Cricket, lovely cricket. These 3 beautiful words throw so much light on this great and magnificent game that it is difficult to comprehend, though it is diluted today with fancy words, stupid rules and bad behavior. Right from our childhood we were taught that rowdy behavior and bad manners are signs of inferiority complex. So be it. I fell in love with this great game when I was about 6 years old, the time my dad took me to the corporation stadium in Madras. We were residing in Madras then. The size of the stadium was awe inspiring. Now all these things had me thinking, what if God grants me a wish, only one. Being a lover of this magnificent game I would request God to take me back to the late 50’s and 60’s. Those were really glorious days for a young boy. Open fields, big grounds wherein one could go and play the whole day. The first test I saw was at the Brabourne stadium, the West Indies being led by Alexander. I can only visual Gibbs with his loping run up and Polly Umrigar bowled by Gilchrist. I remember this wicket because he had hit his previous delivery for a 4 and distinctly remember dad saying in chaste Marathi that he would lose his middle stump to the next delivery and lo and behold, it exactly like he said. Umrigar had scored 43 runs. Gary Sobers losing his bat while trying to hook a fast bowler Ghulam Guard. Also remember Collie Smith batting and Harikar being hit on the head.
This was followed by a team led by Richie Benaud comprising of Weekes, Graveney, Ian Craig, fast bowlers Harold Rhodes and Meckiff. The sight of Graveney all style and grace and Weekes lbw to Shivalkar for 44. Then came the New Zealanders led by John Reid, having Burt Sutcliffe at 41 years fielding like a tiger in the deep. The sight of Dayle Hadlee, elder brother of Sir Richard bowling with a glorious action. He had his career curtailed due to injury. Dick Motts who had a long run-up but walked most of it and ran only the last 10 paces, these memories remain etched in the mind. The Ceylonese team led by Michael Tissera having Stanley Jaisinghe, a big name in Ceylon then. Remember watching Ramesh Nagdeo and Vilas Godbole opening the batting against them and Godbole hitting a shoulder high delivery from their fast bowler Fernando for a six towards deep fine leg, the ball landing near the Maharaja Patiala Pavilion. Majestic Ted Dexter leading the English side having Richardson, Pullar, Barrington, off spinner David Aaron and wicket keeper John Murray to name a few. Two incidents stand out, firstly, Ramakant Desai knocking John Murrays middle stump out of the ground and Milkha Singh getting out for 2 runs exactly at 12 o’clock and the crowd shouting 12 bajj gaye. Also remember Ted Dexter being brilliantly caught by Sardesai at short extra cover off the bowling of Vasant Ranjane and Salim Durani hitting a 6 off their fast bowler Alan Brown. The great Richie Benaud led a star stellar Australian side having O’Neill, Harvey, Davidson, Grout and McDonald in their ranks. Distinctly remember brilliant centuries by Harvey, O’Neill and Nari Contractor. Clearly remember O’Neill throwing a ball underarm from the east stand right into the hands of wicket keeper Grout. Missed out on watching Simpsons Aussies as we were out of station. Then came Chandrashekhars debut against Mike Smiths Englishmen capturing 4 for 67. It was so electrifying that every ball delivered was a wicket taking delivery. Saw one of the best of spinners in the world then, Fred Titmus, who in the 2nd innings played out for a draw in the company of debutant Jeff Jones. Remember John Price, their fast bowler, who had a funny run-up being hit for a 6 of the first ball in the 2nd innings by Buddhi Kunderan. Then came Dowlings Kiwis. He got a brilliant 139 in this match. But the best performance came from Ramakant Desai, who had 6 for 56. As Ramakant would start his runup the clapping would begin from East stand and go right around the stadium like a Mexican wave and culminate at the Governors Pavilion with everyone shouting Booowwwwwwllllllleeeeedddddddd. 2 days prior to this test match, had the privilege of watching Pataudi in the nets. He instructed Bedi to pitch up the ball as he was trying to concentrate on his footwork.
After many deliveries Bedi did something different which went unnoticed and the ball instead of landing in the regular area landed fractionally short and Pataudi was stumped by krishnamoorthy. Pataudi shouted at Bedi “Bish, I asked you to pitch it up” Such was the artistry of Bedi. Next I saw was Bill Lawrys Aussies. They had Ian Chappell, Redpath, Stackpole, Walters, Mckenzie, Gleeson and Mallett. Watched Chappell at the nets treating Ajit Naik, the fast bowler, like a small boy, repeatedly hitting him into the stands. Coming to the match I can remember India batting first after winning the toss. Sardesai hitting 3 glorious boundaries off Mckenzie before being castled by beautiful in swinger. Mckenzie had 6 for 66. Pataudi scored 95 runs and had a big partnership with Ashok Mankad who scored a classy 60 odd runs. Pataudi had a let off at 5 when Malett dropped a sitter at square leg off Gleeson.
Who can forget Lawry throwing his cap on the ground in disgust. Chappell being foxedby Prasanna for 31, who enticed him to come out only to miss the delivery and being bowled.During those test matches there would be a rest day and prior to this day a function would be held on the ground to felicitate the visitors. Had the wonderful opportunity of meeting all the Aussies and especially taking the autographs of Walters and Mckenzie. Chappell and Lawry were extremely snobbish and they refused to give autographs. During all these wionderful years had the privilege of watching great performances by Borde, Manjrekar, Durrani , Pataudi, Chandrasekhar, Bedi, Prasanna, Venkatraghavan, Engineer, Contractor, Kunderan, Hanuman Singh to name a few from our side and among the visitors Reid, Dowling, Dexter, Barrington, Richardson, Titmus, Chappell, Walters, Redpath, and the great West Indians Sir Garfield Sobers, Kanhai, Gibbs, Butcher, Hall, Griffith, Hunte, Sir Viv Richards and Clive Llyod who followed later. Whatever I stated is because of my fond memories and the love for the game. Before I forget, let me state that I had the privilege of meeting Hunte, Hall and Griffith at the Khar Gymkhana in 1965 and actually shaking hands with them. These memories will always remain with me.