A flair for pointing the right direction
Jim Laker outlines the long and important service given to cricket by Raman Subba Row
As a Cambridge freshman his 5 for 21 in the Varsity match of 1951 must have given him more cause for amusement and subsequent celebration than a sound 94 runs made in the following year. With Peter May and David Sheppard in the batting line-up, South African Cuan McCarthy and John Warr a more than lively pair of openers, and Robin Marlar in my view very comfortably the best spin bowler in post-war University cricket, Raman had begun his career in more than useful company.
Coming down from Cambridge posed more difficult problems. Ideally he wanted a spell of full-time cricket and would have wished it to be with Surrey. Indeed, for two seasons he shared in their triumphs when his contributions proved of great value before the offer at Northampton allowed him the extra scope he needed, and he moved on in 1955.
From 1958 until his premature retirement in 1961 at only 29 he skippered the county with skill and thoughtfulness and finally established himself as a batsman of real quality and excellent temperament. His concentration saw him through some marathon performances and when it seemed that a long double-century against Lancashire would highlight his career he thoroughly confounded many of his old Surrey colleagues by smashing all Northants records with an undefeated 300 at Kennington Oval.
Two MCC tours came his way and many of us felt that a broken hand he suffered at an early stage of the 1958-59 Australian tour had a profound effect on the disappointing outcome of that series. He showed his penchant for a strong Australian attack in 1961 with centuries at Birmingham and in his final Test appearance at The Oval.
His overall average in 13 Tests was an excellent 47, which surprisingly proved to be on a par with his two more glamorous contemporaries, Peter May and Ted Dexter. In his all-too-brief first-class career he made 30 three-figure scores and in my book he stands high on the list of difficult left-handers to dislodge.
If many people mistakenly under-estimated Raman as a batsman, few that matter would make the same error in relation to his work over the last 20 years as a leading administrator at both Lord's and The Oval. If records were kept of meetings attended, of hours spent on lengthy considerations of so many weighty cricket problems, he would stand a firm favourite for honours. In this sort of work he has always been a few years ahead of his time. For years he led the movement to see competitive league cricket in the South, and even at Lord's itself a number of his earlier proposals are now coming into effect. Who knows that one day TCCB may agree on the format of cricket being rebuilt round a basis of 16 four-day county matches which Mr R. Subba Row has been working hard at for so long!
These days his first love, Kennington Oval, has become virtually a second home for him. In the last few years players, officials, members and the general public have discovered a new-born atmosphere in the shadow of the famous gasholders, and most of the welcome changes can be attributed to the advice and forethought of Raman and three or four of his close collaborators.
His appointment as tour manager to India was an inspired choice and sure proof to him of his high rating at Lord's. Despite the disappointing playing results it seems that without exception the manager received nothing but praise for his diplomacy and skill in dealing with all from the Prime Minister down to the youngest beggar boy.
All this leads to the question of where does he go from here? Obviously he remains on the short list for a future overseas tour, but does another appointment loom larger? There has long been a thought that cricket should have its own Ron Greenwood. A 'Mr Cricket' to rule the roost. While doubting the wisdom of such thinking, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that TCCB one day may well appoint a cricket executive director in overall charge on a full-time salaried basis.
There can be few indeed with the necessary allround qualifications for such a position, and who better than Raman Subba Row if that is where he sees his future?