Two of the best cricket stories I've ever heard came to me via my father. I recounted them both on the old rec.sport.cricket newsgroup many years ago. While the stories are still out there in the rec.sport.archives, I would like to reproduce them here for a couple of reasons. I'd like to have an easily linkable permanent link, and secondly, there might be other folks interested in hearing them. I'll reproduce them in their original form, as I typed them in.
In the spirit of my recent trip to Australia, the first one is about CK Nayudu and Keith Miller. As I wrote on rec.sport.cricket at the time, I heard this story from my Dad on a walk after dinner, wrapped up in shawls on a freezing cold Delhi night. It was around the time of the India Pakistan 1978 series, when Kapil's hitting was the rage and my father probably felt the need to remind youngsters that CK had "been there, done that". He also knew I was obsessed with Australian cricketers in general and Bradman in particular and again, felt the need to remind me that Keith Miller was a true great as well. I never thought of this story as being just a CK Nayudu story; my Dad told it as tribute to both Keith Miller and CK Nayudu, two two great cricketers.
Here it is. There is a twist to this story, which will form the basis of my next post over at Different Strokes.
Back in 1945-46 (I think, the Services team couldn't have been touring at any other time), the Australian Services team made a tour of India. They were captained by Lindsay Hassett and the team included one Keith Miller (also Bill Brown, if I'm not mistaken). Uday Rajan has posted scorecards of all the official matches played on this tour; I'm not sure whether they're in Cricinfo.
Anyway, one stop on their tour was a friendly match in New Delhi. Delhi in those days, especially the area around Connaught Place was a pretty interesting place; political meetings were held by the Congress in the area that now is taken up by that monstrosity - Palika Bazaar - and fairly serious sports matches were held at the Modern School, Barakhamba Road sports grounds. For those unaware of Modern School, it was an academic and sporting powerhouse worthy of the finest in India in its heyday. Also, the Rivoli Cinema was opened and Italian prisoners of war (this is from earlier days, '43 possibly) were taken there for their entertainment. How Italian prisoners of war landed up being interned in India is beyond me; maybe someone that knows the history of that time better can tell me.
The Australian Services team was scheduled to play one friendly match in New Delhi and this was played at the Modern School Grounds (come to think of it, I'm not sure of the venue or the opposition; I heard this story a long time ago). My Dad had just started living in the boarding house in that time (ruled by an autocratic Hungarian matron) and was a pretty avid cricketer even at the tender age of 10. So, naturally, when news went around of the match to be played, most school kids lined up to watch.
The big flap surrounded Keith Miller. He hadn't attained the kind of greatness that he would later, but he was already a star. He had the Brylcreem-brown-leather-jacket-aviator kind of look and his cricket seemed to match the image. He hit hard, bowled fast and was a character. The big deal with this particular match was that CK Nayudu was going to make a friendly appearance. He had been in retirement for some time (once again, I think; he must have been pretty old by this time) and had agreed to play in what was supposed to be a fun but well fought game. The Services team were under no strict instructions but I think everybody knew that they were here to entertain. The fact that CK Nayudu was a Keith Miller of sorts (hard hitting allrounder; maybe Keith was a Aussie CK?) added to the excitement. So on to the match.
The Services team batted first and soon enough, Miller was at the crease. A bit after he came on to bat, CK came on to bowl. His first delivery went for 6, the second for 4, the third for 6, the fourth for 4, the fifth for 6 and the sixth for 4. The crowd went absolutely bonkers. There were some mixed feelings obviously; CK was getting hammered, but it was easily some of the best hitting they had seen in a while. And this wasn't a completely farcical game either. Still stunned, the crowd waited for the second installment of the duel. My Dad of course, had never quite seen anything like this.
So the local team comes on to bat. And sure as night follows day, out came CK to bat. It was natural that Miller would bowl. I can't remember what he bowled but anyway suffice to say that no one was prepared for what followed. The first went for 6, the second for 4, the third for 6...at this point, my Dad's voice trailed off and this dreamy look came over his face. CK simply returned the favor. I don't think Miller was bowling pace or anything like that, but still it was the most incredible duel that he had seen.
I'm not sure how the match ended or any of the other details. My Dad swore that Lindsay Hassett was easily the most stylish batsmen that he had seen (Frank Worrell in 1958 came a close second). And that Keith Miller was easily the most dynamic. And CK? Well, I guess he just went back into retirement after that.
Labels: Australia, Australian Services Team, CK Nayudu, Frank Worrell, India, Keith Miller, Lindsay Hassett