Two fine individual feats

GULU EZEKIEL

It was a masterly display by Polly Umrigar in the 1962 Port-of-Spain Test.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

INDIAN cricket has never been short of talented players. But it was not till the 1970s that individual brilliance combined with team effort to create the winning habit. Two of these individual feats are among the finest all-round performances in the history of Test cricket. Yet, not surprisingly for that era of Indian cricket, neither of them could prevent defeat.

The feats are separated by a decade, 1952 to 1962. And the names behind them — Vinoo Mankad and Polly Umrigar — are among the greatest cricketers India has ever produced.

The 1952 Lord's Test has become known by cricket lovers around the world forever as `Mankad's Match'. Not so well known is a similarly dazzling all-round display by Umrigar against the West Indies at Port- of-Spain, Trinidad in 1962.

On both occasions, Indian cricket found itself plumbing the depths of despair. In 1952 the team went to England without their premier all-rounder as Mankad had signed up to play for Haslingden in the Lancashire league. Before signing the contract he had requested the Indian Board to give him a guarantee of his selection for the touring party, which it refused.

The result was an unmitigated disaster. India was crushed in the first Test at Leeds, suffering the ignominy of losing first four wickets without a single run on the board in the second innings. The Board was then forced to eat humble pie and negotiate with the club to release Mankad for the three remaining Test matches.

Ten years later there was a crisis of more frightening proportions. Just weeks before the fourth Test match in which Umrigar excelled, India had lost captain Nari Contractor under tragic circumstances. He was struck on the head by Charlie Griffith during the tour match against Barbados and came close to losing his life.

The young Nawab of Pataudi (jr) was pitch-forked into the captaincy for the third Test onwards even as India was whitewashed 5-0.

Statistically Mankad's performance was superior, though not by much. He scored 72 and 184 (opening the innings) and bowled 73 overs (24 maidens), conceding 196 and picking up five wickets in the first innings.

In the second, he also tied down the English batsmen, giving away just 35 runs from his 24 overs, though he did not capture a wicket as they won by 8 wickets.

Umrigar had scores of 56 and 172 not out and had bowling figures of 56-24-107-5 in the first and in the second innings when West Indies won by scoring 176 for 3, he bowled 16 overs for just 17 runs without claiming a wicket.

At Lord's India scored 235 to which England replied with 537. In the second innings India totalled 378 and England laboured over 49.2 overs to reach 79 for two and victory.

England was led by Len Hutton and the West Indies by Frank Worrell (both later knighted). Compton, Evans, May, Trueman, Laker — legends all, took part in the Lord's Test.

West Indies also had in its ranks, Sobers, Kanhai, Hunte, Gibbs and Hall.

India had lost the previous three Test matches by big margins but at the Queen's Park Oval it put up its best show despite the defeat.

The hosts scored 444 in the first innings to which India could respond with only 197 and then a magnificent 422 when asked to follow on.

Just as the English batsmen had crawled to victory, the mighty West Indians took an astonishing 101 overs to reach their winning target.

India's Vinoo Mankad being introduced to the Queen of England before the 1952 Lord's Test, which came to be knownas Mankad's match.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

Captain Vijay Hazare won the toss at Lord's and this time the Indians, who had crumbled to the pace of Trueman in the first Test, got off to an excellent start with openers Mankad and Pankay Roy (35) putting on 106. Mankad's stroke-filled 72 was the top score with only Hazare (69 not out) providing any further resistance.

England's massive total was built round centuries by Hutton and wicket-keeper Evans. But they never managed to get on top of the left-arm spin of Mankad and the off spin of Ghulam Ahmed.

Mankad was far from finished. His 184 in the second innings was at that time the highest by an Indian in Tests and was a remarkable feat of skill and endurance. On the third day he bowled 31 overs and then as soon as England was bowled out, went in to open the innings. At the end of the day he was still batting on 86 with India at 137 for two. Single-handedly he was fighting to stave off the English onslaught.

More through exhaustion than anything else, he was bowled by Laker after adding 211 for the second wicket with his captain.

Umrigar was an abject failure with the bat on the 1952 tour. Ten years later in the Caribbean — his last tour — he was the elder statesman of the side and one of the stalwarts of Indian cricket, just as Mankad had been in 1952.

Umrigar was nowhere in the same class as Mankad as a bowler and had only once before taken five wickets in an innings with his off spinners. But the Indian touring side was thin in this department and Umrigar found himself bowling more than expected.

Umrigar had top scorer Kanhai (139) among his victims though it was only an unbeaten 10th wicket stand worth 98 between Worrell and Hall that saw the Windies cross 400.

Umrigar was the lone batsman to cross 50 in the first innings as Hall routed the Indians who lost their first four wickets with just 30 on the board.

It was a different story when they followed on though. Promoted five places up to number three in the batting order, the left-handed Salim Durrani scored a dazzling 104 as the Indian batsmen suddenly found their touch.

After that, it was Umrigar all the way. Coming in at 192 for four, he remained unbeaten when the innings ended at 422. It meant he had smashed the bowling for 172 — including four boundaries in one over from Hall — while the other six batsmen could score just 58 between them.

Mankad and Umrigar remain the only Indians to score a century and take five wickets in an innings in the same Test. And though both were fighting a losing battle, they brought a glimmer of hope to Indian fans with their all-round brilliance.