Memorable debut

Nissar had a great time with the ball.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

India made its Test debut 75 years ago at Lord's. Though the team lost the match against England (June 25-28), it won the hearts of one and all. Gulu Ezekiel goes down memory lane.

India made an impressive debut at Lord's 75 years ago, even though it eventually lost the one-off Test by 158 runs.

Not much was expected of the tourists with the media, fans and players focusing on the tour to Australia later that winter.

C. K. Nayudu, Indian cricket's first genuine superstar, became the captain by default after the two Maharajahs — who were captain and vice-captain on the tour — pulled out of the Test for various reasons.

Nayudu did a fine job as India's first captain and his leadership skills went a long way in helping the team put up an impressive show.

The tourists would have loved to have the services of two of their countrymen, Iftikhar Ali Khan (the Nawab of Pataudi) and Prince Duleepsinhji, both of whom had made a tremendous impact on English cricket. But that was not to be.

Still, India went into the 1932 Test match with confidence after making a good impression in its warm-up matches against the counties, losing just one of the 11 played till then. And just four days before Lord's, the team had beaten Worcestershire by three wickets.

A month earlier the tourists had drawn their match against the MCC with Nayudu recording a century on his first appearance at Lord's.

The playing XI was a fascinating mix of the religions that make up India — there were four Muslims, two Parsis and a Sikh in the famous line-up.

The Indians could expect no favours — all season England captain Douglas Jardine was perfecting his theory of `bodyline' that he would unleash with such fury and success in Australia. A full house of 24,000 turned up for the opening day, many of them Indians residing in and around London. England had a massively talented batting line-up and Jardine had no hesitation in batting first on winning the toss.

Jack Hobbs, `The Master' had retired just then. But his trusted partner Herbert Sutcliffe had for company his fellow-Yorkshire opener Percy Holmes. The previous week they had set a world record of 555 for the opening wicket. Sutcliffe and Holmes were followed by Frank Woolley, Wally Hammond, Jardine, Eddie Paynter and Les Ames, all legends. A massive total was on the cards.

Imagine the stunned reaction around the ground when within the opening hour the home side was staggering at 19 for three! The Indians in the crowd must have been rubbing their eyes in disbelief; even the players themselves could scarcely believe it.

Nissar, in his second over, did the damage. With his first delivery he bowled Sutcliffe (known as the `unbowlable') with a yorker when the batsman was on three, then with his sixth delivery Nissar sent Holmes' off stump cartwheeling.

Then Woolley (9) attempting a risky second run paid the price as he was brilliantly run out by Lall Singh, India's finest fielder then.

Hammond and his captain put their heads down and fought hard to restore respectability to the innings. England reached 101 when Hammond (35) was bowled by Amar Singh.

In Nayudu's own words: "Our bowlers were on top and the England batsmen were thoroughly subdued".

Then Nayudu struck two quick blows with his off spinners. First he had Paynter leg before for 14, then removed his counterpart, Jardine, for an invaluable 79.

England was on the back foot at 166 for six — this is when the Indians should have hammered home their advantage. Instead, as would happen on innumerable occasions over the next 75 years, the host was allowed to slip away.

Wicket-keeper Ames survived a stumping chance off the very first ball he faced. Later he was missed by Nayudu, who had badly bruised his hand in the process. Ames chanced his arm for 65 but England's total of 259 was far from impressive.

Nissar covered himself in glory with figures of four for 93. Both he and his new ball partner Amar Singh exhibited great pace and movement off the pitch, surprising the English batsmen. India had just enough time to reach 30 for no loss on the first day. By lunch on the second day, India had crossed 100 with just two wickets gone. Then began the collapse. Nayudu made 40, the top score in the first essay, though he was troubled by injury. The sixth wicket fell at 165. But the tail did not wag and the innings folded up for 189, conceding a lead of 70 runs.

The top half of England's batting was again done in by pace and at 67 for four, India was back in the match.

Once again it was Jardine who played a valuable knock. This time he was supported by Paynter (54). Overnight 141 for four, the captain's 85 not out enabled his side to declare at 275 for eight at noon on the third and final day, setting India a target of 346.

India could have managed a draw, but with three of its players injured, it proved to be a tough task. At 108 for seven, it looked all over till a late flourish from Amar Singh, who made 51. He added 74 runs with Lall Singh before the innings folded up for 187.

India was defeated but not disgraced. Indeed, it was widely felt that India had outclassed its opponent in bowling and fielding. It could hold its head high at the end.

So impressed was Neville Cardus that he made a plea for another Test match to be played.

The journey over the next 75 years would have plenty of ups and downs. But the first few steps on the hard road of Test cricket had been taken confidently.

The Scores

England 259 (W. R. Hammond 35, D. R. Jardine 79, L. E. G. Ames 65, Nissar five for 93) and 275 for eight decl. (D. R. Jardine 85 not out, E. Paynter 54, R. W. V. Robins 30, F. R. Brown 29, Jahangir Khan four for 60) beat India 189 (Naoomal Jaoomal 33, S. Wazir Ali 31, C. K. Nayudu 40, W. E. Bowes four for 49, W. Voce three for 23) and 187 (Naoomal Jaoomal 25, S. Wazir Ali 39, Lall Singh 29, L. Amar Singh 51, Hammond three for nine)