In an international career spanning 37 Test matches, Clarrie Grimmett picked up 216 wickets at a sparse average of 24.21. His 200th wicket would come in his 33rd Test, and no bowler in the history of Test Cricket would reach that landmark in fewer Tests for the next eight decades. In December 2018, Yasir Shah, a leg-spinner in Grimmett’s own mould, would change that.
It was the winter of 1933. Two leaders were guiding their troops across the length and breadth of Undivided India – one through the palaces, clubs, hunting grounds and cricket fields of the princely states and the Raj; the other through the cities, towns and villages of a country divided by religion and caste, seeking to stand on its own two feet as a nation. On the one hand, Douglas Jardine, vilified by the Australians for his Bodyline tactics in the last Ashes series that had almost severed their ties with the mother country, was on his last tour as Captain of England. On the other hand, Mahatma Gandhi’s campaign for freedom was at a crossroads. In 1932, campaigners like B.R. Ambedkar were fighting for the cause of the lower castes.
Wadekar’s return to India would be celebrated by a Roman Triumph that Julius Caesar would have been proud of. Undoubtedly, the twin victories marked the greatest moment in India’s four decades of Test cricket. Former Indian cricketer Yajurvindra Singh recalls the reception: “A red carpet was laid out at the airport. The team was taken in an open-top motorcade. Ajit in a silver Impala leading the pack, with garlands of marigold around his neck and waving to the crowd, was an image that one can conjure as one of the most significant moments in the annals of Indian cricket.”
They say the best things in life come in twos – Eyes, ears, hands, legs, wine and food, the animals that boarded Noah’s ark……In cricket, this truism often goes back to the beginnings of journeys that were destined to start together and carry the two individuals to the pinnacle of their sport along vastly different paths and often on varied timelines. It is a phenomenon that repeats itself time and again over the course of history and yet remains a story largely untold. This is the tale of two captains who made their debut together and would go down in history for the remarkable path to success that each would tread.
Four decades ago, it was Packer. This time, it is Sandpaper. Steve Smith and David Warner’s bans may have just tilted the odds in favour of Virat Kohli’s team in the India vs Australia series.
Over the past few months, the closer we have got to the much anticipated Australia-India Test series, more often have the names of Steve Smith and David Warner, two men who should not be seen on the field during this series, been mentioned. That by itself is not surprising. They have been the two pillars of Australian cricket in recent years, and the possibility, indeed certainty, that the team will have to do without them in this crucial series is causing understandable heartburn.
KL Rahul is hanging on for dear life but using up the rope quickly. The frayed ends at the edge of the cliff are visible, and it won’t be long before it snaps.
In December 1958, my father, then 22-years old, had watched the 6 feet 2 inches tall, 21-year old fast bowler in his debut series, running in almost from the boundary of the impossibly large Eden Gardens, broad shoulders swinging rhythmically from side to side, right hand curled by his hip, moving in sympathy with each stride, a smooth transition to a classical fast bowler’s leap, and the ball screaming down at over 90-miles per hour, headed straight at the mesmerised Indian opener. The menacing follow through and the flying crucifix around the neck completed the larger than life imagery.
Early in the 1970s however, the nation found one man who prized his wicket like no Indian had done before, scored runs with technical ability, preciseness and most importantly a consistency rarely seen from an Indian batsman. With 774 runs against the mighty West Indies in his debut series, Sunil Manohar Gavaskar had already signalled he was someone special, and over the next decade and a half, he would become the foundation on which modern Indian batting would build its future.