Monday, December 4, 2017

The conditions under which W.G. Grace played and why he was such a great batsman. Excerpt from Indra Vikram Singh’s book ‘Don’s Century’


W.G. Grace's last Test match, Nottingham, June 1899.

Inarguably, the first great batsman was W.G. Grace. He is credited with developing batting technique as we know it today. Another wizard who joined Grace during the later stages of his career, K.S. Ranjitsinhji wrote in The Jubilee Book of Cricket (1897): “He revolutionized batting. He turned it from an accomplishment into a science….. Before W.G. batsmen were of two kinds; a batsman played a forward game or he played a back game….. It was bad cricket to hit a straight ball; as for pulling a long hop, it was regarded as immoral. What W.G. did was to unite in his mighty self all the good points of all the good players and to make utility the criterion of style. He founded the modern theory of batting by making forward and back play of equal importance, relying neither on one nor the other, but both….. I hold him to be, not only the finest player born or unborn, but the maker of modern batting. He turned the old one-stringed instrument into a many chorded lyre.”

The emergence of Grace saw significant developments in the game. In 1864, over-arm bowling was approved. Grace was then able to develop batting technique that countered this revolutionary over-the-shoulder style of delivering the ball. Cricket received the impetus it required. County cricket began the same year, as was Wisden first published.

The popular image of Dr. William Gilbert Grace is that of the Grand Old Man, portly, ageing, with a flowing grey beard. But his best came very early in his career. It is reckoned that he was at eighteen years the best batsman in England, and consequently the world. That was in 1866 when, as Vic Marks wrote in The Wisden Illustrated History of Cricket: “W.G. was creating new standards that no one else could reach.” Playing for an England XI against Surrey, Grace scored 224 not out in a crushing victory of an innings and 300 runs. Marks recounted: “On the last afternoon his captain gave him permission to pop off to Crystal Palace to run in a 440-yard hurdle race - he won. Three weeks later he scored 173 not out for the Gentlemen of the South against Players of the South at The Oval, having already taken seven wickets whilst bowling unchanged throughout the Players’ innings.”

Grace’s halcyon days were in the pre-Test cricket era. Peter Hartland reflected in his book The Balance of Power in Test Cricket 1877-1998: “Picture him in 1873 as a 25-year-old, already known for prodigious feats in track and field athletics. At this stage he scored more runs in his short cricketing career - over 10,000 - than anyone else in history to date, at more than double the average. His career average was now 61, the next best being (reputedly the best professional batsman of the 1860s and 1870s) Richard Daft’s 29. Grace was literally twice as good as anyone who had ever played. With a step-change in broad-batted technique, if not in style, he was the first to show that cricket could be a batsman’s game; that bowlers could be forced on the defensive for long periods. The remarkable thing to remember about Grace is not so much his cricketing longevity, remarkable though that was, but the fact that he established a lead over his contemporaries which has never been equalled.”

It must be remembered that Grace had to play on pitches in the 1860s that were terrible for batting. Hartland continued, “….. pitches, still rough and ready with scant regard for evenness or slope, had barely improved. The only tool in regular use was the scythe, complementing the work of rabbits, sheep and, on one reported occasion at Lord’s a brace of partridges.”

Batting was a hazardous exercise as W.G. Grace’s own observation on wickets bears out: “Many of the principal grounds were so rough as to be positively dangerous to play upon and batsmen were commonly damaged by the fast bowling. When the wickets were in this condition the batsmen had to look out for shooters and leave the bumping balls to look after themselves. In the sixties it was no unusual thing to have three shooters in an over.” And there were only four deliveries in an over in those days!

Later the tracks did improve somewhat, and it is no coincidence that in 1871, around the time the heavy roller came to be used, Grace became the first batsman to score 2000 runs in a season - 2739 runs at an average of 78.25 with 10 hundreds, including two double centuries. That was an age when there was a clear demarcation between the amateurs and the professionals, or the Gentlemen and the Players, as they were called. The Gentlemen were the aristocrats of the game and invariably batsmen, while much of the hard labour, bowling, fell to the lot of the Players. Most of the time it was the Players who triumphed but as Marks recorded “Only during the Grace era did the Gentlemen dominate the fixture. W.G. seemed to save his best performance for the occasion, which serves to emphasise the fact that it was the most important game in the cricket calendar.”

That awesome hitter Gilbert ‘Croucher’ Jessop wrote in the July 1923 edition of The Cricketer International: “In the early days the success of the Gentlemen depended almost entirely on the ‘Old Man’. Fifteen centuries in all did he collect against the ‘Professors’ and on two of the occasions he exceeded the double century. His brightest and best patch occurred before I was born, when in consecutive innings from 1871-73 he took toll of the Players bowling to the extent of 217, 77 and 112, 117, 163, 158 and 70. And in those days, mind you, the wickets, to say the least, were not quite up to the standard of modern days. Yet against ‘rib-roasters’, ‘nose-enders’ - yes, even ‘shooters’ - did the Old Man keep his end up and calmly pursue the path which leads to centuries. Rare indeed was the occasion when ‘W.G.’ gave his wicket away, and yet few balls in the course of a long innings passed his bat.”  

W.G. also bowled accurate medium-paced to slow leg-cutters and became the first to perform the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets in a season in 1873.

Grace came up with a stupendous performance in The Gentlemen versus The Players match at Lord’s in 1876. Opening the batting, he scored 169 out of the team’s total of 449. He then bowled 97 four-ball overs, taking three for 81 and six for 41 as The Players collapsed for 219 and 132 in their two innings. That year he became the first batsman to score a triple century in first-class cricket and, as if to celebrate, hit another, two innings later. His sequence of scores were 344, 177 and 318 not out, and in the month of August piled up 1279 runs. 

The 1870s were a golden period for Gloucestershire in the County Championships, W.G. and his brothers, Edward Mills and George Frederick, with a team composed entirely of amateurs won the title jointly with Nottinghamshire in 1873, and then on their own in 1874, 1876 and 1877, and never thereafter.

Hartland continued, “When the Test match era began in 1877, the process of allowing the batsman as fair a chance as the bowler, though reasonably advanced, still had a long way to go.” In the early 1880s, the heavy roller was complemented by the grass mower, which were used over tended soil. This made life a bit easier for batsmen. Given the awesome stature that he had already acquired, it seemed almost inevitable that W.G. would score a hundred on his Test debut. He did, at the Oval in 1880, the second such distinction after Charles Bannerman’s feat in the inaugural Test at Melbourne in 1876-77. Grace’s 152 helped England win by five wickets. Australian terror Fred Spofforth was injured during that Test, but Grace was at his best against fast bowling.

His duels with Spofforth were exhilarating, one such occasion being in what came to be known as ‘Spofforth’s match’ at the Oval in August 1882 when Australia lost at home for the first time. It was this Test that led to the creation of the Ashes. On a treacherous wicket rendered well nigh unplayable due to rain, England were set 85 to win. At 51 for two, with Grace still at the wicket, victory seemed in sight. But he holed out to mid-off for 32, and England collapsed to 77 all out. Spofforth took seven wickets in each innings, and the rest is history.

In 1886 Grace performed the astounding feat of scoring a hundred and capturing all ten wickets in an innings in the same match. He hit up 104 in MCC’s only innings, and bagged two for 60 and ten for 49, against Oxford University.

As late as 1895, at nearly 47 years, Grace was a rejuvenated man. He resurrected his career by becoming the first to score over 1000 runs in May, a cherished achievement at the beginning of the English season when it is generally cold and damp, and the ball darts around; and to notch up 100 first-class hundreds, achieving the coveted landmark in the game against Somerset at Bristol. As if to celebrate, he went on to hit up 288 out of a total of 474. Grace was the lone man to achieve these two distinctions in the 19th century. He topped the run tally for the season with 2346 runs. The next year he made his third triple century, two decades after he had compiled his first two.    

Amazingly, Grace was captain of Gloucestershire from 1871 to 1898. He led England in 13 Tests, playing 22 in all and scoring 1098 runs at an average of 32.29 with two centuries both at the Oval against Australia, 170 being the highest in 1886. Though he played his last first-class match in 1908, when he was sixty, the same year that Bradman was born, W.G.’s career was effectively over by the close of the nineteenth century. His final appearance at Lord’s for The Gentlemen was in 1899. He was still captain but did not bowl, and batted only at no. 7, instead of his customary position at the top of the order. He scored 78 before being run out, his age and bulk unable to meet the demands of sprinting up and down the pitch with youthful partners.

As Marks noted: “The Gentlemen won by an innings, which was hardly surprising since the side contained many of the men who were to become legendary figures of the Edwardian era (Archie) MacLaren, (C.B.) Fry, (K.S.) Ranjitsinhji, and F.S. Jackson. On the Players side was a 21-year-old Yorkshireman Wilfred Rhodes, who was to have the rare privilege - and pain - of bowling to both W.G. and his Australian counterpart of the next generation, Donald Bradman.” Grace aggregated 6008 runs for the Gentlemen against the Players - more than twice the next man - and also took 276 wickets.

In addition to his three first-class triple centuries, Grace knocked up 10 double centuries in his tally of 126 three-figure knocks. He made up 1000 runs in a season 28 times, the only other player to achieve it so many times being Frank Woolley. Grace scored a hundred in each innings of a match thrice. His career aggregate of 54,896 runs at an average of 39.55 was then a record. It is remarkable that in such a long career played on uncovered wickets of dubious quality, Grace did not bag a single pair. Lord Harris paid his tribute later: “Grace was just as watchful when his score was 200 as when he was on 0 - and just as reluctant to leave the wicket on dismissal.” He also took 2876 first-class wickets at an average of 17.92 and, as was only to be expected from a man of his temperament, a brilliant fielder off his own bowling. Amazingly, even a century later, W.G. Grace is still fifth in the all-time rungetters list, and sixth among the wicket-takers, in the first-class arena.  

Vic Marks, in The Wisden Illustrated History of Cricket, summed up the career of cricket’s first superstar: “W.G. Grace was to dwarf all others in the period 1865 to 1900. He became as celebrated as Queen Victoria herself. Unwittingly Grace carried the game of cricket into the modern era almost single-handed.” There is indeed little doubt that he transformed the game and the public’s awareness of it. Perhaps appropriately, the last word on Grace should come from his memorial biography published under the auspices of the MCC. Sir Home Gordon eulogised, “That he will never have an equal in the future is to us equally an axiom because never again will the conditions under which it is played be so difficult as they were when he built up his reputation by demonstrating his superiority alike over them and over his contemporaries, a position he holds for decades.”

Don’s Century
Published by Sporting Links
ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0, Fully Illustrated
French Fold 21.5 cm x 28 cm, 188 Pages
Price Rupees 995

Indra Vikram Singh’s latest books published by Sporting Links:
A Maharaja’s Turf  ISBN 978-81-901668-3-6
The Big Book of World Cup Cricket  ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3
Don’s Century  ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0
Crowning Glory  ISBN 978-81-901668-6-7

Distributed in India by:  Variety Book Depot, AVG Bhawan, M-3 Middle Circle, Connaught Circus, New Delhi-110001, India. Tel. + 91 11 23417175, 23412567, Email varietybookdepot@gmail.com.

Available online at amazon.in:
https://www.amazon.in/s/ref=sr_hi_eb?rh=k%3AIndra+Vikram+Singh%2Cn%3A976389031&ie=UTF8&qid=1508325652&keyword=Indra+Vikram+Singh

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The legendary writer Neville Cardus’ comments on some great cricketers

Sir Neville Cardus (1888-1975) was a famous English cricket writer, music critic and long-timecorrespondent of The Manchester Guardian. His comments on some great cricketers make interesting reading.







On W.G. Grace and K.S. Ranjitsinhji, in his book Good Days (1934): “In the ‘nineties the game was absolutely English; it was even Victorian. W.G. Grace for years had stamped on cricket the English mark and the mark of the period. It was the age of simple first principles, of the stout respectability of the straight bat and the good-length balls. 
And then suddenly this visitation of dusky, supple legerdemain happened; a man was seen playing cricket as nobody in England could possibly have played it. The honest length ball was not met by the honest straight bat, but there was a flick of the wrist, and lo! The straight ball was charmed away to the leg-boundary. And nobody quite saw or understood how it all happened.”


On Victor Trumper, Charles Macartney  and Don Bradman: “Macartney, perfect of technique, none the less used his bat with an unmistakable pugnacity. He was less courtly in his stroke-play than Trumper, whose masterful innings had a certain effortless charm. Sir Donald Bradman annihilated all bowlers as though he was just performing the day’s work with a deadly efficiency. Macartney slaughtered bowling quite rapaciously. If he was obliged to bat through a maiden over he looked annoyed with himself at the end of it; and he would gnaw his glove. His forearms were formidably strong, his chin was aggressive and his eyes perpetually alive. They looked you in the face; they looked the best bowlers in the world in the face. Macartney employed a defensive stroke as a last resort. Nothing could daunt him. Before the start of a Lord’s Test match he came down to breakfast in a London hotel, looking through the window at the June sunshine and said:- ‘Lovely day, Cripes, I feel sorry for any poor cove who’s got to bowl at me today’.”


On Don Bradman’s 334 in the Leeds Test of 1930, in his book Play Resumed with Cardus: “At Leeds Bradman announced his rights to mastership in a few swift moments. He made 72 runs in his first hour at the wicket, giving to us every bit of cricket excepting the leg-glance. Every fine point of batsmanship was to be admired; strokes powerful and swift and accurate and handsome; variety of craft controlled with singleness of mind and purpose. Bradman was as determined to take no risks, as was to hit boundaries from every ball the least loose. And his technique is so extensive and practised that he can get runs at the rate of 50 an hour, without once needing to venture romantically into the realms of the speculative or the empirical.”

On Don Bradman: “People say ‘Oh, but he hasn’t the charm of McCabe, or the mercury of MacCartney, or the dignity of Hammond’; the objection is a little unintelligent, as though a lion was criticized for lacking the delicacy of the gazelle, the worrying tenacity of the terrier and the disdainful elegance of a swan or a camel.”

On Don Bradman: “Bradman’s achievements stagger the imagination. No writer of boys’ fiction would dare to invent a hero who performed with Bradman’s continual consistency. His batsmanship delights one’s knowledge of the game, his every stroke is a dazzling and precious stone in the game’s crown.”









On Gary Sobers: “He makes a stroke with moments to spare. The sure sign of mastery, of genius of any order, is absence of strain, natural freedom of rhythm.”











(These comments are reproduced in Indra Vikram Singh’s book ‘Don’s Century’, written in the centenary year of Sir Donald Bradman, celebrating his life and cricket career, and also presenting a panorama of batting from the 1860s to present times).  


Don’s Century
Published by Sporting Links
ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0, Fully Illustrated
French Fold 21.5 cm x 28 cm, 188 Pages
Price Rupees 995

Indra Vikram Singh’s latest books published by Sporting Links:
A Maharaja’s Turf  ISBN 978-81-901668-3-6
The Big Book of World Cup Cricket  ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3
Don’s Century  ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0
Crowning Glory  ISBN 978-81-901668-6-7

Distributed in India by:  Variety Book Depot, AVG Bhawan, M-3 Middle Circle, Connaught Circus, New Delhi-110001, India. Tel. + 91 11 23417175, 23412567, Email varietybookdepot@gmail.com.

Available online at amazon.in:
https://www.amazon.in/s/ref=sr_hi_eb?rh=k%3AIndra+Vikram+Singh%2Cn%3A976389031&ie=UTF8&qid=1508325652&keyword=Indra+Vikram+Singh

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Amazing achievements of Don Bradman in his eleven Test series. Excerpt from Indra Vikram Singh’s book ‘Don’s Century’



In his eleven Test series, Bradman had topped both the aggregates and averages for Australia six times, including the Bodyline series. In 1934 he had the highest aggregate by far, but was second to Ponsford in the averages by a fraction of a run. In 1938 he headed the averages, and trailed Brown in the run charts, but had been unable to bat in the Oval Test. In the other three series he was always close to the top. Don Bradman never failed.

The Don scored more than 500 runs in a series seven times; he averaged above 100 four times and in the nineties thrice. He logged up more than 900 runs in a rubber once, and above 800 runs and 700 runs twice each. That was the extent of his wizardry. Of those 11 series, Australia won 8 and lost 2 - Bradman’s first and the Bodyline assault, and never thereafter - and drew one. From 1934, Australia held the Ashes for 19 years - inclusive of the war years - until a series after Bradman’s retirement, six series in a row. If one man ever influenced Ashes contests, it was obviously The Don.

As captain, Bradman was never defeated in a series, winning four and drawing the one in which he could not bat in the lost Test. Australia won 15 of those Tests, drew 6 and lost 3. After the war, Bradman did not lose a single Test, won three series and averaged over 100 with the bat. Two of these three series were Ashes battles. And they said he had slowed down, was just a shadow of his former self! The truth is that the ageing lion roared, very loudly.

Bradman himself put all these amazing numbers in perspective in his Farewell to Cricket: “Figures are not conclusive, especially short-term figures, but it is difficult to avoid their significance if a man produces them year after year against every type of opponent and under all conceivable conditions.”

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email singh_iv@hotmail.com. Follow Indra Vikram Singh on Twitter @IVRajpipla).

Don’s Century
Published by Sporting Links
ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0, Fully Illustrated
French Fold 21.5 cm x 28 cm, 188 Pages
Price Rupees 995

Indra Vikram Singh’s latest books published by Sporting Links:
A Maharaja’s Turf  ISBN 978-81-901668-3-6
The Big Book of World Cup Cricket  ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3
Don’s Century  ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0
Crowning Glory  ISBN 978-81-901668-6-7

Distributed in India by:  Variety Book Depot, AVG Bhawan, M-3 Middle Circle, Connaught Circus, New Delhi-110001, India. Tel. + 91 11 23417175, 23412567, Email varietybookdepot@gmail.com.

Available online at amazon.in:
https://www.amazon.in/s/ref=sr_hi_eb?rh=k%3AIndra+Vikram+Singh%2Cn%3A976389031&ie=UTF8&qid=1508325652&keyword=Indra+Vikram+Singh

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Bradman Museum and Bradman Foundation. Excerpt from Indra Vikram’s book ‘Don’s Century’


The Glebe wicket, where young Don had first shown his batting prowess, was transformed into Bowral Oval, and later named Sir Donald Bradman Memorial Oval. It is here at Bowral that the Bradman Museum stands. Sir Donald and Lady Jessie were present when the first stage of the museum was inaugurated in October 1989. This section is the pavilion, which comprises the clubhouse, dressing rooms and conference rooms. Bradman noted, “In my eyes the Bradman Museum has been created to honour and strengthen the game of cricket and my name is merely a catalyst to give it birth and life. The museum complex is primarily for the youth of Australia. It is a symbol of what cricket has meant and will continue to mean to the people of our nation and cricket lovers everywhere. Without doubt the laws of cricket and the conduct of the game are a great example to the world. We should all be proud of this heritage.” What Bradman was conveying to those who play, govern and watch this great game, was to respect it and carry it forward in its best tradition.

Seated in the dressing room of the Bradman Oval pavilion is a life-size figure of a batsman with his baggy green cap and pads on, legs stretched out and face cupped by his hands. It reveals “the mixed emotions of celebration and devastation, of players sharing those private moments.”

The museum itself, which is at times referred to as the Second Innings, opened in 1996. It encompasses three major display galleries, a special exhibition gallery, a hundred-seat auditorium, library, tea room and a children’s area. A gift shop sells Bradman memorabilia including silver pendants, key chains, cups with his autographed portrait, bats and balls. There is a special section showing the crafting of the bat from the willow, and the winding of several layers of twine around a cork core, encased in a red leather shell to form a cricket ball.

The history of cricket is captured in film footage, photographs and newspaper clippings. One can learn about the origin of the game, framing of the laws, the earliest reference in 1300 to a game of ‘Craiget’ played by Prince Edward II, formation of MCC in 1787, the legendary players, through to the modernisation of the game, night matches and commercialization.

The Bradman Foundation, which manages the Bradman Museum, conducts coaching clinics. The residential programmes for children combine other recreational activities so that the young ones enjoy new challenges in a relaxed and social setting. The Foundation provides scholarships, organises exhibitions and conducts matches. Coinciding with the Sydney Olympics in the year 2000, an exhibition entitled ‘A Perfect Ten: Sporting Greats of the 20th Century’ opened at the museum, recording the achievements of ten great sportspersons, Carl Lewis (athletics), Michael Jordan (basketball), Muhammad Ali (boxing), Don Bradman (cricket), Jack Nicklaus (golf), Nadia Comaneci (gymnastics), John Eales (rugby), Pele (soccer), Dawn Fraser (swimming) and Rod Laver (tennis).

To cite just one instance of the work of the Bradman Foundation, in 1997 the well known artist Colin Joseph Dudley made a painting of H.S. Altham’s photograph of Bradman walking out to bat at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the third Test of the 1936-37 Ashes series. It was entitled ‘Bradman’s Walk to Glory Limited Edition Masterpiece’. Each of the ninety-nine prints was autographed by The Don and priced at 20,000 Australian Dollars. The proceeds were shared by the Wheelchair Sports Association and the Bradman Foundation. Bradman wrote, “This limited edition portrait was initiated as a reflection of my very high regard for the commitment and sporting skills of wheelchair athletes.”

Membership of the Bradman Foundation is open to everyone around the world for a nominal subscription of Aus $ 25 a year. Almost till his last days, Sir Donald religiously attended to business related to the Bradman Foundation, Bradman Museum and Bradman Collection at the State Library of South Australia.


(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email singh_iv@hotmail.com. Follow Indra Vikram Singh on Twitter @IVRajpipla).

Don’s Century
Published by Sporting Links
ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0, Fully Illustrated
French Fold 21.5 cm x 28 cm, 188 Pages
Price Rupees 995

Indra Vikram Singh’s latest books published by Sporting Links:
A Maharaja’s Turf  ISBN 978-81-901668-3-6
The Big Book of World Cup Cricket  ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3
Don’s Century  ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0
Crowning Glory  ISBN 978-81-901668-6-7
Distributed in India by:  Variety Book Depot, AVG Bhawan, M-3 Middle Circle, Connaught Circus, New Delhi-110001, India. Tel. + 91 11 23417175, 23412567, Email varietybookdepot@gmail.com.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

On Don Bradman’s birth centenary, 27th August 2008, his biographer Indra Vikram Singh’s tribute in The Indian Express

The Indian Express
Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hundred years on, Bradman’s genius can still inspire
by
Indra Vikram Singh


On Don Bradman’s centenary, a fitting tribute is to assess his real greatness, moving beyond the mountains of statistics and records that are often used to highlight his achievements. Len Hutton wrote in his Fifty Years in Cricket: “It was fashionable to say that The Don was unorthodox, a law unto himself, and that his bat was not as straight as it ought to have been. But his movements were so right and so emphatic. To the straight good-length ball he would either go forward or back with precise judgement, never across the pitch, and at the crucial moment, his bat would be as straight as a Scotch fir.”

KS Duleepsinhji averred in Indian Cricketer Annual 1954: “Will there be another like him? I doubt it. His highly developed cricket sense helped him to make up his mind regarding the stroke in a split second, after the ball left the bowler's hand. With his large repertoire of strokes, he always found gaps in the field. The opponents always found eleven fielders too few. His fast rate of scoring gave bowlers plenty of time to dismiss their opponents. ‘Bradman is batting’ — at those magic words people would rush to the ground.”

Alec Bedser bowled to Bradman only after the war when the great man was past his prime, but still a run-getter beyond compare. He wrote in The Cricketer International: “My one regret was not to see him at his peak when, as the great Test umpire Frank Chester told me, fielders were wont to whistle with astonishment at the sheer brilliance and audacity of his stroke-play. One of his striking attributes was the way he made full use of the space from the popping crease to the stumps.”

Even during the Bodyline series when Bradman’s average ‘plummeted’ to 56.57, it was still the best for Australia, and second only to England's Eddie Paynter’s 61.33 who had two not outs in five innings. And Bradman scored at almost 40 runs an hour, hitting a hundred in one Test and half-centuries in the other three. Stan McCabe might have been the more aesthetic while dealing with the scourge of Bodyline, but Bradman was as effective, and certainly more prolific and consistent.

To dub The Don as merely a run-machine is simplistic because machines do not have minds. Among Bradman's several attributes was a very strong mind. In the 1936-37 Ashes series he was returning to the Test arena after a near-death experience, at the helm of a weak team that had lost several stalwarts. And England won the first two Tests. For most others it would have been too much to endure. But The Don did something, well, Bradmanesque. He scored 270, 212 and 169 in the remaining three Tests, winning all of them and retaining the crown. Nothing daunted him, and his story is so hugely inspirational as much for the massive odds he battled so successfully, as for the phenomenal number of runs he made.

Or let us fast forward to 1946-47, to the first series after the war. Unwell and ageing, he carved out 187 and 234 in the first two Tests, winning both, establishing ascendancy and breaking the English back. Maybe we can rewind to 1934, the first series after the Bodyline mayhem. Bradman was not in good health. He still got his customary double century in the opening match. Then, after a lean run in the first three Tests and the series precariously placed at 1-1, The Don scored 304 and 244 in the last two Tests, winning the final one and wresting the Ashes. That was character, a very tough mind and great skill, something far beyond the capability of any machine ever invented.

What was that one quality that made Don Bradman such a champion. The one most qualified to shed light was his wife Jessie: “More than anything, it was his single-mindedness; the ability to concentrate on any innings from the moment he woke up in the morning.” The key word here is focus. Let that remain the last word.

(Indra Vikram Singh is the only Indian biographer of Don Bradman. His forthcoming book Don’s Century is scheduled to be released shortly).


Don’s Century
Published by Sporting Links
ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0, Fully Illustrated
French Fold 21.5 cm x 28 cm, 188 Pages
Price Rupees 995

Indra Vikram Singh’s latest books published by Sporting Links:
A Maharaja’s Turf  ISBN 978-81-901668-3-6
The Big Book of World Cup Cricket  ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3
Don’s Century  ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0
Crowning Glory  ISBN 978-81-901668-6-7
Distributed in India by:  Variety Book Depot, AVG Bhawan, M-3 Middle Circle, Connaught Circus, New Delhi-110001, India. Tel. + 91 11 23417175, 23412567, Email varietybookdepot@gmail.com.

Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email singh_iv@hotmail.com. Follow Indra Vikram Singh on Twitter @IVRajpipla.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

What Indian cricketers from the Australian tour of 1947-48 felt about Don Bradman. Excerpt from Indra Vikram Singh’s book ‘Don’s Century’


Amarnath, on his part, was unstinted in his praise for Bradman. He wrote in The Sportstar: “I am yet to see another Bradman. Probably none would in the times to come. When people make comparisons between Bradman and others, I laugh. Such was Bradman’s mastery that even Test cricket was One-day cricket for him. Has anyone made 300 in a day in a Test? So please don’t insult The Don by making silly comparisons. I know he never came to India but then it was good for our bowlers. On our pitches, where the ball does nothing, it would have been like going shopping for him and he would have batted day and night.”

Regarding the characteristics of Bradman’s batting, Amarnath observed: “Bradman’s eyesight was remarkable. He would spot the ball so easily, when batting or fielding. Bradman was essentially a back-foot player. And an absolute delight to watch. Among the shots he played, the pull obviously was the most outstanding. He could pull any ball from anywhere, even those going away on the off-stump. His square-cut came from the middle of the bat and the speed with which the ball travelled to the boundary was amazing. I remember in the first Test at Brisbane, he played a square-cut off (S.W.) Sohoni and the ball came back five yards after hitting the fence.”

Hazare referred to Bradman’s tendency to often run, or jog, back to the pavilion after being dismissed. In an article in The Week, Hazare stated: “Whenever he got out, he always used to run to the pavilion! He never questioned the umpire’s decision. Most of the time he started running to the pavilion even before the umpire’s finger went up. We didn’t find him getting angry on the field. He was a cool person. He didn’t want to waste energy on anger.” Bradman’s exit was quite in contrast to his entry towards the crease. Then he would walk in slowly, collecting his thoughts, taking in the atmosphere, getting used to the light. When his job was done he would depart hurriedly, getting away from the heat of battle to relax and rejuvenate in the dressing room.

Sarwate spoke more about the personal qualities of Bradman. He said in The Sportstar: “He was a great tactician, a great captain. But he was also a great sportsman, a perfect gentleman and a true ambassador for cricket. I have not seen many opponents appreciating a good stroke or a good ball. The Don always had nice words if you played a good shot or bowled a good ball to him. Signs of a good sportsman who appreciates a good act and it did not really matter to him if the player was on his side or the other.”

Sarwate also recalled in The Week, “Don was very confident but not arrogant and that was the way he behaved with us. He never tried to show that they were playing against a very inferior side.” All this may sound bizarre and outlandish in the modern age of sledging. True, this is a very different era, of cut-throat commercialism, but abuse on the field is certainly a bane of present-day cricket. If players find it difficult to be gentlemanly nowadays, they should at least refrain from being loutish, particularly in this electronic age when impressionable minds watching on live television are quick to imbibe crass behaviour as being an acceptable way of life.    

Equally effusive in his appreciation of The Don, C.S. Nayudu also told The Sportstar: “As a cricketer he had no match and he was simply a lovable character as a down-to-earth human being. I know people said he was aloof at times, but we all found him such an easily approachable man.” The verdict was unanimous. Bradman and the Indians got along very well.

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email singh_iv@hotmail.com. Follow Indra Vikram Singh on Twitter @IVRajpipla).

Don’s Century
Published by Sporting Links
ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0, Fully Illustrated
French Fold 21.5 cm x 28 cm, 188 Pages
Price Rupees 995

Indra Vikram Singh’s latest books published by Sporting Links:
A Maharaja’s Turf  ISBN 978-81-901668-3-6
The Big Book of World Cup Cricket  ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3
Don’s Century  ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0
Crowning Glory  ISBN 978-81-901668-6-7
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Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Gohil Rajput dynasty of Rajpipla

Maharana Gambhirsinhji with his eldest son Yuvraj Chhatrasinhji, two younger sons and courtiers in 1875.
Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji.

A first-class princely state, the largest in the Rewa Kantha Agency, Rajpipla was founded around 1340 by Kumar Shri Samarsinhji Mokhdaji, younger son of Thakur Mokhdaji Ranoji 1309/1347 of Ghogha (later Bhavnagar) by the daughter of Rao Chokrana, a Parmar Rajput prince of Ujjain in Malwa. Chokrana died without a male heir, having adopted Samarsinhji. Thereby Samarsinhji succeded to the gadi of his maternal grandfather Chokrana Parmar at Junaraj (Old Rajpipla) Fort deep in the forests of the Satpura hills, and assumed the name Arjunsinhji. As a result, the rule of the principality of Rajpipla passed on to the Gohil Rajput clan, but they began worshipping the Kul Devi (family deity) of the Parmar clan, Shri Harsiddhi Mataji, the original temple being in Ujjain. It is said that Maharana Verisalji I of Rajpipla built the present temple of Harsiddhi Mataji at Nandod or new Rajpipla town, in the 18th century.

Rajpipla State was situated largely between two important rivers of western India, the Narmada and the Tapti, with the Satpura range in the south. Spanning an area of over 1500 square miles (about 4,000 square kilometres), of which 600 square miles (1550 square kilometres) were forests, with the rest fertile agricultural plains and river valleys, Rajpipla grew to be one of the most prosperous princely states in Gujarat, second only to Baroda. It was also famous for its agate mines. It is now part of the state of Gujarat. Its capital town of Rajpipla (Nandod or New Rajpipla) is now headquarters of Narmada district.

The origin of the Gohil Rajput dynasty of Rajpipla goes back to the sixth century A.D. when Muhideosur Gohadit or Guhil, born in 542 A.D. after the sack of Vallabhi and the only male survivor of the clan, went on to become chief of an area near modern Idar in Gujarat in the year 556 A.D, and held sway till his death in 603 A.D. His descendant Kalbhoj or Bappa Rawal seized Chittor and became ruler of Mewar in 734 A.D. A little more than two-and-a-half-centuries later in 973 A.D., Salivahan, the Gohil ruler of Mewar, and 11th in descent to Bappa Rawal, moved away with part of the clan from Chittor to Juna Khergarh (present-day Bhalotra near Jodhpur) on the River Luni in Marwar, leaving behind his son Shaktikumar with the remaining members of his kin. There is still a village there called 'Gohilon ki dhani' near Jodhpur. Thus for two-and-a-quarter centuries, both Mewar and Marwar were ruled by the Gohil Rajput clan.

Later, after Ala-ud-din Khilji ravaged Chittor in 1303, the Gohils of Mewar regrouped and assumed the name Sisodia. The capital was shifted from Chittor to Udaipur in 1559.

Meanwhile, the Gohils who had migrated under Salivahan continued to rule over Marwar. After the formation of the Delhi Sultanate in the early part of the thirteenth century, the Rathore clan, pushed out of Kannauj, migrated to Marwar. In turn the Gohil clan was displaced from Marwar. They marched back to Saurashtra where they became governors of the Chalukyas, and then carved out their own principalities. The most famous of their chiefs during this period were Sejakji, Ranoji and Mokhdaji, and the princely states that their descendants carved out were Bhavnagar, Rajpipla, Palitana, Lathi and Vallabhipur or Vala.

The rulers of Rajpipla had to face several invasions from the sultans of Ahmedabad, the Mughal emperors and later the Gaekwars, even losing their principality for brief periods, each time coming back to power by joining forces with the hill tribes (mostly Bhils) and carrying out guerrilla attacks. In 1730, with the weakening of the Mughal Empire, the 26th Gohil ruler of Rajpipla, Maharana Verisalji I stopped paying tribute to the Mughals, and his son Maharana Jeetsinhji wrested back Nandod taluka and shifted the capital to Nandod or new Rajpipla town, in the plains on the banks of River Karjan, a tributary of the Narmada.

The Gaekwars of Baroda exacted tribute from Rajpipla in the later 18th and early 19th century. The stranglehold of the Gaekwars was cast aside with the intervention of the British, and accession of the 33rd Gohil ruler Maharana Verisalji II on the gadi of Rajpipla. During the 1857 Mutiny, Rajpipla under Verisalji II rebelled, and for many months relieved itself of the sway of the British. The agitated English, having quelled the Mutiny and transferred power to the Crown, forced Verisalji II to step aside and make way for his son Gambhirsinhji in 1860 AD.

During the reign of Maharana Gambhirsinhji (1860/97), the road from Rajpipla to Ankleshwar was built, and Rajpipla State had its own postal system. Maharana Chhatrasinhji, the 35th Gohil ruler of Rajpipla, who came to the gadi in 1897 A.D., laid the 60-mile (90 kilometres) Ankleshwar-Rajpipla railway line and carried out massive famine relief during the period 1899-1902. He was one of the pioneers of motoring in India, owning cars like the Wolseley 6 hp 1903-04, Armstrong Siddeley 15 hp 1906 and Clement Bayard 16 hp.

Maharaja Vijaysinhji, who ascended the gadi in 1915 A.D., carried out massive reforms and infrastructure works. He established a high school where only nominal fees were charged, and introduced free primary education and scholarships. He built a civil hospital, maternity hospital, five dispensaries and a veterinary hospital in the State. A criminal-and-civil court was set up, pensions were paid to public servants, and the salaries of the police and military were increased. Maharaja Vijaysinhji ordered the laying of good motorable roads. He added the Jhagadia-Netrang section to the Rajpipla Railways. He also set up a 19-mile (31 kilometres) steam railroad and tramway connecting the towns along the river Narmada with villages in the interior, and a power house supplying electricity and water to Rajpipla town. Even though taxes were reduced in terms of percentage, the revenue of the State increased from Rupees 1,300,000 to Rupees 2,700,000 per annum in the period 1915-1930, and peaked at Rupees 3,600,000 in 1948 when the State merged with the Indian Union. Maharaja Vijaysinhji regularised the land revenue system, and carried out relief efforts during droughts and floods. He improved the quality of cotton, grains and fruits grown in his territory. His town planning as far back as 1927 was far-sighted, and builders were given permission to construct, conditional to leaving 3 to 4 feet (about 1 metre) space for future widening of roads. The designs of new buildings were well integrated and in harmony with the surroundings.

A keen horseman, Maharaja Vijaysinhji maintained one of the finest stables of race horses in India and England, marked by quality and not quantity. His thoroughbreds won several prestigious races, including the first Indian Derby in 1919 (Tipster), the Irish Derby in 1926 and Belgian Grand Prix in 1927 (Embargo), and the blue riband of the turf, the Epsom Derby of England in 1934 (Windsor Lad). Maharaja Vijaysinhji is still the only Indian owner to have bagged the English Derby, considered the greatest horse race in the world, cheered on by an estimated quarter to half a million people which included King George V and Queen Mary of Britain and other members of the royal family. Maharaja Vijaysinhji thereby completed a brilliant hat-trick of Derby wins: the first-ever Indian Derby, the Irish Derby and the coveted Epsom Derby of England, making him arguably the greatest-ever Indian racehorse owner.

Sports like cricket, football and hockey were made compulsory for students by Maharaja Vijaysinhji, who equipped Rajpipla with a polo ground and gymkhana club. A unique feature of the Rajpipla royal family was its polo team comprising Maharaja Vijaysinhji and his three sons Yuvraj Rajendra Singhji, Maharajkumar Pramod Singhji and Maharajkumar Indrajeet Singhji. Having a passion for cars like his father, Maharaja Vijaysinhji owned, among other top makes, twelve Rolls-Royce cars, from the Silver Ghost 1913 to the Phantom III 1937.

Maharaja Vijaysinhji laid out an airstrip in Rajpipla where aircraft landed in the 1930s and 1940s. During World War II, he donated three Spitfire fighter planes, named 'Rajpipla', 'Windsor Lad' and 'Embargo', and a Hawker Hurricane aircraft 'Rajpipla II'. He also had plans to build a dam across River Narmada to facilitate irrigation and generate electricity, precursor to the present-day gigantic Sardar Sarovar project, and was in the process of raising investment for it when merger of Rajpipla State with the Union of India took place in 1948.