Obituary, 2004

Hemu Adhikari

ADHIKARI, Lieutenant-Colonel HEMCHANDRA RAMACHANDRA, died on October 25, 2003, aged 84. Hemu Adhikari played in 21 Tests for India, bringing a military man's stay-at-your-post sense of duty to Indian cricket of the late 1940s and 1950s when the national team was frequently on the brink of rout and flight. His finest hour came in one of the darkest times of all, when India's batsmen were frightened by Wes Hall and Roy Gilchrist in the 1958-59 home series against West Indies and, at 39, he became the fourth captain in the five Tests. He was not even the obvious choice for this role - the selectors almost went for G. S. Ramchand - and Adhikari only accepted after prompting from his wife and his commanding officer. But he led by example with innings of 63 and 40, took three wickets with leg-breaks scarcely seen in Test cricket, and secured a draw to halt West Indies' three-match winning sequence. Despite his success, he did not make himself available for the 1959 tour of England which turned out even more disastrously. Adhikari had played only two Tests in the previous six years, partly because of army commitments, but his leadership qualities had been much in evidence as he guided Services to two successive Ranji Trophy finals. In his early days, he had won three Ranji Trophies with Baroda. At that stage he was renowned for his strokeplay, but in Test cricket he usually had to concentrate on crisis management: his only Test century came at Delhi in the maiden Test between India and West Indies in 1948-49 when his 114 not out just failed to save the follow-on; he again organised the resistance in the second innings with a prolonged 29 not out against a background chant of "Well played Ad-hi-ka-ri". He struggled as vice-captain in England in 1952 but against Pakistan that winter he tasted his only two Test wins, making 81 not out at Delhi in an 80-minute stand of 109 with Ghulam Ahmed, still India's highest last-wicket partnership. After retiring from the army, Adhikari became national coach and was manager of the triumphant 1971 tour of England. His style involved strict discipline, an emphasis on fielding and, in the words of Bapu Nadkarni, "not bothering about what anybody else thought". He was also occasionally heard as a radio summariser in a style the Daily Telegraph described as "somewhat Delphic".

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