Indian Cricket thro' the ages

Published: Thursday, October 4, 2007, 18:23 [IST]
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Indian Cricket thro' the ages

The British brought the colonial game called cricket to India in the early 1700s, with the first ever cricket match being held in 1721. In 1848, the Parsi community in Mumbai formed the Oriental Cricket Club, the first cricket club to be established by Indians. After steady beginnings, the Europeans eventually invited the Parsis to play a match in 1877 what is said to be the first ever first-class match played in India. By 1912, the Europeans, Parsis, Hindus, Muslims  and the Rest played a pentangular tournament in Bombay - cradle of Indian cricket - This tournament eventually was played anaully in pre-independence India.
In the early 1900s, princes and Nawabs, who left for England for higher education, played for British universities, counties and some even played for England national side. Ranjitsinhji, Nawab of Pataudi and KS Duleepsinhji played for England in Tests and were greatly appreciated by the British.
In 1911, an Indian team led by Maharaja of Patiala toured England, but this unofficial Indian team played English county teams and not the English cricket team. India was invited into The Imperial Cricket Council (now International Cricket Council) in 1926. India made its Test debut in 1932.  Initially Maharaja of Patiala was appointed as captain of the vibrant Indian side. However he steped down from the captaincy, thanks to the ego clash he had with Maharaja of Vizzinagaram, also an aspirant for captaincy. Maharaja of Porbunder was  later appointed as captain. He too followed Maharaja of Patiala's suit when the players led by Lala Amarnath revolted. Eventually CK Nayudu led the team. The match was given Test status despite being only 3 days in length. The team was not strong in its batting at this point and went on to lose by 158 runs but fast bowlers Mohammad Nissar and Amar Singh impressed the Englishmen.  
The Indian team in 30's and 40's continued to improve but victory eluded them on international scene. The team's first series as an independent country was in 1948 against Sir Donald Bradman's Invincibles (a name given to the Australian cricket team of that time). Australia won the five-match series, 4-0.
India recorded their first Test victory against England at Madras in 1952. Later in the year, they won their first Test series. They did it against Karadar-led Pakistan. They continued their improvement throughout the early 1950s with a series win against New Zealand in 1956. However, they did not win again in the remainder of the decade and lost badly to strong Australian and English sides.
The next decade developed India's reputation as a team considered to be strong at home. Although they only won two series (both against New Zealand), they managed to draw home series against Pakistan, England and Australia.
The key to India's bowling in the 1970s were the Indian spin quartet - Bishen Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Srinivas Venkataraghavan. This period also saw the emergence of two of India's best ever batsmen, Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa Viswanath. Indian pitches have had tendency to support spin and the spin quartet exploited this to create collapses in opposing batting lineups. These players were responsible for the back-to-back series wins in 1971 in the West Indies and in England, under the captaincy of Ajit Wadekar. Gavaskar scored 774 runs in the West Indian series while Dilip Sardesai shone with the willow which led to the historic Test series win against England.
In 1980's India had a mixed fortunes they lost to West Indies miserably in five-match Test series. Visitors Windies wrapped up the series 5-0 in 1983-84. In 1986 India under Kapil's captaincy won the Test series against England at the latter's backyard. Then India played in a tied Test against Aussies in 1987 at Chennai. This decade also saw Sunil Gavaskar became the first batsman to amass 10,000 Test runs and registered a record 34 Test centuries which eventually was surpassed by another Little Matser Sachin Tendulkar very recently. In the latter-half of the decade all-rounder Kapil Dev became the highest wicket-taker in Test cricket, surpassing his Kiwi counterpart Sir Richard Hadlee to end up with a total of 434 Test scalps.
The emergence of Sachin Tendulkar in 1990 heralded a new epoch in Indian cricket. A protege of Ramakanth Achrekar having learnt his trade at the historic Shivaji Park maidan made India debut in 1989-90 at the tender age of 17 years. This technically correct shot-maker immediately huge impact on cricketing world. Sir Donald Bradman himself remarked that Tendulkar batting style was similar to his. He is best in the business and India still need his service. Sachin and his team-mate leg-spinner Anil Kumble have, by their sheer individual brilliance steered India to many a victories. Kumble, the highest wicket-taker for India in Test cricket, is only the second bowler in Test history to take all ten wickets in an innings. He did it against Pakistan in 1999 at Firoz Shah Kotla, Delhi. Fast bowlers a rare species in India India also found match-winning. India in 90's kept its reputation of unbeatable in home intact. They defeated Aussies, England and New Zealand while losing to the Aussies and Their Trans-Tasman rivalsin away series. Their performances overseas was still a matter of concern.
However the two new men at the helm of Team India - Ganguly as captain and John Wright as coach - heralded a dawn of new era. The never-say-die Ganguly groomed youngsters like Yuvraj, Harbhajan, Pathan et al and the results were there to see. India rallied from behind to hand a 2-1 series defeat to Aussies. Laxman's masterclass 281 and Harbhajan's ten wicket haul including the hat-trick at Eden Gardens, Kolkata were the highlight of the series. This was followed by stellar performances by the team when playing abroad, with Test victories coming in Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, West Indies, England, Australia, and a famous series victory against arch-rivals Pakistan in 2004. The most memorable one was a sensational win in Australia at Adelaide in 2003, where Dravid, VVS Laxman and Ajit Agarkar scripted a come-from-behind victory after the team had conceded 556 runs in the first innings. Though the series was levelled with Aussies winning the fourth and final Test at MCG India still retained Border-Gavaskar Trophy thanks to their home series win a year ago.
Ganguly was unceremoniously sacked from captaincy and eventually from team following his spat with the coach Greg Chappell. Dravid took over the reigns and led India to two back-to-back overseas series wins. India halted a three-and-half-decade jinx against West Indies registering a comfortable win at Port-of-Spain in 2006 and a historic win against England in the following year at the Oval. 


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