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By Rudolph Fernandez
In 1932, Nagpur-born Nayudu led India in their first Test, against England.
In 2012 in Nagpur, Dhoni led India in their last Test, against England.
The ‘Nagpur’ captain lost. Eighty years on, ‘the captain in Nagpur’ managed...a draw.
In the 1930s and 40s India could only have been described as less than mediocre. Of all the matches that ended in a result they lost every one, often by nine wickets and once by ten wickets. It was only in 1962, three decades after their debut, that India won a series against a world-class team, England. Earlier victories were against Pakistan and New Zealand, neither of them world-class.
The best Indian ‘bats’ emerged as a trickle – Gavaskar and Viswanath. Their predecessors were illustrious but this pair first personified prowess against the toughest in the world; 13 of Gavaskar’s centuries were against the mighty West Indies, at their mightiest. Later, the flow became fuller – Vengsarkar, Kapil, Azharuddin, Sachin, Kambli, Shastri, Sidhu, Srikkanth, Manjrekar, Ganguly, Laxman, Sehwag, Dravid. For the first time India had the luxury of choosing from a range of ‘bats’ - skilled, suitably irreverent against threatening bowlers, carving landmarks on turf everywhere, familiar and foreign.
Kapil Dev is among only three batsmen in the world to have hit the highest number of consecutive sixes in Tests – four sixes in a single over.
On only three occasions has a batsman scored a Test triple hundred using 364 or fewer deliveries; Sehwag has done it twice. The other man is Matthew Hayden.
Of the three highest-scoring Test batsmen in history, two are Indian – Sachin and Dravid.
Kumble is the 3rd highest wicket-taker in Test history and Kapil the 3rd highest among pacers. Between them, they have over 1,000 Test wickets.
India’s fielding has never been envied but of six men in the world who took the most catches in a Test innings (as many as 5 catches), half are Indian: Yajurvindra Singh, Azharuddin and Srikkanth.
What a journey. From Nagpur to.....well, Nagpur, from ‘defeat’ to......er, ‘draw’.
Dhoni’s India is a global contender with a glorious inheritance. But cause for pride must be cause for humility. India grew to love the game in the shade of the Empire. Now, a cricketing empire in its own right, it can offer shade to newer cricket nations.
The titans of today were once toddlers. The toddlers of today will soon be titans. It helps now and then to remind ourselves of humble origins even as we dream of triumphant destinies. While we raise a toast to 80 memorable years and look ahead at the years to come, Nagpur may still teach us a thing or two.
[Rudolph Lambert Fernandez is an India-based writer. He is writing a book that celebrates batting greatness in cricket. Rudy can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org]