🕓 Reading time: 10 minutes

Abhishek Mukherjee, cricketsoccer’s prolific writer, brings to you the words, verbal or written, almost never intended to be pathbreaking quotes in the history of cricket in this fascinating series…….

Complete quote: I gave him a full toss and a couple of long hops, but you can’t go on bowling like that all day, not in England.

By: Unknown county captain, about Vijayananda Gajapathi Raju, Maharaj Kumar of Vizianagaram, better known as Vizzy, summer of 1936.

But let us take things up from 1931, two years after the foundation of BCCI, when the administrators were in dire need of a person to lead the Indian cricket team.

Step 1: Hobbs and Sutcliffe

India were supposed to play their first Test against England at home in 1930-31. When that got cancelled, the second son of the Maharaja of Vizianagram stepped in. The Maharaj Kumar was as ordinary a cricketer as they made them, but he was enterprising, ambitious, cunning, and more importantly, born rich. History remembers him as Vizzy.

Vizzy made his own team and led them against teams across the country. To maximise glamour, he tried to recruit the services of Don Bradman, Jack Hobbs, and Herbert Sutcliffe. He eventually had to settle for the last two.

Vizzy’s team won 17 of their 18 matches, as you would expect of a side boasting of Hobbs, Sutcliffe, CK Nayudu, Wazir Ali, and several other future Indian Test cricketers. Vizzy also ensured the comfort of both legends throughout the tour.

He was paid back. In A History of Indian Cricket, Mihir Bose mentions that before leaving, Hobbs let know that “Vizzy would make a good all-India captain.”

Step 2: Willingdon arrives

In 1931, Freeman Freeman-Thomas (yes, the word “Freeman” occurs twice), 1st Marquess of Willingdon, was appointed the 22nd Viceroy of India. When the Civil Disobedience Movement broke out next year, Willingdon came down hard, imprisoning Gandhi, outlawing the Indian National Congress, and more.

Willingdon had also played cricket for Cambridge and Sussex, and for an “England” side against “India” at Bombay Gymkhana during The Great War (the second of these matches witnessed Nayudu’s maiden First-Class hundred).

Step 3: The Ranji-Duleep snub

At this point, the BCCI members faced a serious question: who would lead the Indian cricket fraternity?

The ideal choice was KS Ranjitsinhji, the man who had put India on the global cricket map. But Ranji, by then almost sixty, was simply not interested. And he had never played cricket in India anyway.

They approached his nephew KS Duleepsinhji, at that point an active Test cricketer. Duleep had played in the 1928-29 Bombay Quadrangular, where he even played the first known reverse-sweep on Indian soil – though not the first in history.

But Duleep refused as well, perhaps due to the advice of the authoritative Ranji (“Duleep and I are English cricketers”), “Plum” Warner, and Arthur Carr, among others. He turned down Grant Govan and Anthony de Mello, President and Secretary of BCCI respectively – somewhat rudely, one would say.

Step 4: Two candidates arise

With Ranji and Duleep opting out and no Englishman willing to lead the show, two candidates came to the forefront. The first, Bhupinder Singh, the Maharaja of Patiala, had led the Indian side that toured England in 1911.

While not an outstanding cricketer, Patiala was a great patron of the sport. He came on excellent terms with Arthur Gilligan when the latter led MCC to India in 1926-27 – to the extent that Patiala was invited to play for the tourists.

But Patiala’s many queens and concubines and somewhat unconventional harem did not exactly portray a great image of him. Worse, Willingdon did not approve of him.

The other candidate was Vizzy. By then the 1932 tour to England had been announced. Vizzy offered to pay Rs 50,000 to Willingdon, of which 40,000 would be towards the tour expenses. Suggestions of an Englishman leading the Indians floated around.

At this stage, Vizzy clearly held the upper hand over Patiala.

Step 5: Patiala hits back

What happens before a Test tour? Ah, the trials – and that was where Patiala hit back. He organised the entire trials in his kingdom, sponsoring every candidate – all Indians – for an entire month.

The only non-Indian present was Patiala’s employee Frank Tarrant, a former Sheffield Shield cricketer. The selectors included Duleep and The Nawab of Pataudi, yet to make his Test debut. Pataudi played two of the four trial matches and top-scored twice.

Patiala was expectedly named the captain of the touring squad. Ghanshyamsinhji Daulatsinhji Jhala, Kumar Shri of Limbdi, became his deputy. Patiala’s employee Joginder Singh was also part of the squad. There was no Pataudi.

But Patiala eventually opted out of the tour. The Indians were led by Natwarsinhji Bhavsinhji, the Maharaja of Porbandar and brother-in-law of Limbdi – and by no means a cricketer.

Vizzy was offered a post – of deputy vice-captain. He obviously opted out.

Step 6: Not the most popular

Unlike Vizzy after him, Porbandar was aware of his limited cricketing skills. He played just four matches on the tour and scored two runs. Neither Limbdi nor Joginder played the Test. Nayudu led India many times including the Test.

India had an impressive tour, winning 9 and losing 8 First-Class matches (13-9 in all matches), an excellent show for any team on their first Test tour.

In the only Test, India rattled England, reducing them to 19/3. Even after England recovered to 259, India were in it at 110/2. Then they ran out of steam and lost by 158 runs.

But a new problem arose. Nayudu was by far the best cricketer of the squad (he would even be named a Wisden Cricketer of the Year). But he was not universally accepted as the leader.

One must remember here that in 1932, all of India was ruled either by the British or the princely states. The Indians were not used to commoners as leaders. Neither had they played alongside each other very much. Nayudu’s authoritarian leadership did not help, either.

A group of cricketers woke Porbandar up at four in the morning of the Test, refusing to play under Nayudu, but Porbandar would have nothing of it. Nayudu had been chosen to lead – and lead he would.

Some of them wanted to play under Wazir, a favourite of Patiala. Wazir would probably have been India’s first Test captain had Patiala been on the tour. And some, like the exuberant Amar Singh, could not come to terms with Nayudu’s fierce focus on winning everything.

Step 7: A new Chancellor

The Chamber of Princes had been formed to voice the needs of the princely states to the British Raj. When Ranji, then Chancellor, passed away in 1933, Patiala filled his place, much to the dismay of Willingdon. Patiala would be re-elected in 1935.

At this stage, Vizzy seemed to have lost the battle. Another advantage Patiala had was his son. Yadavindra Singh, the Yuvraj of Patiala, was a flamboyant batsman, and – unlike most members of the royalty – a decent bowler and an excellent fielder.

Now Patiala had two candidates, one of whom could make it on cricketing skills.

Step 8: Patiala snubbed

England were scheduled to tour India in 1933-34. Here Patiala received a blow. Bose wrote: “Whether Willingdon turned the cricket authorities against Patiala is not known but, after the 1932 tour, as the acrimony with the Viceroy developed, Patiala found himself cold-shouldered by the organisation he had done so much to create and nourish.”

Alec Hosie, EL West, and HD Kanga were named selectors. Nayudu led India. Tarrant stood as umpire in the first two Tests.

England won the series 2-0 despite missing several first-string cricketers. The Yuvraj played in the third Test and scored 24 and 60. In the second innings, he reached fifty in 42 balls. He never played another Test.

But two more things happened. MCC lost only one match on the tour, at Banaras, against Vizzy’s XI. And Patiala made sure their only one four-day match outside the Tests was against his XI. The lavishness with which Patiala treated the hosts was beyond the imagination of some county professionals. Even Douglas Jardine relented by letting Patiala play for MCC in the next match, against Delhi.

Step 9: The nameless trophy

But Patiala had more ground to recover. He had failed to seize the England tour. He now played another card: he donated a golden cup worth £500 towards a new interstate national cricket tournament – the Ranji Trophy.

But Vizzy came up with a counter-trophy. Why would Ranji, he asked, be honoured thus, when he had never played in India? Shouldn’t it be called the Willingdon Trophy instead, after The Honourable Viceroy? And who better to design it than Lady Willingdon…?

So two rounds of cricket in the initial edition of the tournament had been played before it was even named.

Amidst all this, Patiala’s team (Retrievers) and Vizzy’s team (Freelooters) clashed in the final of the Moin-ud-Dowlah Gold Cup. This time Vizzy had got Learie Constantine, promising him bonuses for every run and wicket in the final. Constantine took 8/141 but failed with the bat. Lala Amarnath won the match for Retrievers with a fourth-innings hundred.

Two unproved stories should be mentioned here: first, Vizzy offered Amarnath Rs 10,000 to sit out, which he refused; and Patiala ensured Amar Singh, Ladha Ramji, and Sorabji Colah missed the match.

Meanwhile, Bombay comfortably won the nameless tournament but had to travel to Delhi and play the Cricket Club of India – then in Delhi – before their reward, though it is not clear why. CCI would later be moved to Bombay.

Mohammad Nissar took 8/74 and Pheroze Palia and Amarnath scored hundreds as CCI thrashed an utterly disinterested Bombay by an innings. Then Willingdon awarded them the Ranji Trophy.

All this happened in March 1935. In October Vizzy organised a tournament in Delhi to honour the Silver Jubilee of King George V, where he led his side to victory. Then Willingdon handed over the Willingdon Trophy to his friend Vizzy.

One Jack Brittain-Jones, a man of Willingdon, scored 45 and 19 in the final for Vizzy’s side. We shall return to him.

Step 10: A prince eliminated

Patiala sponsored an Australian tour of India that winter. The Australian squad, put together by Tarrant, consisted mostly of Sheffield Shield cricketers and Test cricketers past their primes.

But the tourists were still a serious challenge for a new Test-playing nation in the series of four unofficial “Tests”. They won the first two, at Bombay and Calcutta, before India won at Lahore and Madras.

The Indian selection committee initially consisted of Duleep, Pataudi, and Kanga. Pataudi, then touted as captain for the 1936 tour of England, was named captain here. But more importantly, Duleep became indisposed and was replaced by Vizzy as selector.

Pataudi opted out of the Bombay “Test” citing fitness issues.

It is time for a detour to the Bombay Quadrangular final of the previous season, where the Yuvraj had led a Hindus side that included both Nayudu and DB Deodhar, the crowd’s favourites. This had not gone very well with the Bombay crowd, who had booed the Yuvraj throughout the match.

The match prompted Deodhar to leave Bombay and found the Maharashtra team.

With that in mind, Vizzy pushed for the Yuvraj as captain for the first “Test” with Nayudu still in the side. The official reason was to try out several vice-captains for Pataudi.

Tired of the royal interference, Kanga – the only commoner in the committee – resigned at this stage. He was replaced by BCCI President Hamidullah Khan, the Nawab of Bhopal, and father-in-law of Pataudi.

Whether the ghosts of the last season were playing on his mind is unclear, but the Yuvraj was not at his most inspiring in the “Test”. India lost easily. One captaincy candidate was out of the way.

Step 11: CK dealt with

In their next match, the tourists were held to a draw by Vizzy’s United Provinces. Vizzy even top-scored with 40 – the most important innings of his life. He had now managed to stop the Australians, just as he had stopped Jardine’s men. Was he then a better leader than perceived?

Amar Singh, whose relationship with CK had meanwhile reached a new low, sat out of the Calcutta “Test” once Nayudu was named captain (Pataudi was still unfit). He cited medical reasons, though Bose claims that these were unsubstantiated.

The Anglicised Calcutta cricket fraternity had already sided with Willingdon. They had never warmed to Nayudu. They witnessed India lose inside two days – and the press did not bother to mince words.

Pataudi was still unfit. Wazir was asked to lead in the third “Test” (they were trying out vice-captains, remember?). A disgusted Nayudu opted out; the relationship between him and Wazir, already not the best, would deteriorate further.

Wazir batted like the champion that he was, scoring 77 out of 149 in the first innings and top-scoring with 92 in the second. Nissar took 8/152 and India won under Wazir. Nayudu the captain seemed a thing of the past.

Step 12: The final blow

 As the Australians travelled from Lahore towards Madras, Vizzy put other wheels into motion. The press suddenly seemed very keen on resurfacing the 1932 “rebellions” against Nayudu, about how he was not the best person to lead…

Meanwhile, the Nawab of Moin-ud-Dowlah’s XI, led by Vizzy, beat the tourists by an innings. Amarnath scored a hundred; and Amar Singh – comfortable with Vizzy after refusing to play under Nayudu – took 10/87. Once again Vizzy the leader surfaced at the forefront.

Wazir led India to a win at Madras (Nissar took 11/97) after Nayudu was dropped on disciplinary grounds.

Later that month, Pataudi opted out of the England tour, officially citing health issues – though letters to friends suggested that he was fed up. Patiala then withdrew his son and Wazir from the race (“I cannot let the name of Patiala be associated with what is happening now”).

India needed a leader for the 1936 tour. Vizzy, till now displaying no interest, now offered his candidature. Nayudu was his only competition, but Vizzy swept him aside by a 10-5 margin. One of Nayudu’s five votes came from Patiala, the man who had paid for the Australian tour that led to Vizzy’s rise.

Brittain-Jones (remember him?) was appointed the manager. “Rainbow” Hadi, the first man to score a Ranji Trophy hundred, for Hyderabad, was treasurer. Hadi played two matches on the 1936 tour and Brittain-Jones none. They were not selected to play. They were there because their associations had backed Vizzy.

With Brittain-Jones and Hadi to handle affairs off the field, Vizzy arrived with two servants and thirty-six items of luggage. There was no vice-captain or selection committee. The vessel that carried the Indians to England was called – fittingly – Viceroy of India.

Thus began most autocratic cricket tour in Indian history.

Step 13: The disastrous tour

India did way worse in 1936 than in 1932. They went winless for their first 14 matches, and eventually won 5 and lost 13. The Tests were lost 0-2.

But the scenario outside the ground was worse. Amarnath was sent home midway through the tour on disciplinary grounds; he would later be declared innocent by the Beaumont Committee. As India kept losing, Vizzy summoned Dilawar Hussain and Jahangir Khan (from Cambridge), Amar Singh (then a Colne professional), and CS Nayudu (from India).

The party soon split into supporters of Vizzy and Nayudu. Vizzy showered gifts on his camp, sponsored a trip to Paris, handed a Test cap to Baqa Jilani for abusing Nayudu at the breakfast table…

He achieved his dream of getting knighted on this tour. On the day of the ceremony, news arrived from Liverpool that Nayudu’s men had set Lancashire 199. Upon receiving an SOS cable from Vizzy, Nissar resorted to full-tosses, but Nayudu took him off after two overs. Nayudu (6 for 46) and Jahangir (3 for 25) then bowled India to victory.

Vizzy scored 33 runs at 8.25 in the Tests and averaged 14.29 on the tour. Even this was bloated, for he was in the habit of showering lavish gifts on opposition bowlers before matches. But then, as a county captain admitted, “I gave him a full toss and a couple of long hops, but you can’t go on bowling like that all day, not in England.”

Vizzy had bribed him with a gold watch.

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