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Give it a great name then!

Updated on: 29 February,2024 06:52 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Clayton Murzello |

If at all the Anthony de Mello silverware is made redundant, it is imperative that India and England play for a trophy on our shores which bears the names of cricket icons

Give it a great name then!

Captain CK Nayudu (left) and Lala Amarnath walking out to bat in India’s first home Test match against England at the Bombay Gymkhana in December 1933. Both, or one of these greats could be considered for honours when it comes to naming India v England Test series at home. Pic/Getty Images

Clayton MurzelloFour Test matches on, there’s still no mention from the establishment about the Anthony de Mello Trophy, which the winners of the India v England series on Indian soil used to be presented with. The sponsor’s trophy has been mentioned time and again during the television coverage, but not the trophy named after the BCCI’s first secretary as well as former president.

With BCCI choosing to make do without mentioning the Anthony de Mello Trophy, there’s a good chance that the silverware won’t make it to Dharamsala, the venue of the fifth and final Test of the ongoing series.

In that scenario, it is imperative that England and India play for a trophy of historic significance, like the Pataudi Trophy when both these countries play Tests in England.

An India v England series in India is important and there is no reason why this won’t be a rivalry spoken of in the same breath as India v Australia.

The tremendous interest this ongoing series has generated virtually mandates a series name. If at all the BCCI decides that the Anthony de Mello Trophy is redundant, an announcement of a series in honour of one player or two players must be made at the end of the Dharamsala Test - a la Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

Considering all this, I indulged in a bit of fantasy and factored in the mileage the BCCI would want to give the sponsors, presumably the same bank as this series. How about tagging it the Bedi-Greig Trophy for IDFC First Bank Test series next time? It would be an apt honour to both these departed captains. Tony Greig was Bishan Singh Bedi’s rival captain in 1976-77 and ended up being one of the few skippers to beat India on their home soil; only Douglas Jardine had done it before — in 1933-34.

Greig was on the previous tour of India in 1972-73 as a key member of Tony Lewis’s side. The crowds adored him and Greig was moved to write in My Story: “I fell in love with the Indian crowds and they, in turn, seemed to fall for me.”

Amidst the thrill of playing in front of large crowds, Greig also learned some lessons which were useful in 1976-77, when he was captain. Just like on his first tour, England won the opening Test at New Delhi. Greig was determined that the team shouldn’t get carried like they probably did in 1972-73 when they ended up losing the next two Tests, and eventually the series, to Ajit Wadekar’s Indians.

Sensing his players may not be able to improve on the 1-0 lead in 1976-77, he gave them a pep talk to, “jolt them back into an awareness of priorities.” The team responded and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) won the Anthony de Mello Trophy 3-1.

Bedi claimed 25 wickets each in the 1972-73 and 1976-77 series with 6-71 being his best effort across both rubbers —at Bangalore in 1976-77— when India scored a consolation win after the series was surrendered.

The cares of captaincy and the scoreline didn’t affect Bedi’s guile. He dismissed his opposite number in a memorable fashion in the second innings. Greig had just hit BS Chandrasekhar for a four, which the Chinnaswamy Stadium crowd thought was a six and followed it up with a crisp cover drive. “Such liberties could not be taken with Bedi, possessor of a mastery of flight peerless amongst modern bowlers. He [Bedi] dismissed the headstrong, aggressive batsman [Greig] in the classical manner, tossing the ball up on Greig’s leg-stump. Down the pitch came England’s  captain, intent on hitting the ball high into the crowd, but he missed, and Kirmani, quick as a cobra, did the rest,” wrote Christopher Martin-Jenkins in MCC in India 1976-77.

So, no matter how controversial and anti-establishment Bedi and Greig were, they get my vote for the trophy India and England should play for on Indian soil.

I asked other journalists for their opinions on this subject and they came up with interesting names. Sharda Ugra, the highly acclaimed sports writer, felt the series should be played in memory of Palwankar Baloo if not CK Nayudu or Lala Amarnath. Baloo, who faced discrimination for his caste, was on the All Indian team’s tour of England in 1911 and claimed 114 wickets on the tour with his left-arm spin.

Delhi-based cricket historian Gulu Ezekiel felt the teams should play for the CK Nayudu-Jardine Trophy. They  led their respective countries at the start of the rivalry in England (1932) and India (1933-34).

G Rajaraman, veteran sports journalist from Delhi, would like to see the trophy named after Kapil Dev and Ian Botham, while Siddhartha Vaidyanathan, a popular podcaster and writer, wished to see a trophy in Nayudu’s honour for “his 153 v Arthur Gilligan’s English side in 1926 and for leading India in their first-ever Test at Lord’s in 1932.”

The 153 was scored for the Hindus at the Bombay Gymkhana, where he hit 14 fours to thrill the 25,000 strong December crowd. Among them was a 15-year-old schoolboy, who went on to become the man we all know as Vijay Merchant.

Merchant referred to the 153 when Nayudu passed away in 1967: “The best I have seen in this country or elsewhere from the bat of an Indian.”

Merchant’s words were reproduced by late historian and first-class cricketer Vasant Raiji in his 1989 book on Nayudu. He also quoted Nayudu’s biographer Berry Sarbadhikary’s description of the innings. “He hit up an amazing 153 with strokes which terrified the fieldsmen, dazzled everybody’s eyesight, broke all rules of batting, science and logic, and stirred the crowd to wonder and delight.”

From Sydney, Australian cricket writer Mike Coward, added a Jardine-Nayudu Trophy to his wish list and affixed his choice with a message: “It [Jardine-Nayudu Trophy] can be used as a teaching tool which is important, given the perception that Indian cricket began in 1983 and came of age in 2007! Deflect attention from the short forms and celebrate the pure form,” said Coward.

Clearly, amidst the brouhaha of the well-deserved series win, history beckons Indian cricket in another sense.

mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello

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