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
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
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
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.
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