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Col. C.K. Nayudu

Col. C. K. Nayudu is regarded by many cricket-lovers as the father of Indian cricket. He made his debut in first-class cricket for the Hindus in the Quadrangular tournament in 1916, when he was only 21 years old. His love for the game, dedication and fitness were so high that he played first-class cricket for 48 long years till he was 68 - a record.

Nayudu was the pioneer of an aggressive approach in Indian cricket, not only as a batsman, but in virtually every department, be it bowling, fielding or captaincy.

As a batsman, he was by far the best Indian player of fast bowling. No other batsman of his generation could match him in attack or defence. He was devastating against spin, not afraid to use his feet and loft the ball. However, he was never a power player. The hallmarks of his batting were timing and grace.

His first scoring stroke in first-class cricket was a six. He hit several more in his distinguished career, to establish a reputation as a batsman who loved to 'get on with it' and reduce many a bowling attack to rubble.

Nayudu announced himself to the international cricket community with a belligerent 126 for the Hindus against A. E.R. Gilligan's touring MCC side from England in 1926. His 70-minute blitzkrieg overwhelmed the spectators at the Bombay Gymkhana ground and convinced his opponents, Lord Tennyson included, that India was ready for Test cricket.

As a bowler, Nayudu was more 'intellectual' than talented. His 'lollypop' deliveries were deceptive, as many a batsman paid the price for underestimating his bowling abilities. Agility, quick reflexes and the ability to sprint hard made him one of the best fielders of his time.

Nayudu was an aggressive and astute captain. Though not very successful as captain of India, his leadership qualities were never in doubt. It was not his fault that in those days, some of his teammates played as individuals rather than a team.

Nayudu was in his prime in the 1920s, before India became a Test-playing nation. He was 37 when India gained Test status, and had the distinction of becoming India's first Test captain. In an era in which royalty reigned supreme in Indian cricket, two princes were put in charge of the touring party - the Maharajah of Porbandar (captain),and Prince Ghanshyamji of Limbdi (vice-captain). Both were, to put it mildly, modest cricketers, and would not have come anywhere near the team but for their 'blue blooded' background. However, in one of the most magnanimous gestures in the history of Indian cricket, The Maharajah of Porbander decided to stand down in favour of the man who deserved the captaincy on sheer merit - Col. Cottari Kanakaiya Nayudu.

India got off to a brilliant start in the Test, having their seasoned opponents in trouble at 19 for 3, but the English recovered and won by 158 runs. The Indians suffered a major setback during the game when Nayudu injured his hand while fielding, and was unable to grip the bat properly as a result. Still, he battled hard for 40 in the first innings, but after his dismissal, the innings went downhill and the team never really recovered.

Nayudu went on to lead India in the three-Test series against England at home in 1933-34. Although India lost this series as well, the silver lining was the discovery of several talented cricketers. As captain and leading player, Nayudu possessed all the credentials to convert this collection of gifted individuals into a fighting outfit. But fate had something else in store.

In the power-game that afflicted Indian cricket in the 1930s, Nayudu the 'commoner' lost out in the captaincy stakes for the 1936 tour of England to the Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram, a 'prince' who was as good a cricketer as the Maharajah of Porbander. But alas, he was not as magnanimous. In what turned out to be the final Test series of his career, Nayudu provided a dazzling display of batsmanship in the third and final Test at the Oval, in what was his last Test innings. He made a glorious 81, his highest score in Test cricket.

While the greatness of this legendary cricketer cannot be summarized in words, here are some comments about the man by people who knew their cricket:

Late LALA AMARNATH (Independent India's first Test captain, made his Test debut under Nayudu's captaincy) : " C. K. Nayudu was a class by himself and could be rated easily as the greatest cricketer India has produced. It was a delight to see him bat. His hefty sixes left one enchanted both at home and abroad. He taught every young cricketer that the bat was there to hit the ball. He practised what he preached".

Late A. F. S. TALYARKHAN (veteran media personality and cricket broadcaster): " It all depends on what one wants from a cricketer. His teammates look for leadership and suitable contribution to the side's chances of success. The spectators want originality, personality, and activity. Who is the Indian Cricketer who has been able to satisfy the requirements of every department of the game, including the quality of great captainship? Only C. K. Nayudu!"

Late VIJAY MERCHANT: " India's greatest cricketer. Whether it was bowling, batting, fielding, captaincy, physical fitness or positive approach to the game, there will never be an equal to Nayudu among Indians. His many innings at the Bombay Gymkhana ground where the bowler has as much chance of getting the batsman out as the batsman has of making a big score, will be remembered forever. The greater the crisis, the greater was Nayudu, and I have never seen him being affected by nerves. It was a pity that during his time there were not many Test matches, otherwise his record would be second to none amongst our cricketers. Judge him by statistics and he was only moderately successful. Judge him by performance when the going was tough and he was our greatest cricketer. There has never been a greater entertainer on cricketing grounds and in my time. Nayudu's name was enough to draw people to the Bombay Gymkhana to see him play. Nayudu's name will be remembered as long as cricket is played in this country. The like of him we shall probably never see again."

Late Sir Neville Cardus (cricket writer extraordinaire): " Nature breaks the mould in which her wonders are made. So there will be no second Nayudu."


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