food, sight screen etc etc. They just play.

Posted by MaarifSohail on (November 16, 2012, 5:00 GMT)

Good work Harsha. The history of rivalry would have been more complete had you included a word or two on legends like Muhammad Nisar, Amar Singh, Lala Amarnaath, C K Naydu, S Wazir Ali, Vijay Merchant,Mushtaq Ali, Dilawar Hussain, Jehangir Khan, Baqa Jillani and Vengsarkar so on and so forth along with those Pakistani cricketers who played with the Undivided Indian team and then went on to play against the English side from the Pakistani side. These legends would have made their way into any form of cricket being played today as part of any world class team. Interestingly Vizzys name should have been used ahead of Packer who brought star packed cricket to India. Also that was the only test when 6 players were Muslims out of playing 11 (3rd Test Match of 3 day duration 15,17 and 18 August 1936). And last but not the least cousins Baqa Jillani and Jehangir Khan played in the same test match which would later be matched by Cousins Imran and Majid Khan.

Posted by Agnihothra on (November 16, 2012, 4:58 GMT)

Harsha Bhogle ! You are at your best when you are in a cricket fan mode.....

Posted by sweetspot on (November 16, 2012, 4:12 GMT)

Sorry Harsha! Well written, but I as an Indian cricket fan do not have even an ounce of nostalgia related hangover when it comes to cricket between England and India. India to me represents the future of the game, and England represents the distant past - one in which England failed to further the popularity of the game when it could have. In the present, I don't see England embracing new realities either - always making archaic noises about IPL etc. I also don't have any of this gushing hallowed turf syndrome towards the Lords cricket ground or any of that. Let's get on with the game please.

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Harsha Bhogle Harsha Bhogle is one of the world's leading cricket commentators. Starting off as a chemical engineer and going on to work in advertising before moving into television, he is also a writer, quiz host, television presenter and talk-show host, and a corporate motivational speaker. He was voted Cricinfo readers' "favourite cricket commentator" in a poll in 2008, and one of his proudest possessions is a photograph of a group of spectators in Pakistan holding a banner that said "Harsha Bhogle Fan Club". He has commentated on nearly 100 Tests and more than 400 ODIs.

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