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The Centurions
by Gulu Ezekiel
Oct 17, 2011

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By Gulu Ezekiel

The year 1911 has turned out to be a significant one for Indian cricket as five Test cricketers will mark their birth centenaries this year.

Among them are two legends and three who are part of the rather unfortunate ‘One-Test club’ of which Indian cricket abounds—41 cases in all not including current players.

However, two of the one-Test players hold world records that still stand many decades later.

Lala Amarnath, Mohammad Baqa Khan Jalani, Khershed Rustomji Meherhomji, Vijay Madhavji Merchant and Sarabindu Nath (‘Shute’) Banerjee were all born 100 years ago.

Amarnath, who was born on September 11 was Indian Test cricket’s first century maker, against Douglas Jardine’s English side at Bombay Gymkhana in 1933. He was also independent India’s first captain on the tour of Australia in 1947-48 and played 24 Test matches between 1933 and 1952. His sons Surinder and Mohinder also represented the country with distinction.

Merchant (born October 12) was considered India’s finest opening batsman till the advent of Sunil Gavaskar in the early 70s. Though he played in only 10 Tests, he finished with the creditable average of 47.72 including three centuries. He was a prolific scorer in domestic cricket and finished with the amazing first-class average of 71.64, second only to the peerless Sir Don Bradman.

Jilani (born July 20) played his solitary Test at the Oval in 1936. A medium pacer, he was the first bowler to capture a hat-trick in the Ranji Trophy in 1934-35. He was the brother-in-law of Jahangir Khan who played for India before Partition.

Jahangir’s son Majid Khan and nephews Imran Khan and Javed Burki all captained Pakistan. Majid’s son Bazid has also played in one Test match, making the family the joint-most prolific in terms of producing Test cricketers along with the Hearnes of England and South Africa.

Wicket-keeper Meherhomji’s (born August 9) lone Test cap also came on the 1936 tour at Old Trafford.

Meherhomji is the only wicket-keeper in the history of first-class cricket to take a hat-trick of catches. It came on his first class debut in the Moin-ud-Dowlah Gold Cup semifinal in Hyderabad in December 1931 for Freelooters v. Railways ‘A’ when he caught three batsmen off consecutive deliveries from the bowling of L. Ramji.

Banerjee’s (born Oct. 3) is one of the greatest hard-luck stories of Indian cricket. A lively medium pacer, he toured England both in 1936 and 1946 without appearing in a single Test match on either tour. His lone Test came against the West Indies in 1949 by which time he was 37. He captured five wickets in the match.

Banerjee however is the joint holder of a batting world record. With Chandu Sarwate he added 249 runs for the 10th wicket in 190 minutes at the Oval against Surrey for the touring Indians in 1946. It was the first and still only occasion in first-class cricket in which both the no. 10 and no. 11 batsmen scored centuries in the same innings.

Incidentally, Amarnath outlived all his contemporaries, passing away in 2000 at the grand old age of 89.

 
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