Gopal Bose was a splendid cricketer and a very humble person as well…..
Gopal Bose has gone down in history as the first cricketer from Bengal to play a One-Day International.
That was the second ever ODI played by India, at The Oval, during the infamous 1974 tour of England. The same tour that saw the side bowled out for 42 during the Lord’s Test.
Batting at No 3 at The Oval, Bose scored 13. He bowled his part-time off-spinners for the full quota of 11 overs, taking one for 39. His victim was David Lloyd.
That was the only time he appeared for the country in an official international match. He did not get any further chances, even after the batting failed big time in the 1974 tour.
It is perhaps unfair to say that Bose was not given his opportunities. His performances in the tour matches were not really mind-boggling.
A pity, that. He had made his way into the Indian squad riding on a couple of excellent seasons with the bat.
At the periphery of Test selection
For much of the 1970s, Bose remained knocking at the doors of selection. An opening batsman, he was one of the many contenders to join Sunil Gavaskar at the top of the order. Indeed, with his immense concentration, correct playing style, patience to play the long innings, and the ever-present floppy hat, there were similarities with the great man.
With his methods, he was much more suited to the longer format. It is somewhat curious that his career was limited to one ODI, but then those were formative days of that format and specialisation was decades away.
His overall numbers are perhaps less than flattering. 78 First-Class matches brought him 3,757 runs at 30.79 with 8 hundreds. The off-breaks, sparingly used, especially when partnerships needed to be broken, got him 72 wickets at 26.97. He also captained Bengal in Ranji Trophy.
However, two splendid seasons, in 1973-74 and then 1974-75, brought him tantalisingly close to a Test cap. By then he was a seasoned cricketer, having spent more than half a decade in the First-Class arena. And he was showing signs of maturing into a perfected product.
It was the Irani Trophy outing of 1973-74, against the supremely strong Bombay side, that saw Bose being discussed as suitable for national duty. With Gundappa Viswanath and Brijesh Patel batting around him, Bose amassed 170 and the mighty Ranji Trophy winners had to follow on. The Bengal batsman followed it up with 94 against Orissa and an unbeaten 169 against Bihar.
The gamut of runs got him selected for the unofficial ‘Test’ tour of Sri Lanka. In the first ‘Test’ at Colombo Oval, India conceded a huge first innings lead. In the second essay, Bose walked out with Gavaskar and added 194 for the first wicket. His 104 went a long way in saving the match.
In the victorious second ‘Test’, he contributed with a half-century in the first innings.
This was followed by a match between an Indian XI versus Rest of India, for all intents and purposes a selection trial for the England tour. Bose hit 77 against Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, Dilip Doshi and Salim Durani.
His place was thus booked for the 1974 tour.
However, as already mentioned, he had to be satisfied with one solitary ODI. His tour aggregate of 328 runs at 18.22 was not good enough for Test selection as Eknath Solkar, Farokh Engineer and Sudhir Naik were sent in to accompany Gavaskar in various innings.
Bose displayed fine form in the following winter as well. Karnataka were the Ranji Champions and in the Irani Trophy against their formidable attack, he hit 62 and 100. When he faced the visiting West Indians for the Indian Board President’s XI, he stood up to Andy Roberts, Keith Boyce and Bernard Julien to score 44.
As Gavaskar suffered from Whitlow during the series, chances of Bose making his Test debut looked bright. In fact, at Madras, his inclusion seemed just a formality. However, at the last moment, the selectors decided to lean in favour of all-rounders, opting for Solkar and Engineer to open the batting.
Bose never got close to Indian selection again. His form also fell away, and after that season he scored just one more First-Class hundred.
Was it something to do with Bose’s rather angry reaction during the train journey from Ahmedabad to Bombay after the Irani trophy match, when he had been stung by Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi snapping his fingers at him and demanding a match? According to Bose, he had crushed Tiger’s cigarette and had lit his own.
Or was it due to his own self-confessed addiction to cards and alcohol? Or was it his Asthma?
Perhaps a combination of all that.
Bose later moved to journalism and wrote for the Bengali daily Aajkaal. He was also a well-known coach in the Calcutta circuit.
In 2007-08, the current Indian captain Virat Kohli led the Under-19 national team to World Cup triumph. Bose was the manager of the victorious side.
The following year he became a national selector and also played the role of the Bengal Under-19 coach. That was before he out with CAB and quit his position.
In 2016, Bose received a lifetime achievement award from CAB.
In the early days of CricketSoccer, Bose did write for these pages. Hence, this obituary is special. It is personal.
Gopal Bose passed away in Birmingham on August 26, 2018, following a heart attack. He was 71.