The dream team
When we think of great all-rounders like Vinoo Mankad and Kapil Dev, we shouldn't forget Amar Singh, says KEKI N. DARUWALLA.
Amar Singh in action.
SINCE Bradman's World XI came to light, others have voiced their opinions. Everton Weeks has talked of six great batsmen and hinted that there could be two Indians among them. There is also the list of four certainties from Kim Hughes, with Bradman, Adam Gilchrist and Dennis Lillee figuring among the four. In the past people have come out with their own dream teams. Can one believe that an Indian who played only seven test matches, took 28 wickets and scored 292 runs at an average of 22.46, would be selected for the best world cricket team ever?
Well, Bill Edrich, who lived in Compton's shadow, the man who scored much over three thousand runs in the English county season in 1947, came out with his team in the mid 1950s. I remember it clearly, though I may have got the wicket-keeper wrong. The team was: 1. William Ponsford, 2. Len Hutton, 3. Dennis Compton, 4. Don Bradman, 5. Walter Hammond, 6. Learie Constantine, 7. L. Amar Singh, 8. Godfrey Evans/ Don Tallon, 9. Jim Laker, 10. Tony Lock, 11. Harold Larwood/ Ray Lindwall. It was a formidable side. The batting was exceptionally strong. Bill Ponsford was a monumental run getter in the 1930s. He has a 400 to his name in first class cricket. Edrich thought that Larwood, Constantine and Amar Singh would provide a fiery new-ball attack. Constantine and Amar Singh were the all-rounders. There were no leg spinners no Grimmet, no O'Reilly. Edrich obviously knew the Surrey spin twins well, and Laker had just taken 19 wickets in a Test match in 1956.
How did Amar Singh of Jamnagar sneak in? He and his brother Ramji were legends in Kathiawar where I spent a part of my childhood, talking to people who had played them. People were certain that Nissar and Ramji were the two fastest bowlers India ever had. That holds good even today. There were many stories around Ramji. Ramji fielding at point in a Test match, with his hands in his pockets. (Both brothers disliked C. K. Nayudu, the Indian Captain.) Ramji getting enraged with the Maharaja of Patiala, the senior one, the one with the many wives, because the umpire turned down appeal after appeal for LBW. So Ramji lets fly a bouncer at the Maharaja and fells him to the ground. He runs away from the State the very next day. Eric Marks told me about batting against Ramji, with non striker, Janak Rai telling him to duck. Later Rai ducked into a ball that was not a bouncer and got it square on his sola hat. Rai, and squashed hat had to be carried away. People quaked to face Ramji. He first played for the Hindus in the Quadrangular in 1924 and was an instant hit. In 1929 at Bombay, he ran through the entire Mahomedan innings, taking eight wickets for 55 runs in 27 overs, and bundling them out for 154. He took ten wickets in the match. He bowled so fast at Ajmer against Arthur Gilligan's touring side (1926) that the latter had him taken off (the Brits could do it those days), lest he further injure his already bruised batsmen. By 1934 (the Quadrangular was not held for four years because of the Civil Disobedience Movement) Amar Singh, younger by ten years, had joined his brother for the Hindus, hitting 90 runs and taking ten wickets against the Europeans. In the finals, he took nine wickets, though the Hindus lost to the Mahomedans. In the 1936 finals against the Europeans, Amar Singh faced Larwood and scored 36. In the second innings he demolished the Europeans, taking eight wickets and winning the match for his team. Amar Singh could swing both ways. After pitching the ball gathered tremendous pace. Hammond remarked that "He comes off the pitch like the crack of doom." Mihir Bose tells us in his great book, A History of Indian Cricket that Wisden noted Amar Singh could "curl in the air either from leg or off" and was "causing (the ball) to come off the pitch at a tremendous pace." In his book Cricket Between Two Wars Pelham Warner states "On his form on this tour (1932) and again in 1936, Amar Singh would have been a strong candidate for a World XI." He thought Amar was probably as good as Barnes. For those who are unaware, S.F. Barnes, a fast medium bowler, is considered by many as the greatest bowler the world has known. In the first Test India ever played (Oval, 1932, June 25-28) Nissar was the hero. It was he who sent back both Sutcliffe and Holmes in his second over and after Frank Wooley's run out by Lall Singh, England were 19 for 3. Nissar got 5 for 93. Amar Singh got 4 wickets in the match, but impressed one and all. Critics considered the Indian attack superior to the English, comprising Voce and Bowes among others. Amar Singh was the only Indian to get a half-century in that Test, though in both innings C. K. Nayudu sent him at No. 10. Against Jardine's team (1933-34), Amar Singh took 7 wickets for 86 runs in the first innings in the Madras Test. In the first Test at Lord's during India's 1936 tour, he took six wickets for 35 runs in 25 overs. And in the second Test at Old Trafford, famous for the centuries by openers Merchant and Mushtaq, Amar Singh was sent one down in the first innings and 4 down in the second, scoring 27 and 48 not out. He wasn't treated too well and his death was untimely. According to the story I heard, Amar Singh played six sets of tennis, drank six glasses of iced lemonade, had a cold water bath, slept under a ceiling fan, caught pneumonia and died. When we think of our great all-rounders Vinoo Mankad and Kapil Dev, we shouldn't forget Amar Singh.
The writer is a noted poet.
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