Hanumant Singh, the former Indian batsman, died at the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai on the morning of Wednesday, November 29. He had been in hospital for more than 20 days, in intensive care, battling renal and lung failure caused by Hepatitis B and Dengue, which led to his kidneys and lungs failing. He was in the intensive care unit on life support - ventilator and dialysis. The funeral is to be held in Mumbai at 4.30 pm today.
Hanumant was in good health as recently as the beginning of November. He returned from Rajasthan, the team he coaches in the Ranji Trophy, earlier this month with the intention of watching the Champions Trophy final. However, he took ill soon after returning and could not attend the CK Nayudu awards function on November 4 or the final on November 5.
A career spanning more than 20 years was highlighted by a century on Test debut (against England) and prolific run-scoring in the domestic game but was blighted when he was unceremoniously dropped from the Test team while at the top of his game.
A dashing strokeplayer with immaculate footwork, Hanumant (known as 'Chhotu' for his diminutive size) followed up the debut Test century with good batting against Australia and the pace of McKenzie and co, making 94 in the second innings of the first Test at Madras. He did reasonably well in the Tests against New Zealand and West Indies at home and on the tour of England in 1967. Then at the peak of his career, he was inexplicably dropped for the 1967-68 tour of Australia.
Vijay Merchant , then chairman of selectors, was instrumental in bringing Hanumant back into the national team for the 1969 series against New Zealand but the return was ill-timed. Personal problems occupied his mind and, as a result, he suffered against the pace of Dayle Hadlee in Mumbai. That was the last time he played for India.
While his Test average of 31.18 belied his class, his statistics in the Ranji Trophy were more reflective. He amassed 6170 runs with 15 centuries at 43.90 and came close to breaking Vijay Hazare's then record total of 6312. The 1966-67 season was his crowning glory as he totalled 869 runs at 124.14 and scored 109 and an unbeaten 213 in the final against the might of Bombay. A shrewd captain, Hanumant led Central Zone to their first Duleep Trophy triumph in 1971-72 and ended up with more than 12,000 runs in first-class cricket.
Srinivas Venkataraghavan, former India offspinner and later an international umpire, rated Hanumant very highly against spin. "His greatest quality was the suppleness and his wristwork," he said. "Hanumant would work on the bowler without offending him, he would cleverly play in the gaps, pushing and nudging the ball away and collecting runs. He had soft hands and was always in control of the shot, always on top. As a bowler you had to keep the ball away from his leg stump because he was very strong in that direction. He could place it at will if you drifted towards his pads, a bit like Azhar. Perhaps the best strategy against him was to peg away at the off stump, bringing the ball in because he was not strong on the cut. Which is why I would bowl outside off, slanting it in to keep him quiet. But he had solid defense and a very stable temperament."
After retiring as a player, Hanumant continued with the game as coach, administrator, selection committee chairman and ICC match referee. He was also an insightful commentator on the changing nature of the game, believing, for example, that deception in spin bowling was on the decline of late. "People are bowling the straight ball in a different way," he said. "They are over-spinning it, bowling top-spinners, some of which go the other way, which only Prasanna used to bowl in my time. But the subtleties of pace variations are definitely not as good. This and the trajectory go together. And too much one-day cricket is affecting use of the crease."
Known for his straight-talking, Hanumant held strong views about chucking and believed umpires should be given the authority to call it as they see it. "They say it's only after 15 degrees that the eye is first able to see a throw. That itself solves the problem: The moment you see it with the naked eye, you call it."
Hanumant, a teetotaller and non-smoker, was known for his health and fitness, and even at the age of 67 was an active member of the cricketing fraternity. He suffered a devastating tragedy four years ago when Suryaveer, his elder brother, two sisters and a niece were killed in a motor accident near Ahmedabad.