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Willow tales of another kind

Updated on: 11 July,2024 06:57 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Clayton Murzello | clayton@mid-day.com

India’s Abhishek Sharma’s revelation of him playing with teammate Shubman Gill’s blade to score his maiden T20I hundred in Harare, is a good addition to a clutch of stories revolving around borrowed bats

Willow tales of another kind

India’s Abhishek Sharma celebrates his century during the second T20I against Zimbabwe at the Harare Sports Club in Harare on Sunday. Pic/AFP

Clayton MurzelloNeither a borrower nor a lender be.” This obviously doesn’t hold good for things other than money. Further manifestation of this came through when India’s latest T20I centurion, Abhishek Sharma revealed that he had used teammate Shubman Gill’s bat to crack a century against Zimbabwe at Harare on Sunday.


Indian cricket is littered with instances of sparkling performances made possible with borrowed gear, especially bats, across eras. The earliest example I stumbled upon was 1964 when prolific domestic batsman Vijay Bhosale returned from his English league commitments with a Gray-Nicolls long handle bat which he lent to his Maharashtra teammate Chandu Borde.


By then, Borde had travelled the world and was an established player in MAK Pataudi’s Indian team. Bhosale told me on Wednesday from New Zealand that Borde used his bat in the second Test against Australia at Mumbai, where his invaluable 30 not out helped India clinch the Test against Bob Simpson’s team in thrilling fashion.


The two-wicket victory caused big celebrations and in the melee, Borde lost the bat. The Brabourne Stadium Test was Pataudi’s first win as captain of India. Nawab, as he was called by some of his teammates, was not fussy over his bats. In fact, he admitted to Ian Chappell during the 1967-68 series in Australia that he hadn’t brought along a bat for the four-Test series in which India were whitewashed. The most memorable of the four Tests for India was the second Test at Melbourne, where Pataudi batted with one fit leg for scores of 75 and 85. This attracted admiration from Sir Donald Bradman.

Chappell revealed at a function in Mumbai in 2011 that each time Pataudi walked out to bat in that rain-affected Test, he took with him the bat closest to the dressing room door. So, not only did Pataudi play with one eye and one leg, he also did so with a borrowed bat against a top-class Australian attack.

Karsan Ghavri, who made his Test debut under the captaincy of Pataudi against the West Indies in 1974-75, recalled how his Mumbai captain Sunil Gavaskar lent him his bat in the 1976-77 Ranji Trophy final against Delhi in the Capital. 

Ghavri scored 48 in 73 minutes with three fours and the same number of maximums in Mumbai’s first innings total of 317.  He was not done with the bat. In the second innings, in response to Delhi’s 291, Ghavri stayed unbeaten on a top-score of 70 which included five fours and four sixes. “Ghavri literally hit Bedi off his length when he  took four sixes off the Delhi captain in a hectic unbeaten knock. Ghavri’s knock really tilted the scales, and it was a splendid display of calculated aggression,” Sportsweek magazine reported. Gavaskar in a piece for the same magazine, knew what he was talking about when he wrote: “He [Ghavri] will pick up any bat and play. There was no wild slogging, he showed great judgment in choosing the right ones to belt.” If there was a player-of-the-final award, the flamboyant all-rounder would have got it because he also claimed eight wickets in the match.

Sandeep Patil, who was in the reserves for that 1976-77 final, told me earlier this week that Kapil Dev and Rajesh Chouhan, who he led at Madhya Pradesh, used his bats. Patil also recalled batting with Chandrakant Pandit’s blade, borrowed from the yet-to-be-capped wicketkeeper-batsman before the 1984 Asia Cup. Patil smashed the Pakistani bowling around and remembered clubbing Sarfaraz Nawaz for a six towards the end of the India innings on April 13, when India claimed the Cup. His 43 off 50 balls (5x4, 1x6) helped India score 188-4, which turned out to be beyond the reach of Zaheer Abbas’s side at Sharjah.

More recently, when Mumbai’s Tushar Deshpande became only the second player to score a Ranji Trophy century as a No. 11 batsman, Tamil Nadu’s Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan came up with a revelation. 
Sivaramakrishnan, the first to do so (against Delhi in 2001), said he smashed his century with a bat which once belonged to Sachin Tendulkar. Apparently, the bat was presented by the batting icon to his India teammate Sadagoppan Ramesh, whose brother Mahesh lent it to Sivaramakrishnan during the match.

There are similar instances in local cricket too. Singapore-based former Podar College batsman Shailendra Kirtikar told me on Wednesday how he agreed to lend his Gray-Nicolls Double Scoop bat to teammate Shishir Hattangadi for Podar’s senior inter-collegiate final against Jhunjhunwala at the Wankhede Stadium in 1978. “He was batting superbly [as an opener] and I walked in with one of the college bats. I clearly remember Shishir offering to switch bats. I knew how settled he was and asked him to continue. I got out early and Shishir went on to score a triple century,” Kirtikar revealed.

Hattangadi hasn’t forgotten that gesture and knock.

Judging by the success cricketers have enjoyed over the years with borrowed bats, a book on cricketing guidelines could say, “A borrower or lender one can be.”

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
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.

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