A History of Indian Sport Through Hundred Artefacts by Boria Majumdar: Excerpts

By: | Published: April 9, 2017 2:59 AM

One-and-a-half months before the Indians embarked on their tour of England, the Times, London, published the following report on 1 March 1932:

Although India eventually lost the match by 158 runs, the courage and grit shown at Lord’s clearly conveyed to the world that we would carve out a niche in the world of cricket in no time.

One-and-a-half months before the Indians embarked on their tour of England, the Times, London, published the following report on 1 March 1932:

The game gown on… The Delhi police may be having three sharp rounds with a rioting crowd in the Chandni Chowk, the crowded bazaar of the old city, but a mile or two away on the club ground set in the gardens that 400 years ago Shah Jehan built for his princess, a Roshanara side will be playing the Punjab Wanderers or an Army team from New Cantonments will be fielding in the white sunlight …Here is the team for England: The Maharaja of Patiala, Captain (eventually withdrew in favour of the Maharaja of Porbander), K.S. Ghanshyamsinhji (Kathiawar), Vice Captain, Amar Singh (Jamnagar), S.M.H. Colah (Bombay), Ghulam Mohammed (Ahmedabad), Joginder Singh (Punjab), B.E. Kapadia (Bombay), Lall Singh (Kuala Lumpur), N.D. Marshall (Bombay), J. Naoomal (Karachi), J.G. Navle (Gwalior), C.K. Nayudu (Indore), Nazir Ali (Patiala), S.M. Nissar (Punjab), P.E. Palia (Mysore), S. Godambe (Bombay), Wazir Ali (Bhopal). It will be seen that the team is composed entirely of Indians; the question of selecting Englishmen playing in India did not arise.

And soon after the Indian team arrived in England on 13 April 1932, the Evening Standard commented on the socio-political significance of the tour:

No politics, no caste, just cricket. This is the unofficial slogan of the cricket team that has come from India after a lapse of 21 years to try its strength against England and the first class counties. … There has never been such a team of contrasts meeting on the common footing of cricket. The 18 players speak eight to ten languages among them; they belong to four or five different castes. … Caste demands that the Hindus do not eat beef or veal, and that the Mohammedans avoid pork, bacon and ham. So to prevent any difficulties at meal times the order has gone forth that these things must not appear on any menu during the tour. Instead the men will eat mutton, chicken and fish. … The team contains six Hindus, five Mohammedans, four Parsees and two Sikhs. The Mohammedans forswear alcohol by religion and most of the others do so by choice. The Sikhs, who will play cricket in turbans, are similarly denied smoking…

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The Indians played their first tour match against T.G. Trott’s XI at Pelsham Farm, Pearmarsh, near Rye on 29 April 1932. Interestingly, playing against the Indian team in this match was Duleepsinhji. While the Indians acquitted themselves well, with Lall Singh, the Sikh from Malaya, leading the way, it was on 22 May 1932, in the match against the MCC, that the world got a glimpse of what India’s first homegrown legend, C.K. Nayudu, was capable of doing. Nayudu smashed the first Indian century of the tour in style. The Star’s headline on 22 May 1932 summed it up: ‘The Hindu Bradman in Form at Lord’s.’ The Observer was equally eloquent: ‘A brilliant not out innings of 116 by C.K. Nayudu was the feature of the first day’s play between All-India and the MCC.’

However, it was in the first and only Test match at Lord’s that the Indians shocked the English in the first half-hour itself. The MCC was reduced to a dismal 19-3, thanks to some excellent Indian bowling and fielding. Wrote the Birmingham Post:

It was an extraordinary start to the match. Sutcliffe and Holmes, Yorkshire’s record-smashing opening pair, united in a similar manner under the banner of England, went out full of cool confidence… But the first ball of Nissar’s second over … was an in-swinger and Sutcliffe, playing with the edge instead of the middle of the bat, diverted it into the wicket – and one of England’s greatest batsmen was out… The disappointment was redoubled and revived when the last ball of the same over, a delivery perfect in flight, length and pace, sent Holmes’ off stump spinning through the air, while the batsman was only half way through the stroke…Woolley and Hammond were now together…When he [Woolley] had got nine in 20 minutes, he played a ball from Nissar to a point between short leg and mid-on. The stroke was worth a comfortable single and no more, but for some extraordinary reason an attempt was made to secure two runs. The fielder, the blue turbaned Lall Singh, threw in rather wildly, but even so the wicketkeeper had time to gather it and remove the bails while Woolley was still several feet from home. The wicket was thrown away by wild calling, and three men were out for 19 …

Although India eventually lost the match by 158 runs, the courage and grit shown at Lord’s clearly conveyed to the world that we would carve out a niche in the world of cricket in no time.

Pages 52-55


Even though the Indians had won gold in Los Angeles in 1932, the absence of major European teams had somewhat diluted the impact of their sensational achievement. And that’s what made the Berlin Games of 1936 that much more significant. Also, in 1936, after much deliberation, the captaincy of the team had been handed to Dhyan Chand, who had by then established himself as the world’s greatest hockey player. Despite his stature as the best in the business, Dhyan Chand’s claims for captaincy had been overlooked in 1932 on account of what was seen as his inferior social status. By 1936, the sheer weight of his exploits and his towering presence on the field forced a rethink.

Interestingly, when the Indians, twice Olympic champions, set sail from Bombay on what was perhaps the mission of their lives, there was scarcely anybody around to see the team off. However, when they reached Berlin on 13 July, they were accorded a splendid welcome at Berlin station and were received as heroes. Here, in the heart of Britain’s greatest adversary, they were not mere colonial subjects, but honoured guests.

India had a clinical campaign, defeating Hungary 4-0, the Americans 7-0, Japan 9-0 and finally France 10-0. Once again, they were in the final. A crushing 8-1 win by Dhyan Chand’s men over hosts Germany gave them their third consecutive Olympic gold. The German papers were full of praise for the Indians. A correspondent for the Morning Post argued that Berlin would remember the Indian hockey team for a long time to come: ‘These players, it is said, glided over turf as if it is a skating rink.’

It is rumoured that Adolf Hitler

personally met Dhyan Chand and offered him an officer’s commission in the

Wermacht. This story is almost certainly apocryphal because none of the contemporary sources mention this incident and neither does Dhyan Chand write about it in his autobiography.

Pages 60-61


At the time when India won the Prudential World Cup in 1983, Indian cricket was not in the best financial health. The BCCI’s coffers were nearly empty and rewarding the players for the World Cup win was a difficult task. Rumours have it that Raj Singh Dungarpur, a key player in the BCCI at the time, had initially announced a financial reward of a few thousand rupees each for the players, which did not go down well with some of the senior members of the team.

In came Lata Mangeshkar.

Interestingly, India’s greatest singer of all time was approached by the BCCI to hold a special concert in honour of the victorious Indian cricket team in the aftermath of the 1983 victory and the money raised from the concert was used to

pay the players a sum of one lakh each. This was the maximum the board could afford to pay in those days and in appreciation, the BCCI allowed Lata Mangeshkar to host a charity match a decade and a half later to raise funds for the Deenanath Mangeshkar hospital.

Page 140

Excerpted with permission

from HarperCollins

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