CK Nayudu

First-class cricket in six decades

Edward Liddle profiles the remarkable man who first led India onto the Test match field

Edward Liddle profiles the remarkable man who first led India onto the Test match field. This article first appeared in Wisden Cricket Monthly in 1982



CK Nayudu: 'a right-handed Woolley' © The Cricketer
CK Nayudu, India's first Test captain, looked every inch a cricketer. Tall and erect, he walked the field with that gracefulness which later characterised Worrell and Sobers.

Uncoached, he developed into a batsman ranked by Jardine as "a right-handed Woolley". A superb stylist who delighted to cut and pull, he was a skilful lofter of the ball, and relished off-spin. He taunted faster bowlers, advancing down the wicket as they ran in. He is best remembered for his fierce hitting, using his steely wrists and strong forearms.

For Hindus v MCC at Bombay in 1926-27, he savaged the bowling of Astill, Wyatt and Boyes to reach 153 in 100 minutes, with 11 sixes - the Indian record - and 13 fours. Utterly courageous, he scorned injury and expected others to do likewise. When over fifty, he was struck in the mouth by a bouncer from Dattu Phadkar in a Ranji Trophy match. Spitting out teeth, he continued, rebuking Phadkar for restarting with a slow full toss!

CK bowled slow-medium right-arm, relying on immaculate length and clever change of pace. When 51, he returned figures of 80-12-178-4 in a single innings.

As captain and coach, he was rigorous and demanding. Insisting upon fitness and fielding excellence, he planned matches as military campaigns. Some players such as his brother, CS, and Mushtaq Ali venerated him; others rebelled against this regime, and joined small-minded officials in anti-Nayudu intrigue.

He was not appointed captain for the 1932 tour, a prince being considered essential for unity. Happily the Maharajah of Porbandar knew his own limitations and delegated to CK on important occasions. In all matches on the tour CK scored 1842 runs, with six centuries - including two at Lord's- and took 79 wickets. Wisden gave him appropriate recognition. In the sole Test - India"s first - CK's hostile direction of his pace attack reduced England to 19 for 3, but two characteristic Jardine innings, and an injury to CK who, nevertheless, top-scored in India"s first innings, gave England a 158-run victory.

He was captain - in his own right - against Jardine's MCC side in 1933-34. A somewhat unpleasant series resulted from this clash of strong characters. CK launched a bumper war with Nissar and Amar Singh, Jardine retaliating with Clark. C. K. Nayudu appeared constantly against the tourists, scoring two centuries outside the Tests, besides taking 4 for 21 to enable Vizianagram"s XI to record the visitors' only defeat.

Cricket politics deprived him of the captaincy for the 1936 English tour in favour of the Maharajah Kumar of Vizianagram, a poor cricketer and somewhat petty man, who refused to hand over to CK for the Tests, and worked to undermine his standing with the side.

A controversial tour was followed by a judicial enquiry which blamed both Vizzy and CK - the latter for holding himself aloof from the team! Now 40, he scored 1102 runs and took 51 wickets. In the second innings of the final - Oval - Test, CK was struck amidships by Gubby Allen, but, waving away assistance, scored a brilliant 150-minute 81.

His most consistent performances in India were in the Bombay Quadrangular, in which he first appeared in 1916 - typically striking his debut ball from Frank Tarrant for six! In these matches he scored 1934 runs at 48.35, with five centuries - the highest being 155 v Mohammadans in 1929. These figures don't compare with those of Merchant and Hazare in the later Pentangular, but were mostly scored at monsoon-ravaged Poona and the unreliable Bombay Gymkhana, not on Brabourne Stadium shirtfronts.

CK dominated Indian cricket for over 20 years. Thus in 12 innings in the Madras Presidency Match, for Indians v Europeans, he hit 667 runs at 55.58, with two centuries. His pre-lunch 128 in 1920 included a six off legspinner Jack Gwynn, accounted the biggest ever seen at Chepauk.

The Ranji Trophy - like Tests - came when CK was - allegedly - past his best. Nevertheless, he scored 2576 runs at 36.80, besides taking 109 wickets at 25.71. He led Holkar to four titles, the first being in 1945-46, when his 390-minute 200 v Baroda in the final included 20 fours. In 1953-54, when captaining newly-formed Andrha - having retired form the Holkar Army - he hit an 86-minute 74, with a six and 10 fours. In 1957, when 62, he hit 81 in the Trophy against Ramchand and Mankad, striking Vinoo for two sixes.

He played first-class cricket in six decades, having his finale when 69. His family strove to emulate him. Besides Test legspinner CS, and another brother, CR, CK's son and grandson were first-class cricketers - and his daughter is a radio commentator.

In his later years CK, who excelled at several other sports, became a selector and administrator, though even then intrigue and controversy followed him. He maintained his old standards too. In an unofficial Test against the 1950-51 Commonwealth XI, Hazare, cut over the eye by a Ridgway bouncer, retired for repairs. A furious CK, chairman of selectors, stormed into the dressing-room and sent him back to the fray - wound unstitched.

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