Clayton Murzello: Rs 50 bonus for a major series win

Dec 22, 2016, 08:17 IST | Clayton Murzello

That’s what Nari Contractor’s team got after beating England for the first time over five Tests, but the achievement is a million dollar one

Nari Contractor (right), who led India to its maiden Test series win against England in 1961-62, with then BCCI president MA Chidambaram. Pic/Mid-day archives
Nari Contractor (right), who led India to its maiden Test series win against England in 1961-62, with then BCCI president MA Chidambaram. Pic/Mid-day archives

Some people believe that India started winning Test series only from 1971 onwards.” There is more sadness than anger in Nari Contractor’s voice as India dominate England on the last day of their five-Test contest which ended in a 4-0 result for Virat Kohli’s forces at Chennai on Tuesday.

Contractor is the first Indian captain to triumph over England in a Test series – against Ted Dexter’s MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) in 1961-62. The first three Tests of that five-match series — Mumbai, Kanpur and Delhi — ended in draws. At Kanpur, India enforced the follow-on, but the visitors surprised their opponents when three of their batsmen (Geoff Pullar, Ken Barrington and captain Ted Dexter) scored hundreds.

This was the last series for Subhash Gupte, the leg-spinner whom Sir Garfield Sobers rated higher than Shane Warne. Gupte claimed five wickets in the first innings at Kanpur, which included a burst of four wickets for 6 runs, but couldn’t trouble the Englishmen in the second innings. He got involved in a controversy during the next Test in Delhi while sharing a room with AG Kripal Singh.

The hotel receptionist complained to the team manager that she was asked to come over to a room. The call was traced to Gupte and Kripal’s room. Gupte was blamed and never played for India again. And while Kripal returned to the side after two years, he lasted just three Tests. Gupte later went on record to say that Kripal was only trying to date the receptionist, nothing else.

Contractor was left without his main spinner for the fourth Test in Kolkata when Subhash Gupte was suspended. But there was southpaw Salim Durani and leg-spinning batting star Chandu Borde, who played a big role in India’s eventual triumph.

Barrington scored three centuries and averaged 254.50 in the series before walking out to bat at the Eden Gardens in response to India’s 380. Barrington was six minutes away from completing an hour at the crease when he got an inside edge while trying to cut Durani’s arm ball and was bowled for 14. Durani had a hand in Barrington’s dismissal in the second innings as well, when the Surrey maestro pulled Ramakant Desai to be caught at backward square leg for 3. Barrington’s series average dropped to 131.50! Borde claimed Dexter three out of four times in the Kolkata and Chennai victory Tests.

“Ted was a great player and to get through his defences needed a special effort. I got him with my ‘straight through’ deliveries. Salim and me formed a good combination. We were known as the spin twins and were well led by Nari, who was an astute captain,” Borde recalled yesterday.

MAK Pataudi announced his arrival in international cricket by scoring 64 at Kolkata. He came to be admired for batting with one eye, but he couldn’t say he was confident of playing international cricket at this stage. In the first innings, he put on 95 with opener Vijay Mehra (who batted with a fractured thumb) for the third wicket. India’s 187-run win was their first over England since 1951-52. Durani ended up claiming eight in the Test, but there were more heroics to follow in the final Test at Chennai.

At his pre-Test talk for the finale, Contractor stressed on being aggressive. His team meetings were interactive; even the junior-most player was made to be feel comfortable in airing his view. Contractor walked out with ML Jaisimha with a spring in his stride on the morning of January 10, 1962.

Jaisimha was bowled by Barry Knight for 12 after hitting a four and six. One-drop Vijay Manjrekar took an hour for his 13, but the skipper walked the talk. “Contractor won the toss for the fourth time in succession. As if in appreciation of good fortune, he set the pace for quick runs, for unbelievably did India run up a total of 295 for seven before the first day closed. Contractor (86, 11x4, 1x6) was unlucky to miss his century which his knock was entitled to,” wrote SK Gurunathan in Sport & Pastime.

Pataudi, playing only in his third Test, scored with alacrity too. The English bowling was familiar to him, but sharp. He scored the first of his six Test hundreds which was embellished with 16 fours and two sixes.

Durani’s 6 for 105 included the prize wicket of Barrington, his first victim, who was caught brilliantly by Manjrekar while trying to clear the fielder. Watching Manjrekar, who was India’s top-scorer with 85 out of 190 in the second innings, complete that catch at deep mid-off is Durani’s lasting memory of that Test. Durani claimed 10 wickets in the Test and could have earned the player-of-the-match award had there been one in those days.

The Indian team were pleasantly surprised when they received Rs 50 in addition to their match fee of Rs 250. That’s what they got for beating England for the first time in a Test series.

mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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