Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Sunday, January 09, 2005
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Excerpted from:INDIAN SUMMERAn Account of the Cricket Tour in England 1946by John Arlott(Longmans, Green and Co., 1947)==================================================================V.M. Merchant:
His 148 at Lord's was not Vijay Merchant's highest innings of the tour, but it was his richest. The air held rain and little of thesun, yet, English as the setting was, this Indian batsman showedus there his best. I knew how anxious he was to make a hundredthat day and I was amazed to see his stroke-play flowering underhis anxiety.Merchant's physical quality is neither the massive might nor thewhipcord leanness of other great batsmen. There is something softlyfeline about him -- at the wicket, shirt and sweater heavy towrists, thick white muffler at his throat, blue-capped, he movespad-footed -- but the stroke, for all its control, is flash-fastbecause, ignoring the bowler's hand, he plays every ball strictly"off the pitch." An innings by Merchant grows; it sprouts noexotic blooms but its construction is perfect to the last detail.No chance, no ball which beats the bat, no brutishness of thewicket, no pace or spin or swing can disconcert him.Like Herbert Sutcliffe, until he is finally and definitely out,Merchant is the batsman in possession, intent upon tending his,and his team's, score. Daya after day, season-long, I watchedhim, notching off each hour with thirty runs and marking the mealintervals with his cap -- when the peak is directly over hisright ear, it is time for lunch or tea or close of play. Not onlywas he the mainstay of the team's batting in terms of the runs hemade himself, but often he nursed the start of a big innings byModi or Mankad or Hazare, each of whom batted better in hiscompany. Merchant's batting technique is never violent, he seemsto have an unvarying system of ball-evaluation which controls hisbatting reflexes. Bowl an over of balls two feet short of alength and he will hit you for six certain fours to mid-wicket onthe leg side; bowl a good-length over on the middle stump and hewill play you back a maiden, and this holds good whether hisscore is 0 or 100. But it is not to say that he cannot, or doesnot, adjust his batting to the state of the game. If the stateof the wicket reasonably permits it, he will start to cut when hehas made about 50, and his cut is the finest in first-classcricket today. More rarely he will use a whip-lash cover-drive.Merchant's soundness is vividly illustrated by his methods ofdismissal during the tour. He was most frequently dismissed LBW,the in-swinger which straightened off the pitch. That ball wasthe one for which the seam bowler prays -- he can but pray, forno man alive can bowl it at will; that rare, providentialdelivery came to be regarded as Merchant's weakness -- since nodeliberately contrived ball could be relied upon consistently toworry him. Merchant, as batsman, captain and man, is wellpictured in an incident in the match against the South of Englandat the Hastings Festival. He was captain of the side, in theansence of Pataudi. On the third day he was in considerable painfrom strained stomach-muscles. Beleieving that changes in thebatting order often unsettle batsmen, he decided to go in firstas usual, but to get out fairly quickly. Once at the crease hescored at twice his usual pace, but by the same strokes. Hisdeeply absorbed batting-sense allowed him to take a risk only inmaking the ball into a punishable one, but not in playing it. Onhis dismissal he returned to the pavillion in increased pain toshake his head sadly at his inability to sacrifice his wicket.Soft-footed at the crease, Merchant appears heavy-footed in theoutfield, but he always chases the ball to the last hope; oftenover-anxious about a catch, he was yet safer than many of theteam in the deepfield. As the tour wore on he improved as aclose-to-the-wicket field and, if not in the first class there,his short-leg catch to dismiss T.N. Pierce at Southend wasmemorable. As a captain he took few risks; he maintaineddiscipline by his good manners, unaffected dignity and genuineconsideration for his players.It is impossible not to like Vijay Merchant; his manners arepolished to the last degree, his consideration for othersimpeccable -- and he looks you in the face when he talks to you.His honesty is unmistakable -- he speaks out the truth, but nevercrudely. His charm, like his cricket, has its roots in atranquility which runs deeper than the level of "temperament."
His rebellious, straight black hair gleaming, laughter richlypresent in his deep-seated eyes, he bustles powerfully throughhis short run and bowls with a thick left arm -- the orthodoxleft-hander's spinner leaving the bat, or, when least expectedand with no change of action, the ball that goes with his arm.And, the ball bowled, he is tense to scamper to mid-on or mod-offto stifle the single at conception. Give him the ball, for hewants to bowl again, his over will last little more than aminute and he has so much to do. There is no time for expressionsof regret or surprise or disappointment, there are many ways ofdismissing a man and he will try them all. Throw a bail-highfull-toss, or the spinner, tossed higher but pitching no furtherup, the in-swinger at almost medium pace, or spin to a length andwatch -- but never become automatic, never bowl the aimless ball,never let the batsman rest. And Vinoo Mankad never allows abatsman to rest. From his first over in England Mankad was a good slow left-hander.By the end of the tour, there is little doubt that he was thebest slow left-arm bowler in the world. His spinner, whichturned on the most perfect wickets in India, sometimes turnedtoo much in England but he had control of degree of spin quiteearly and it helped him take many wickets. His surprise quicker ball (the one which went with the arm and the definite in-swinger)beat many batsmen. At one period he threatened to swing too often,but a word was enough and he began the spinner with a surprisefaster ball -- a faster ball which could not be detected in delivery.Perhaps his arm was sometimes a little lower than the purists wouldwish, but largely it was his thick, muscular arm and shoulder development contrived to exaggerate a tendency to drop the arm.Always Vinoo was learning, learning to bowl to the left-hander(his first major problem), learning to vary his field more thanhe had needed to do for Indian wickets and Indian batsmen(approaching nearer to uniformity), learning to gauge the pace ofwickets, learning to sum up batsmen encountered for the first time.As a batsman Mankad is careful, watchful in defence but with a hitting power which won him runs and respect in the first Test match.His late-cut is a dab which he enjoys, his leg-hitting and hiscover-drives his chief sources of income. He will score many hundredsbecause he never lacks interest or concentration; he could be madeinto an opening batsman, but I hope he will not allow this to happen.There are other comparable batsmen, but bowlers of his class are few.In the field he always tried hard, ran well and looked for catches.At Bradford, keen eyes, set in long Yorkshire heads, watched Mankad,watched him hour-long, before careful tongues pronounced him right.Only one other cricketer (Howorth) besides Mankad succeeded intaking 100 wickets and scoring 1000 runs in the English cricketseason of 1946. That relative standing ranks Mankad fairly inEnglish cricket.In 1947 Vinoo Mankad will return to England to play in league cricketwhere he will undoubtedly be a great success. But it is essential that he returns to India for each season there, and that, so long ashe is wanted, he should be available for representative Indian teams.He follows in the tradition of the great English professionalall-rounders. Like them he is a craftsman who lives his craft sodeeply that becomes almost an art. When the ball is thrown to himhe ctaches it as naturally as a mason takes up his chisel, apparentlyunconsciously, yet with a movement which is part of nature. Like thecraftsman, he is without duplicity, yet full of the mellow artificeof practice. The type is understandable in England where it may bebred into succeeding generations, but in India, where cricket on anintensive scale is comparatively new, it is rare and to be treasured.For Mankad the game was always bigger than his own figures; when hehad bowled until his spinning finger was raw and bleeding, he stillbowled without complaint -- and he never ceased to spin the ball.He has absorbed the strategy of the game as naturally as breathing,but, for all his technical ability, the greatest gift he has to sharewith cricketers is a bedrock humour which shows his mischief devoidof malice, his kindness springing from understanding. He belongs tocricket, cricket is richer for having him, and I am happy to knowhim for my friend.
Vijay Hazare, tiger-hunter, all-round cricketer and captain in theState Army of Baroda looks, at first encounter, none of these things.A slim man with a shy, gentle smile, much averse to wlaking in the rain, hiding within himself at social functions, rarely speaking unless spoken to, one could take the impression of an impracticalrecluse. See his stance at the wicket: one hand at the extreme topof his bat handle, the other at the extreme bottom pressing againstthe blade, the bad between the pads so that it cannot be movedstraight forward or straight back, the batsman's entire weightthrown down upon it, right shoulder pulling around to set himfour-square to the bowler. How on earth can a man with such a stance, the perfectly wrong stance, make runs?But see him stripped, without an ounce of spare flesh, sinew andmuscle sliding rhytmically -- not dragging muscle of brute strengthbut the fine, delicate athletic machine, carefully tended -- and recognise fitness for speed. Watch his grim antagonism at the wicketwhen the state of the game is against his side, the watchfulness thatlooks for every possible subtlety in the bowling, and recognize thequality of resistance. Watch that awkward stance gradually melt ashis square-cut finds the off-side gap, or his hook the leg-boundary,and see a batsman always difficult to dismiss, who seizes his runs as they come, taking no risks, but only a toll.Modelled in his run-scoring strokes on merchant, Hazare is neversatisfied with his score, is incapable of throwing away his wicket.The century mark, the double-century mark, are only milestones in anunvarying pace of scoring. Few critics will become lyrical about hisbatting style, but that will not woory Hazare; he is concerned withscores and is developing into a capable machine for making them.As a bowler, he spends the major portion of his twelve-yard run-upgazing at the long-on boundary. His delivery is low and slingy and his pace varies between medium and fast-medium. At this peed he bowlsthe in-swinger, out-swinger, off-break and leg-break. And the leg-break is finger-spun. No, it is not cut, it is not rolled --it is *finger-spun* -- finger-spun with the full four-finger flap.This delivery, fortunately for the batsmen who oppose him, is usually somewhat short of a length and pitched on or outside the off-stump so that it leaves the batsman sufficiently for him to abstain from it.The greatest tactical value of this delivery is the surprise of thebatsman at finding it bowled at all. But, once he has identified theunconcealable action with which it is bowled, there is the "one whichdoesn't." For sometimes Hazare imparts the spin only for the ball,at its appreciable speed, to fail to "bite" and run straight throughafter the batsman has shaped for the leg-break. Hazare was coached byGrimmett for a period and his leg-break is Grimmett's leg-break speeded up. Hazare was always playable because although he couldmake the ball come off the pitch at fair speed, he was inclined tobowl just short of a length. he usually took wickets as soon as thebatsmen attempted to force the pace, and, with or without theencouragement of wickets, he would bowl as long as asked and neverslacken.He has the finest type of temperament for a cricketer; not a man with"no nerves at all" but a man with nerves which key him to the peak ofhis powers when the situation most demands it.The final figures of the tour show Hazare second in batting averagesand second in bowling averages. This is a fair measure of his valueto the team but he achieved these positions unsensationally, almostobscurely. He captures runs and wickets, but not the imagination --a fact which, I am sure, does not disturb him a scrap.
* * *The Tour (First-Class) Averages:
Inn NO Runs HS Avg. 100s O M R W Avg.
Vijay Merchant 41 9 2385 242* 74.53 7
Vinoo Mankad 41 1 1129 132 28.00 3 1160.1 301 2679 129 20.76
Vijay Hazare 33 6 1344 244* 49.77 2 604.1 147 1386 56 24.75
Test Matches only:
Vijay Merchant 5 0 245 128 49.00 1
Vinoo Mankad 5 0 124 63 24.80 0 139.5 40 292 11 26.55
Vijay Hazare 5 0 123 44 24.60 0
Notes:1. Merchant has the second-highest career first-class average (after Bradman) of all cricketers with at least 10000 runs: 13248 runs at 71.22 (44 100s, HS 359*). In his 10 tests, he scored 859 runs at 47.72 (3 100s). He never captained India in a Test.2. Ignoring Arlott's advice, Mankad opened for India often (including in the 1st Test of the 1946 tour) and, with Pankaj Roy, put on a record 413 runs for the first wicket, against New Zealand in 1955-56. It was his highest innings. In his 44 Tests, he scored 2109 runs at 31.47 (5 100s, HS 231) and took 162 wickets at 32.32 (8x5w, 2x10w). In First Class cricket, he scored 11558 runs at 34.91 (26 100s). >>> I have been unable to get hold of his FC bowling stats! He was India's sixth captain in Tests and led the side six times.3. Hazare was India's fifth Test captain and led in 14 Tests, scoring centuries in his first 2 Tests as captain (against England, 1951-52). In his 30 Tests, he scored 2192 runs at 47.65 (7 100s, HS 164*). More than once, he was called upon to attempt a rescue after a disastrous start to the Indian innings, in 1952 in England. In first-class cricket, he stands seventh on the all-time list with 18621 runs at 58.19 (60 100s, HS 316*), and with Gul Mahomed, holds the record for the highest partnership for any wicket in FC cricket (577 for the fourth wicket for Baroda v Holkar, 1946-47). He scored 309 out of his team's total of 387 (79.8%, Rest v. Hindus, 1943-44 in Bombay), the second highest rate of monopolising the scoring in FC cricket (I believe that was in a losing cause too!)
Saturday, January 01, 2005
ARTICLES AND OBITUARIES
The Times - London
The Daily Telegraph:
- Article by Mihir Bose
Guardian - Manchester
Sydney Morning Herald:
- by K.R. Meherhomji
Rediff.com: special comments....
- Chandu Borde
- M.L. Apte
- John Arlott
- Polly Umrigar
- Remembering Vijay Hazare