The story of India's first ever Test match on home soil

The story of India’s first ever Test match on home soil

India v England 1st ever Test cricket match on Indian soil
1st ever Test cricket match on Indian soil. (Photo Source: Twitter)

15th December 1933 – It was on this day, 83 years ago, the first ever touring team – England arrived in India to play Bombay Gymkhana in what was the first-ever formal Test on Indian idol. It was a special piece of history of Indian cricket. For the first time, India was playing at ‘home’ match having known the bat and ball game since the 1800s.

They quickly fell in love with the game which the merchants of the British ships brought with them. Later, the Parsis, the affluent community of the country in those times, were the first Indian civilians to take to cricket. They set up the Oriental Cricket Club in Mumbai’s Esplanade Maidan in 1848 and this gave birth to the club scene in Mumbai which can now pride itself of giving birth to many legends including behemoths like Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar. It was the center of all the cricketing activity.

Just next to the vast Esplanade Maidan (now Cross Maidan), was Bombay Gymkhana, the only Europeans club, famous for its ‘no dogs and Indians allowed’ rule before it was uplifted in 1931. Later, the Parsis became the first to represent the country in England when the community sent its team to England for the first ever tour in 1886 under the leadership of Dr. DH Patel.

The first combined team sailed to England to England in 1932. It didn’t pan out do well and the Indians were handed hefty losses by the likes of Fred Truman and Colin Cowdrey.

A year later, the England team led by Douglas Jardine sailed to Mumbai for their first ever tour in the winter of 1932/1933. CK Nayudu’s team was all set to play in front of 20,000 string crowd. Few others claim an attendance of 50,000. With that, one thing was certain the news of the match had spread like wildfire and people cramped each other to watch the match.

The Team:

Wazir Ali, the artist from Punjab who played for India in all the first seven Test matches with immense success, and Maharashtra’s versatile wicketkeeper Janardan Navle, highly rated by Jack Hobbs, were the openers.

Southern Punjab’s Lala Amarnath and Bombay’s CK Nayudu came below them. Both known for combining power with orthodoxy batsmanship. The most reputed batsman in the team was perhaps the run machine, Vijay Merchant who formed the spine of the Indian team, batting in the middle order. Another Bombay star Laxmidas Jai and Parsees Sorabji Colah formed the rest of the middle order.

India’s bowling party:

For the ones who think Indians don’t have the meat to bowl fast and were traditionally a ‘spin bowling country’ – hold your horses. Apart from the historians, journalists and cricket freaks, very few know about India’s first fast bowling brigade – Ladha Ramji, his younger brother Amar Singh and Mohammad Nissar.

Ramji and Amar Singh two tall well-built right-arm fast bowlers and the Nissar a short, barely 5 foot 6″ tall, nippy fast bowler formed the first fearsome fast bowling unit who had the capability of matching England’s bowling attack comprising of Stan Nicholls and Nobby Clarke. Rustomji Jamshedji was the answer to the legendary left-arm spin bowling of Headley Verity in the attack.

The historic match:

Indis lost the match by 9 wickets, despite showing some steel, England eventually ended up grabbing the honours quite easily.

CK Nayudu won the toss and put Jardine’s men to bat bowl first. Almost all the Indian batsman got off to starts but failed to convert it into a big score. Fast bowler Stan Nicholls and left-arm spinners Headley Verity and James Landbridge bowled admirably and snapped three wickets each to roll over India for just 219 with Lala Amarnath top scoring with 38.

England’s win was typical to their stature. Piloted by Bryan Valentine’s 136, they amassed 438 runs, batting for around 140 overs. Mohammad Nissar (5/90) and Rustomji (3/137) were the only successful bowlers as India saw themselves pushed back to the wall.

India had a big deficit to cover and began very poorly as both openers departed for cheap scores. But Lala Amarnath and skipper CK Nayudu played spectacular knocks to help India overhaul England’s lead. Unfortunately, the rest of them could not create the same magic and India could only reach 258 and set a pea-sized 40 runs target which the opposition chased soon after lunch on the fourth day with the loss of just one wicket.

With love to Pakistan:

Partition created chaos and disaster. The historical event, which had bloody consequences, handicapped Indian cricket. The new divided Islam dominated region named Pakistan took away the the famed college rivalry scenes of the Government college and Islamia college in Lahore, the healthy cricketing ecosystem in the Minto Park situated in the heart of Lahore with the world famous Minar-e-Pakistan marking its legacy and the cricket ‘crazy’ Karachiwallas whose love for the game could be visible from the congested dung-infested maidans to the streets of its bustling markets.

For the fact, Mohammad Nissar, opener Wazir Ali and Lala Amarnath all rose to fame in the north-western region of Pakistan. Pakistan’s future skipper Abdul Kardar and their first legendary fast bowler Fazal Mahmood were also in contention to play in the inaugural game.

Unfortunately, they had tough competition to beat due to the presence of their more deserving men. The talent nevertheless did not go waste. Kardar led Pakistan to their first ever series win while Fazal Mahmood became an inspiration for the many other legendary fast bowlers who emerged later on and made Pakistan a fast bowling country. Wazir Ali, born in Jalandhar, chose to stay in Karachi in Pakistan and later was to became a big name in the club scene of the country. His younger brother Nazir Ali and son Khalid Wazir also bagged national caps.

As a cricket fan, looking back to the history, one would definitely think what sort of a world beating team Indian would have been had the partition had not taken place (fantasies, fantasies, fantasies, everywhere, sorry for that).

But, the inaugural Test between Bombay Gymkhana and England was truly the formal beginning of cricket in its adopted nation – India.

Brief scores:

India: 219 (Stan Nichols 3 for 53, Hedley Verity 3 for 44, James Langridge 3 for 42) & 258 (Lala Amarnath 118, CK Nayudu 67; Stan Nichols 5 for 55, Nobby Clark 3 for 69)

England: 438 (Cyril Walters 78, Douglas Jardine 60, Bryan Valentine 136; Mohammad Nissar 5 for 90, Rustomji Jamshedji 3 for 137) & 40 for 1.

Result: England won the match by 9 wickets

Test debuts: A Mitchell and BH Valentine (England); Lala Amarnath, LP Jai, Rustomji Jamshedji, Vijay Merchant and Ladha Ramji (India)