Obituary, 2004

GS Ramchand

RAMCHAND, GULABRAI SIPAHIMALANI, died on September 8, 2003, aged 76. "Ram" Ramchand captained India to their first Test win over Australia, at Kanpur in December 1959. Off-spinner Jasu Patel took 14 for 124 on a newly laid pitch and Ramchand "led us brilliantly to victory", Chandu Borde recalled, "always giving us the self-belief that we could beat them." Australia's captain, Richie Benaud, went to the Indian dressing-room afterwards and presented his counterpart with his Australian blazer. Born in Karachi, Ramchand played his first Ranji Trophy cricket for Sind and moved south to Bombay after Partition, helping them win six Ranji finals between 1948-49 and 1962-63. He hit hundreds in all but the first, when he made two unbeaten half-centuries: few contemporary Indians struck the ball harder. Add to that his robust fast-medium in-swing bowling and efficient fielding and it is easy to appreciate why English league clubs targeted him in the 1950s. He proved himself a useful utility player around the counties on India's 1952 tour but was less successful in the four Tests, spun out for a pair on debut and capturing only four wickets in the series. Given the new ball at Headingley and Lord's, he "looked every inch a fast bowler until he actually bowled," as Sujit Mukherjee put it. He probably lacked sufficient variety for Test cricket and only once managed a five-wicket return in his 33 Tests, getting six for 49 at his native Karachi in 1954-55. His middle-order batting, on the other hand, established him in the Test side and he made a sparkling 106 not out against New Zealand in 1955-56 and a watchful 109 against Australia at Bombay a year later. Hemu Adhikari was chosen ahead of him as India's fourth captain in the confused 1958-59 series against West Indies, and Ramchand was overlooked for the 1959 tour of England. Following that disaster, he was made captain against Australia and retired from Tests after the series, returning to winning Ranji Trophies for Bombay. In 1975, by now an executive at Air India, he was India's manager at the first World Cup.

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