June 25 is associated with India’s greatest cricketing triumph — the World Cup at Lord’s in 1983. However, India also made its Test debut on June 25 at the same hallowed turf exactly 80 years ago.
C K Nayudu’s Indians knew what they were in for when they walked out to field after their captain had lost the toss to Douglas Jardine.
A 12-year-old boy followed the Test match through newspapers and 80 years later, is India’s oldest living first-class cricketer — 92-year-old Vasant Raiji. Enjoying his Sunday evening at his Walkeshwar dwelling in south Mumbai, Raiji vividly remembered what transpired at Lord’s on June 25, 1932. “Percy Holmes and Herbert Sutcliffe were in fine form after putting on 555 runs for Yorkshire a little over a week ago. They were to open the innings for England and a good hiding was expected. But England were reduced to 19 for three on the first morning and English writer Neville Cardus praised our performance,” said Raiji.
According to Partab Ramchand’s piece in Cricinfo (July 20, 2002), Cardus wrote: “In my mind’s eye, I saw the news flashing over the air to far flung places in India, to Punjab and Karachi, to dusky men in the hills, to the bazaars of the East, to Gandhi himself, and to Gunga Din.”
Raiji added: “It was a brilliant start and we dismissed England for a moderate 259. Nissar (five for 93) and Amar Singh (2 for 75) stood out. Lall Singh’s fielding attracted a lot of praise and he was considered one of the best in the world.” Lall Singh’s quicksilver work caused the run out of celebrated batsman Frank Woolley.
England would have been bundled out cheaply had it not been for vital partnerships between Jardine and Walter Hammond (82 for the fourth wicket) and Les Ames and RW Robins (63 for the seventh wicket).
A report in the 1933 edition of Wisden said: “Nissar took five wickets, but Amar Singh bowled almost as well, making the ball curl in the air either from leg or from the off and causing it to come off the pitch at a tremendous pace.”
The skipper chipped in with two important wickets — his rival captain as well as Eddie Paynter. India’s opening batsmen J G Navle and N Jeoomal put on 30 runs in poor light before stumps were drawn at 6 pm.
Back to Raiji. “India’s batting did not come good in the Test. Apart from CK Nayudu (40 in a total of 189), the rest of the order didn’t get many runs in the first innings. It was not a bad side, but an inexperienced one and they got some good reviews from the English press,” he said. India ended up losing the Test by 158 runs inside three days.
Raiji went on to play Ranji Trophy for Baroda and Mumbai. He became a cricket historian and got inspired to write a book on CK Nayudu. He called him the ‘Shahenshah of Indian Cricket’.
Despite the emergence of Twenty20 cricket, he does not believe that Test cricket is in jeopardy. “Test cricket will be restricted, but will not diminish. Sure, the pace of the game is slower, but if you ask Sachin Tendulkar to chose between a Test match and a one-dayer, he will go for Test cricket,” said Raiji, who stressed that the task of giving Test cricket the importance it deserves lies with the administrators and not