A city with a rich cricket legacy gears up for IPL frenzy

Walk into the markets of this bustling city and you see a blaze of colours. Wading through the busy traffic can be hard, but Indore’s culinary delights make the effort worth it. The city, which has a rich cricket legacy, is now gearing up for a dash of Twenty20 matches when IPL comes to town on Saturday.

C. K. Nayudu chats with Holkar and the Maharani of Indore during a match in Indore in 1949.   -  PHOTO: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Walk into the markets of this bustling city and you see a blaze of colours. Wading through the busy traffic can be hard, but Indore’s culinary delights make the effort worth it.

The city, which has a rich cricket legacy, is now gearing up for a dash of Twenty20 matches when IPL comes to town on Saturday.

And it is appropriate too that T20 games will be played in a place that gave India two of its most dashing and charismatic stroke-makers — C.K. Nayudu and Syed Mushtaq Ali.

The manner in which Nayudu and Mushtaq Ali batted in the glory days of Holkar — a dominant force in Indian cricket till the mid-1950s — was way ahead of their time.

Aggressive

They were aggressive, dismissed attacks ruthlessly and brought in crowds. Most of all they believed in entertainment, a word that drives the shortest format.

The tall, lithe and ageless Nayudu, apart from being a canny medium-pacer, was an effortless striker of the ball. He was a game-changer.

A natural leader, he also captained India in its first ever Test match, against England at Lord’s in 1932; Nayudu was already 36 then. In his brief Test career, Nayudu made 350 runs in seven matches at 25.00 and claimed nine wickets.

The majesty of his cricket travelled way beyond numbers. Astonishingly fit, Nayudu continued playing First Class cricket till he was well into his 60s, often sending the fielders on a leather hunt.

Impulsive shot-maker

Interestingly, Mushtaq, an impulsive shot-maker, was first spotted by Nayudu in Indore. Mushtaq’s methods as an opener would have pleased the present-day T20 franchises. He would dance half-way down the track, literally, and could pull off unorthodox, but incredible strokes.

The explosive batsman played 11 Tests — those were days when international matches were few and far between — notching up 612 runs at 32.21. Mushtaq would have been a rage in T20 cricket.

Imagine the kind of damage Nayudu and Mushtaq would have inflicted on the bowling attacks with big, modern-day power bats, shorter boundaries and the kind of flat tracks laid out for the shortest format.

Both are no longer alive, but their spirit lives on in Indore, a city with a hoary cricket past that is now a part of this era’s T20 carnival.