Clayton Murzello: The unbeatable class of 1967!
While Kohli & Co's clean sweep wins in SL must be hailed, BCCI will also do well to mark the golden jubilee of the Schoolboys tour to UK
The All India Schools team in England, 1967. Standing (from left): M Mathur (asst manager), M Amarnath, S Amarnath, Laxman Singh, Jasbir Singh, Ajit Naik (capt), V Fernandez, British PM Harold Wilson, JK Mahendra, SMH Kirmani, Col H Adhikari (manager), AAS Asif, BCCI secretary R Sriraman and S Sahu (selector). Sitting (from left): D Sarkar, D Inder Raj, R Tandon, R Mukherjee, Arun Kumar, Avi Kamekar and J Bhutta. Pic courtesy The Cricketer magazine
Sri Lanka's never-ending cricketing travails notwithstanding, Virat Kohli's Team India did well to not lose a single game in the Test and one-day series in the Emerald Isle. Not many teams have enjoyed such an unbeaten stretch on tour, but there's one which did so 50 years ago.
In the English summer of 1967, the All India Schoolboys (led by the late Mumbai all-rounder Ajit Naik and managed by ex-India captain Col Hemu Adhikari) engaged cricket lovers with their attractive cricket which helped them win nine of their 17 matches. Only once in their eight drawn games were they in danger of losing. This was the same year in which the senior India team led, by MAK Pataudi, suffered a 0-3 loss to Brian Close's Englishmen.
On the junior tour were future India Test players Mohinder and Surinder Amarnath, as well as stumper Syed Kirmani, who was in the side as a batsman.
Mohinder recalled meeting Pataudi at a function during the tour, but a truly unforgettable memory came in the form of his brother Surinder's heroics at Lord's. Against Marylebone Cricket Club Schools on August 3, the Indians were faced with the task of scoring 11 in possibly the final over of the game, to overhaul MCC Schools' total 202. Surinder hit a six to get closer to his century. He hit the next ball for the same result and reached the first of his two hundreds on the tour. Apart from remembering how ecstatic the team was with his elder brother's display, Mohinder revealed that Garfield Sobers watched those two sixes. "Suri's performance was fantastic and he always played aggressively. We needed 11 to win in two balls and he did it in style. Sobers watched the game and when he visited us in the dressing room, he was delighted to learn that we were Lala's sons," Mohinder told me. It's no secret that Sobers loved six-hitting. The following summer, he became the first player to hit six sixes in one over while playing for Nottinghamshire against Glamorgan at Swansea.
The All India Schools team in England, 1967. Standing (from left): Jasbir Singh, D Inder Raj, JK Mahendra, Arun Kumar, Jitendra Bhutta, Victor Fernandez, Raja Mukherjee, Dipankar Sarkar, Avi Kamekar, Rakesh Tandon, AAS Asif and Laxman Singh.
> Sitting (from left): Mohinder Amarnath, Ajit Naik (captain), unidentified English official, Col Hemu Adhikari (manager),
> Unidentified English official, Syed Kirmani and Surinder Amarnath.
> Pic courtesy: JK Mahendra collection
There was another luminary watching at Lord's apart from Sobers – celebrated commentator and writer John Arlott. According to JK Mahendra, the team's leg-spinner-batsman from Kerala, Arlott rated Surinder's hundred as the finest innings he had seen in the last 15 years.
For 17-year-old all-rounder Mohinder, the English tour was, "a great experience away from home. It was my first tour abroad and I had not travelled much alone in India." Despite Surinder's performance, the biggest batting star of the tour was Rajasthan's Laxman Singh, whose run tally of 973 included five hundreds. He averaged 74.85 in 16 trips to the crease, though he was not as lucky in life – passing away in 1988, aged only 35.
Raja Mukherjee, who went on to play first-class cricket for Bengal, scored two centuries in 17 innings. Leg-spinner Dipankar Sarkar, who had already played for Bengal, claimed 65 wickets, while off-break bowler Jasbir Singh sent back 52 batsmen. "No student of the game could tire of watching him (Sarkar) so markedly establishing his ascendancy over his opponents. That Jasbir Singh did not take more wickets was due entirely to ill-luck with dropped catches, but even he dismissed 52 batsmen at a remarkably low average of 9.09," A R Harris, the then deputy chairman of the London Schools' Cricket Association, wrote in The Cricketer magazine.
Adhikari laid much emphasis on fielding and although the catching on the tour was not up to his satisfaction, the ground fielding and throwing was splendid, felt Harris.
The wicketkeeping duties were handled by Mumbai's Avi Kamekar and Hyderabad's AAS Asif. Despite their impressive showing, they did not graduate to Ranji Trophy ranks. The late Kamekar paraded his skills for the Reserve Bank of India in Mumbai, while Asif's first-class games were restricted to the Moin-ud-Dowla Cup in Hyderabad before he migrated to America. Former India all-rounder S Abid Ali told me that Asif was most unfortunate to miss out on an India cap. "After he played for the Indian Universities against the 1969-70 New Zealand tourists in Bombay where I believe he kept very well, we in Hyderabad felt that he would be in the India playing XI in place of the injured Farokh Engineer for the Hyderabad Test in the following month. Asif didn't get the nod and KS Indrajitsinhji played instead. It's inexplicable that Asif didn't even represent Hyderabad in domestic cricket. He was a fine wicketkeeper and a brave opening batsman. But that's how things were in those days," Abid Ali said to me over the phone from California yesterday.
Kirmani, who would tour England with Ajit Wadekar's team four years later, excelled as a batsman on the 1967 trip. The Englishmen called him a schoolboy Rohan Kanhai, as he scored one century (against Hampshire Schools at Southampton to start the tour on a winning note) followed up with four 50-plus scores.
That said, the pre-tour activities were just as memorable. Mohinder recalled having a one-month camp in Delhi under Adhikari's watch. There they were taught table manners and how to eat with a knife and fork, apart from how to behave in the company of elders. In Delhi, the team members were made to interact with Air Force officers at a mess. Those meetings held them in good stead as they were hosted by dignitaries like the Duke of Norfolk, Lord Mountbatten and British Prime Minister Harold Wilson at 10 Downing Street.
With Adhikari around, there was army-like discipline. "If you were late for the team bus, you were forced to spend your five-pounds-a-week allowance on getting to the ground in a taxi. I remember a couple of teammates and myself missing the bus at Manchester. We went out shopping on the presumption that we will leave late because of the rain. But we were late and the Colonel's orders of arriving at the ground in a taxi were followed. The Colonel was also particular about us having short hair. If he saw anything extra on our heads, we were promptly sent to the barber," recalled Mahendra.
This being the golden jubilee year of that immensely successful tour, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) would do well to recognise the Class of 1967's feat. A get-together for those players would be an apt way to say that while we laud the team of today, we still have high regard for our past cricketing heroes.
mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to email@example.com
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