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DateLine Sunday, 11 May 2008





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Merchant, Hazare - the classic combination in Indian cricket

CRICKET: There have been many famous combinations of players batsmen and bowlers, in the history of cricket.

Opening batsmen, opening bowlers, often last-wicket pairs and bowlers and wicketkeepers have provided the excitement of skill and also the union, or hostility, of temperament.Hobbs and Sutcliffe, Lindwall and Miller, Sarwate and Banorjee, and Grimmett and Oldfield have been examples of each of these categories respectively.

Indian cricket had a famous combination in its four great spin bowlers. India had two great batsmen, somewhat equivalent, to Gavaskar and Viswanath in style, though perhaps not in achievement.

It is customary to couple the names of Gavaskar and Viswanath, Vijay Merchant and Vijay Hazare could also have been linked together. There are differences between the two pairs of batsmen, Viswanath is more artistic than Gavaskar while Merchant was more artistic than Hasare.

On the other hand, Gavaskar has scored more runs than Viswanath just as Hasare did more than Merchant. But these are general expressions.Merchant was a different kind of stylist from Viswanath; he was a classicist while Viswanath was a mixture of classicism and romanticism. Gavaskar was more pleasing to watch than Hazare.

Particularly in the later phase of Hazare’s cricketing career. He is a world personality, and that Hazare never was. He reserved his best for the Bombay communal tourney and for the Ranji Trophy. Indian spectators used to become excited when Viswanath joined Gavaskar at the crease in a Test. They hoped to see runs being scored not only plentifully, but also in style and with varying character.

When those who were watching the first Test with England in New Delhi in November 1951, saw Hazare join Merchant after India, facing an England total of 203, had lost two wickets for 64, they must have experienced similar emotions.

But they would not have known that this would be their last sight of Merchant at the crease, for he retired after this match. Nor, unless they were statisticians themselves, would they have realised that this was the first and the last three figure stand between these two great batsmen in Test matches.

Memorable centuries

In the hindsight of history we know these facts. That is why the centuries each of them scored in these innings are memorable.

That series brought India a great moment when, in the final game at Chepauk, they gained their first ever Test victory; this was in their 25th effort. Nevertheless, it was a disappointing series.

The England team under Nigel Haward, himself a player of little consequence, were only the second best. Hutton, Compton, Bedser, Evans and May were all absent.

Yet India, though playing at home, could only draw the series. After the first three Tests were drawn, England won in Kanpur on an under-prepared pitch. The Madras victory for India, while historic, only levelled the series.

India ought to have won the first Test in New Delhi. But poor captaincy by Hazare and inefficient catching helped England to force a draw when all seemed lost for them. On a perfect pitch for batting, England who took first strike, could score only 203.

Shinde, the leg-break and googly bowler, was in magnificent form. Unusually accurate, he bowled long spells, 35.3 overs, to capture six wickets for 91 runs. Though India began their reply poorly, losing Pankaj Roy and Umrigar for 64, they placed themselves in an impregnable position through the third-wicket stand between Merchant and Hazare, which added 211, the highest for any Indian wicket in Tests until then.

Poor captaincy

Hazare closed the innings at 418 for six wickets, then the highest total India had ever amassed. England seemed beaten, but magnificent defensive batting by Watkins, a left-hander aided by Hazare’s poor captaincy which was compounded by dropped catches at critical moments, brought England an honourable draw.

Merchant’s century was his third, all made against England. In fact, he played all his 10 official Tests against that country. The 154 he scored was the highest individual Indian Test score: a “record” which did not survive a day, for Hazare broke it with 164 not out the next day.

The partnership lasted five hours and 10 minutes. Statham, then at the beginning of his great career, Ridgway, Shackelton and Tattersall beat in vain against the impregnable defence of the two batsmen.But both Merchant and Hazare batted far too slowly. The former was at the crease for seven and a half hours.

The latter was even slower, taking eight hours and 35 minutes. It would be ungraceful and uncharitable to attack and the slow batsmanship of the two batsmen. Yet, both Merchant and Hazare should have scored quicker than they did.

After all, both were much accomplished and the pitch was all in their favour. At tea on the second day, Merchant and Hazare had brought the total to 153. In the 90 minutes to close of play, they added only 39.

On the third day too the scoring was slow. Hazare was unduly cautious as captain, self-defeatingly cautious. Normally a captain in his happy position would have closed his innings at tea on the third day, hoping and expecting to dismiss one or two of the third and dispirited Englishmen.

Yet it was not until the morning of the fourth day, after the Englishmen had the benefit of the rest day, that he asked them to bat again. In the final analysis, however, it was Battaji Gaekwad’s two dropped catches that thwarted India. On the fourth day, Merchant injured his shoulder and left the field.

As soon as Gaekwad, the substitute, took his place, he dropped Robertson off Shindo. Then, when Carr was helping Watkins and 158 for the fourth wicket in over five hours. Gaekwad dropped another easy catch off him.

Finally, England could score 368 for six wickets. Poor Shindo had an analysis of two wickets for 162 off 73 overs, of which 27 were maidens. Vinoo Mankad’s figures invite comparison. He bowled 76 overs, 47 maidens, 58 runs and four wickets. But then leg spin is “unnatural” spin and the leg-break bowler cannot control it so effectively as a left hander can.


Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Ceylinco Banyan Villas

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