Compared to literature on cricketers from other lands, books on Indian cricketers are very few and this is a pity. For, some of the leading players from the land have also proved to be among the game's enduring characters.
Given this background, it is gratifying to note that veteran cricket writer KR Wadhwaney is bringing out a book `Lala Amarnath - a stormy petrel of Indian cricket'. The book which went into print just before the former Indian captain died last month, gives a detailed account of his career, the many controversies Amarnath was involved in off the field and some interesting, little known tit bits.
Among the interesting stories listed is Amarnath's move to deny Don Bradman his century of centuries in first class cricket. Bradman was on 99 in the match between the touring Indian team and an Australian XI at Sydney in 1947 when Amarnath called Gogumal Kishenchand, who had never bowled before on the tour. Bradman was extremely cautious, realising the shrewdness of the move, but ultimately got the all important single in the same over. Bradman heaped praise on Amarnath calling him ``a wonderful ambassador.''
A little known story is about the mix up about the toss in the fifth Test at Melbourne during the same tour. When both Bradman and Amarnath went out to toss, the Indian captain, who normally called `heads', called `tails' in a muffled tone. When Bradman spun `heads', he immediately asked Amarnath what was his decision as he had not heard him calling `tails'. An awkward situation was averted when the coin showed `heads'.
After India lost the second Test against Pakistan in 1952 at Lucknow, the Indian team was heckled and booed. A section of the spectators became wild and abusive. The Indian team had boarded the bus when Amarnath, who was the Indian captain, was unable to swallow the insults. He charged out with a bat in hand. It was a brave act which silenced the angry crowd. This is one of the many anecdotes recalled in the book.
Another interesting story related is when Amarnath had tied up an attacking batsman like Harold Gimblett of Somerset during the 1946 Indian tour of England. Such was his perfect line and length that Gimblett ventured to ask him: ''Don't you ever bowl a half-volley?'' And back came that impish Amarnath humour. ``Oh yes. I bowled one in 1940.''