It was the winter of 1966 when the West Indies cricket team was touring India. The team, led by the great Sir Garfield St. Auburn Sobers, had its pace attack led by Welesly Hall and Charlie Griffith. The latter was already notorious in India for having ended the career of Indian batsman, Nari Contractor, by cracking his skull with one of his bouncers! The Indian team was not expected to win by any stretch of the imagination but Chandu Borde distinguished himself by scoring a century in the very first innings and yet another in the third and last Test.
Those were the days of radio commentary and perhaps it was first time that the Indians were exposed to the greatness of Gary Sobers. The Indian batsman, Budhi Kunderan, had been given out wrongly by the umpire and Kunderan’s departure meant that the West Indies would win the match easily. But Sobers being Sobers, called Kunderan back to the crease. With a knock of 79, Kunderan almost saved the match for India but the greatness of the West Indies definitely kindled my interest in the game of cricket.
One of the most interesting books I came across was The Romance of Indian Cricket by Sujit Datta. The author captured several interesting moments of Indian cricket but none to beat the last wicket partnership of Shute Banerjee and Chandu Sarwate for India against Surrey. Neither Shute Banerjee nor Chandu Sarwate had any reputation of being batsmen of any recognized calibre and when Sarwate joined Banerjee for the last wicket, the end of the Indian innings seemed inevitable. With tea time approaching, as permitted by the rules of cricket, the Surrey captain requested postponement of tea by 30 minutes. The Indian pair not only kept company till the tea break but continued to tease the opposition till the draw of stumps. When Sarwate was out the next morning, each of the two batsmen had scored a century and the 249 runs that they had put up together was more than what had been scored by the Indian team at the fall of the ninth wicket.
Although the record for the tenth wicket in first class cricket stands at 307 runs, till date, the case of the Indian pair is the only instance in first class cricket where both the number ten and number eleven batsmen had scored a century.
Talking of number 11 batsmen, an interesting name that comes to mind is that of the Australian cricketer, Herbert Ironmonger, better known to his dear ones as Bert. Making his Test debut at the age of 46, he is considered to be one of the greatest spinners of all times, and if nothing else, then his 74 wickets in 14 Tests are ample proof of his spinning skill. Like India’s B. S. Chandrasekhar, Ironmonger had a deformity, but in his case it was accidental where he had lost half his spinning finger, however, his batting reputation (just 42 Test runs} being worse than his Indian counterpart, the narration goes thus.
Ironmonger had just gone out to bat in a Test match when there was a phone call for him. The phone attendant apologized that it was not possible to call Mr Ironmonger as he had just gone out to bat. The caller must have been one with wide cricketing knowledge for he responded by saying, “Okay, I will hold on.”
Cricket has had its share of many made-up jokes but the one involving Ken Barrington (82 Tests, 6,806 runs, Av. 58.67) and Fred Trueman (67 Tests, 307 wickets, Av. 21.57) beats them all. Once the Church of North England and the Church of South England decided to have a cricket match. The Church of North England decided that they would request the great English batsman Ken Barrington to play for them in the guise of Fr Barrington and there was no way the Church of South of England would ever come to know about it. When the match was through for an hour, the Bishop of the Church of England rang the stadium to know the progress of the match. He was shocked to learn that their team was reeling at 20 for 6. “And who is doing all the damage?” he asked. “Well,” came the reply, “They have someone known as Fr Trueman.”
This last one is true and it created such a furore that Allan Border had to apologize for his response. When Imran Khan met the Australian captain Allan Border, he made a remark that if he had India’s Sunil Gavaskar and B. S. Chandrasekhar on his team then Pakistan could beat Australia. Allan Border is said to have remarked that if he had two Pakistani umpires in his side then he could beat any team in the world!
It would not be out of place to mention that in the 1970’s one of the Pakistani umpires retired on the pretext that he was umpiring under a lot of pressure. So it is not always JEST CRICKET!