The day, June 25, holds a great significance in the history of Indian cricket. While many would remember it as a day when Kapil Dev and his boys had clinched the first-ever Cricket World Cup for India, not many would know that India’s international journey had begun on the same day, 85 years back. On June 25, 1932, India joined the elite club of England, Australia, New Zealand and West Indies when they made their Test debut. The Indian team, led by CK Nayudu, toured England for a one-off Test. The visitors’ start at the international level was special because they had played their maiden Test at the Mecca of Cricket, Lord’s.

A ‘prince’ skipper

Lieutenant-Colonel Maharaja Rana Shri Sir Natwarsinhji Bhavsinhji Sahib Bahadur, KCSI. Image Courtesy: National Art Gallery, India

Natwarsinhji Bhavsinhji earned the title of Maharaja of Porbandar as ruler of the small state of Kathiawar. He was a keen cricketer but his skills were almost negligible. When an All-India squad for picked for their first-ever tour, it was considered necessary for a prince to lead the Indian side. Hence, the Maharaja of Patiala was given the captaincy. Unfortunately, he had to withdraw due to an illness so the captain’s armband was given to Bhavsinhji ahead of the talented cricketers of the side.

Prior to the one-off Test, the All-India team had to play four tour matches. The Maharaja of Porbandar scored only four runs in the whole trip before he accepted his limitations and handed the captaincy to CK Nayudu. However, not many players in the team were happy with the decision. At 4 am on June 25, a few of the Indian players knocked on the door of tour captain, the Maharajah of Porbandar, to express their unwillingness to play under Nayudu. The matter was eventually resolved by a letter sent from India by the influential Maharaja of Patiala.

George VI witnessed India’s Test debut

India’s first Test attracted almost 24,000 spectators that included the monarch of United Kingdom, George VI. The hosts clearly were a better side, having played Tests before. Douglas Jardine and his boys batted first. Although the English men were anticipated to own the Indian bowling line-up, they lost their three men in the first twenty minutes into the play. At one point they were 19 for 3 before they were bowled out for a mere 259 runs in 105.1 overs.

India’s fast bowler Mohammad Nissar was the stand out bowler for the visitors, who drew the first blood when England had just eight runs on the board. In the next three runs, Nissar had the other English opener, Percy Holmes, also dismissed. Nissar was India’s first bowler in international cricket with a five-wicket haul in Tests. He bowled brilliantly on the opening day of the Tests as he had finished with figures of 5 for 93 runs in 26 overs. He maintained an economy less than four against an English side spoke volumes about his talent.

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The other wickets were picked by Amar Singh and Indian captain, Nayudu. Not only the bowling but also the fielding from the Indian team was top notch. Nayudu injured his hand severely when trying to catch England’s wicketkeeper-batsman Les Ames in the gully that he batted under a severe handicap in each innings.

India’s poor show with bat

Under the poor light, India scored 30 runs without a loss of wicket before the close of Day One. They were still 229 runs behind England’s total. The Indian team resumed their innings on Day two and lost wickets on regular intervals. Amar Singh’s fighting half-century helped India recover after they had lost seven wickets for just 108 runs. However, India never got on the top. India were 153 for 4 at one point but the last six wickets fell in an hour for 36 runs and eventually were bundled out for 189 runs in 59.3 overs.

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The turning point occurred in the match when England walked to bat for the second time. They lost four scalps with just 67 runs on the board. The English captain Jardine was the saviour for his side on the third day with an unbeaten 85 runs before he declared at 275 for 8 in 110 overs.

After the opening pair, Janardhan Navle and Naoomal Jaoomal posted 41 runs for the first wicket, Walter Robins made a breakthrough. India lost both the openers in two consecutive overs and struggled suddenly at 41 for 2. India fared so badly that they lost seven wickets for 108 but then Amar Singh, once again, gave a great display of batting under pressure as he and Lall Singh added 74 in 40 minutes.

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Although India lost their first Test by 158 runs, they had a great beginning in the sport. Today, after 85 years, India has come a very long way as they are the World No. 1 Test side ahead of South Africa, Australia, and England.

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