Facing the Invincibles

In late 1947 and early 1948, India, on their first tour after independence, were beaten 0-4 in Australia by the team that were soon to be called "Bradman's Invincibles". But several players gave good accounts of themselves, none more so than Vijay Hazare. In the fourth Test at Adelaide, Hazare, who had had a modest tour up to that point, made a century in each innings - the first Indian to achieve this distinction. Nearly six decades later, it remains one of the great feats by an Indian batsman. Australia (674) still beat India (381 and 277) by an innings:

Gideon Haigh
Perhaps because of the home-ground advantage each side enjoys, the history of cricket exchanges between Australia and India features a host of grand performances in the face of defeat. None, however, quite equals Vijay Hazare's 116 and 145 amid the ruins of the two Indian innings at Adelaide in January 1948. The first Indian to accomplish the feat in Test cricket is still the only man to do so during a follow-on.

Australia's first Test series with India, and India's first five-Test rubber, was a catchweight contest. The hosts were a constellation of talent seldom equalled; India were shorn of some of their best talent, including their first-choice leader Vijay Merchant, Mushtaq Ali, Rusi Modi and Fazal Mahmood.

They accepted their subordinate role in the remarks of their manager Pankaj Gupta, who announced his hopes that Don Bradman would play: the Indians, Gupta said, had come to learn from him. Monstered by an innings and 226 runs at Brisbane then by 233 runs at Melbourne, they gave little appearance of having learned much. Hazare the bowler surprisingly accounted for Bradman at Sydney, but his bat was muted, and there were few expectations of resistance when India subsided to 133 for 5, chasing 674, shortly after lunch on the third day.

In a match scheduled for six days, however, Hazare felt no need for haste, and soon found the pitch living up to the Adelaide Oval's reputation for excellence. He reminded Ian Johnson of Len Hutton - the Indian was, perhaps, even "tighter" and "less inclined to be tempted". But Hazare was not so much the renunciate that he could not work 14 boundaries. India finished nearly 300 behind, and followed on.

When Ray Lindwall began India's demolition in that follow-on, Hazare found himself taking guard in the first over to prevent a hat-trick, Vinoo Mankad and Lala Amarnath having been upended by the two preceding deliveries. Again, however, Hazare warmed to his task, meeting Keith Miller, Johnson, Ernie Toshack and Colin McCool alike. Though the crowds that turned out for Australia's batting exhibition on the first two days had dwindled, the 5000 present became rapt in Hazare's lonely vigil - "a great display of determined batting," said Adelaide's Advertiser. He was 102 by the close, out of 188 for 6. "Two separate centuries in a Test!" exclaims Hazare in his formal, rather stilted autobiography, A Long Innings. "It seemed too good to be true." Lindwall did eventually york him, breaking a 187-minute stand of 132 with Hemu Adhikari, but not until Hazare had batted six minutes short of 10 hours for the game, and generated 43% of India's runs from the bat.

Bradman later recalled a "lengthy argument with one of my compatriots" about Amarnath and Hazare - The Don preferred Hazare for his "soundness ... and the correctness of his stroke production", qualified only by concern about "a lack of aggression which prevented him taking charge of an attack". In order to advance, though, Indian cricket had first to rule a line beyond which it discountenanced withdrawal, and Hazare had here engraved a very deep one indeed.

Gideon Haigh is an Australian cricket writer and historian. His books include The Summer Game and Mystery Spinner: The Story of Jack Iverson.

Raj Singh Dungarpur
Keith Miller was bowling with the second new ball - and Hazare considers Miller to be the toughest bowler he faced. Miller was bowling outswingers, but Hazare was so well-set that he flicked him for three boundaries through midwicket in an over. Miller said "Braddles, I want a deep midwicket." Bradman turned around and said "Nugget, Australia's new-ball bowler will not have a deep midwicket."

Hazare's innings was awesome. The beauty was that he made it look easy. His hands moved up and down the handle like a flute player. When he cut, the right hand became dominant; when he drove the left. When he played fully forward, he stretched so much that he had to hop twice to get back.

Raj Singh Dungarpur played against Hazare towards the end of Hazare's career.

This article first appeared in the December issue of Wisden Asia Cricket magazine.