There is a great piece up at Cricinfo in which Suresh Menon remembers cricket dramas past, and reflects on how memory plays tricks.
Particularly fascinating was this, about this match played at Old Trafford in 1936:
India’s captain the Maharajkumar of Vizianagram (the only active cricketer to be knighted, we must remember, although it was not for services to cricket – he didn’t serve cricket till he gave it up altogether as player, captain, selector and broadcaster) called his opening batsman Mushtaq Ali aside for last-minute instructions. Vizzy had been worried about the growing stature of Vijay Merchant, and instructed Mushtaq to run him out. Mushtaq told Merchant, they had a good laugh, and put on 203 for the first wicket.
What a selfish, self-important bastard, and what a great punishment. I’m guessing that the Maharajkumar of Vizianagram was totally bought and paid for by the British (hence the knighthood), and that when Mushtaq and Merchant disobeyed him they felt that they were also defying the very Empire itself. You can see from the scorecard that “Vizzy” batted at number nine, scoring a grand total of six runs, and did not bowl, even though seven other Indians did. Talk about a non-playing captain.
What a joy for cricket fans like me that India used cricket to defy Britain, rather than defying Britain by dumping cricket and taking up – I don’t know – baseball, or something similar.
More Indian anti-Imperial defiance is reported here (my thanks to Antoine Clarke for the link). I think it’s a sign of how strong the Indian presence in the world generally now is that people feel relaxed about taking the piss out of Indians, and out of the non-Indians who now grovel to Indians. We couldn’t comfortably do that when Indians were nothing but the Starving Millions, and when, cricket-wise, they were mostly Ghandi clones who could only bowl slow and bat slow and play for draws.
I have been following the current England India cricket series with fascinated delight. This already feels like the best series here since 2005, which it will definitely be if the Indians come back hard, as is their recent habit, after their poor first test at Lord’s. At Lord’s, legendary Indian batsmen like V.V.S. Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar looked a bit like ancient monuments rather than current threats. Tendulkar’s mere participation in the game turned its last day from a fine occasion into a great one, but his actual batting was a disappointment. Of the three surviving members of the Big Four (the now retired Saurav Ganguly being the other), only Rahul Dravid made his presence truly felt. But Tendulkar is not old, he was merely ill. And if he in particular does some great things in the later games, what a series this could be.
By the way, I have been getting it wrong about England being already ranked number two in the test match rankings. Now that I have actually consulted the relevant website, I see that England are only at three, behind South Africa (India being top). My apologies. But, England will go to at least two if they beat India in the current series, and they will indeed go top if they beat India by a clear two games. That last bit, I definitely got right.
Game two starts tomorrow.