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One year after leading England to victory in the acrimonious Bodyline series, the Bombay-born Douglas Jardine brought over his team to India, for the first-ever Test series on the sub-continent. Although several leading English cricketers had chosen to skip the tour, apprehensive as they were of touring an unknown and in their opinion, 'unhealthy' land, the abrasive Jardine had no such worries. After all, he was returning to his second 'home'. His grandfather and father had spent most of their lives in India, and it was in Mumbai, in the affluent area known as Malabar Hill, that Douglas Jardine had been born and spent his childhood, before being sent to the 'mother country' for higher studies.

Psychological warfare existed in cricket long before the Australians of the 70s and new millennium patented it, and the Indian camp fired the first salvo. Jardine received a cable on the ship, during the voyage to India. "Wait till you see me", it said. The sender was none other than India's leading batsman and Jardine's counterpart, Col. C.K. Nayudu.

After a succession of first-class and festival matches played all over the sub-continent, the teams arrived in Mumbai for the first Test of the series. The venue of this historic game, India's second Test of all time and their first at home, was quite appropriately, the Bombay Gymkhana Ground, which had witnessed many a historic cricketing occasion. It was here that the Parsees had beaten G.F. Vernon's touring side way back in 1890, and C.K. Nayudu had torpedoed the 1926 MCC tourists with an explosive knock of 153.

The game started on a sombre note for Jardine, whose childhood butler died a day before the start. At 11 am on the 15th of December 1933, the captains tossed and Nayudu won, much to the delight of the multitudes who had thronged the ground to watch history being made. Makeshift stands had been built and the Governor of the Province had declared a holiday on the first day of the game. Government offices were to remain closed on the second day as well, which was a Saturday. History of a different kind was being made in the All-English Bombay Gymkhana too, for it was to be the first time that Indians (members of the team) were being allowed to enter the clubhouse!

The Indian first innings followed a pattern all too familiar to fans of that era. Those were the days of buccaneers who went for the bowling, not technicians who put their heads down and waited for the bad balls. Almost all the batsmen got starts, but could not consolidate, and they scored only 219. Test debutants Vijay Merchant and Lala Amarnath, both of whom would serve India with distinction in the years to follow, made 23 and 38 respectively.

The fiery Mohammed Nissar, who to this day is regarded as India's fastest bowler ever, and the 41 year-old left-arm spinner Jamshedji bowled their best, but the experienced Englishmen raised an ominous lead of 209. The number of runs India had to score to avoid an innings defeat looked like the Himalayas when openers Wazir Ali and Janardhan Navle fell with only 21 on the board. Out came the young dasher Amarnath to join his belligerent skipper Nayudu in a situation wherein batsmen are expected to curb their aggressive instincts and drag their team out of trouble.

But then, both men believed that attack was the best form of defence. On 17th December, the third day of the game, Amarnath set out to demonstrate just that. He drove, cut and pulled merrily, completely overshadowing his legendary skipper. His fifty comprised 11 boundaries, and he did not stop. So emphatic was his strokeplay that the architect of the notorious 'leg-trap' field-placements in the Bodyline series was forced to push back his men to the boundary. Not that it made a difference, as the boundaries kept coming. Less than two hours after coming to the crease, the 22 year-old Amarnath completed his century, not only the first by an Indian debutant in an official Test, but also the first by an Indian in a Test match itself.

The frenzied scenes that followed provided a moment that no one who watched the Bodyline series would have believed. Nayudu put his bat in the crease and strode towars the youngster, eager to congratulate him. But the ball was still in play, and the keeper Elliott could have run the Indian captain out, if it were not for his own skipper shaking his head!

At the end of the day's play, Lala Amarnath was the toast of all Mumbai. He was inundated with gifts, from royalty as well as the commoners. The celebrations went on for the next few days, regardless of the fact that India went on to lose the match by nine wickets. He was felicitated by the Maharajahs of Dhangadra and Porbander, and the P.J. Hindu Gymkhana. The prizes included expensive watches, gold and silver salvers, and a fair amount of cash. He was also offered diamond jewellery by the daughter of a Mumbai jeweller. The catch was that this lady wanted him to elope with her! It was one gift that he refused!


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