Adhikari was a cricketer par excellence

Published: Tuesday, August 22, 2000, 18:23 [IST]
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Rajkot: The selection of Colonel Hemu Adhikari for the prestigious C K Nayudu award came as no surprise and no one would begrudge him for this selection.

His statistics may make him look like an average cricketer. But, his stature, personality, contributions to Indian cricket as well as Services team, role as coach and manager make him a towering figure of Indian cricket.

Hemu Adhikari made it to the Gujarat team at an early age of 17 in 1936 as a batsman. However, within a couple of years he was playing for Baroda where in a match against Kathiawar he caught the eye with a splendid 160 against the ever firing Amar Singh and co and on a matting wicket.

It was this knock, which established him as one of the top batsmen, who could take on any attack under any circumstances. Surely he would have made it to the Indian cricket team in the same year but like many other cricketers in India he too lost his golden five years because of the Second World War.

In fact, it nearly took him 10 years to make his Test debut after he appeared in first-class cricket. Such was his performance in the domestic tournaments that his selection for the Australian tour in 1946-47 was inevitable.

It was during that tour that Adhikari changed his batting style to become a defensive player from an aggressive batsman. In fact, positive cricket was his ultimate credo and he just couldn't resist going for his shots. On the Australian tour he batted at number seven and came to the wicket when India were always in trouble.

Though Adhikari was not with a defensive role, but quickly adapted to the situation to a nicety. He finished the tour with an average of 30.60 runs. Madhav Mantri, who saw Adhikari from the beginning said, "He was never the same batsman as we knew him to be after that Australian tour."

In his very first home Test thereafter - against the West Indies at New Delhi - he saved India from a certain defeat thanks to his new role. West Indies scored 631 runs in the first innings and on the fourth morning India were struggling at 249 for five. Adhikari joined young Dattu Phadkar. They took the score beyond the 300-mark. Again he found an able ally in Sarvate and added 79 runs for the seventh wicket.

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