“C.K. Why don’t you just smack it?” – from Tavare to Sehwag in four balls

Viewed from the past, modern cricket isn’t unrecognizable. 

All that stuff about how the game has changed beyond all recognition is a load of codswallop.  You could argue that cricket just went through a Dark Age during the seventy years between 1930 and 2000. 

Sure, it may be all a bit unfamiliar to those who earned their living at the game in 1950, but to someone who played in the 1700s and the 1800s much less would seem to have changed.

Third Man’s license to travel through time forbids him from carrying passengers from the past ‘back’ to the future, but if he did ever smuggle one on board the first he’d invite would be C.K.Nayudu.

There is C.K., above, second from the left, fag in hand, making himself comfortable on the bumper of Baroda 34, one of Pratapsinhrao Gaekwad’s splendid coups de ville.

That’s the Maharaja on his right, forerunner of all the super rich owners of today’s IPL franchises.

On C.K.’s left are Sardar Ghorpade and Syed Mushtaq Ali also enjoying the Bollywood lifestyle in their stylish high waisted  ‘bags’ (1920’s slang for Trousers).

C.K. not only lived the lifestyle of an IPL superstar, he played his cricket like a modern.

Well, strictly he didn’t to begin with.  As a youngster he was a blocker … until his Dad took him along for his old pal Ranji to have a look at him in the nets.

CK was tall, had a good reach and quick feet – an obvious athlete – but was utterly unadventurous, patting back each delivery.

“My friend,” said the Jam Saheb of Nawanagar and one of the two most exciting and innovative players that the game had by then produced, “why doesn’t he smack the ball?”

Great advice from Ranji, though even from a hundred years away you can hear the hint of frustration and ennui in the Great Man’s words.

Later, Dad put his arm around the kid and said, “You want to play cricket, right? You’ve got to learn to hit every bowler on every pitch. Get out in all weathers, make yourself hard.”

The new self-confident C.K. emerged on debut at the Bombay Quadrangular in 1916.  With his side reeling on 79 for 7, he walked to the wicket to face that canny and highly experienced Australian leg-spinner, Frank Tarrant.

If you listen carefully you can hear the banter as the lanky, gawky twenty year old walked to the wicket, took guard, and looked up to see Tarrant flicking the ball from one hand to the other, pure cunning menace.

“Four to come. Play.”

The ball tossed high came to C.K. with an audible buzz, dipped and bounced spitefully.  He played it with care back from where it had come.

Tarrant, soon at his mark and anxious to give the youngster no time to think, approached once more.  Again came the buzz, the dip, the bounce and again the careful defence.

A laugh or two broke out among the fielders and Tarrant skipped to his mark and turned without hesitating.  More laughter as silly mid-off retrieved the ball from C.K.’s feet.

As the ball made its way back to Tarrant, C.K. heard Ranji’s voice in his head, “Just give it a crack young man.”

As the fourth delivery flew above his eye-line, C.K. animated and eager, his bat lifted high about his head, jumped out, landed with perfect balance and smacked the ball high and handsome.

There was a moment of absolute silence as the ball soared over the boundary and as the crowd and players took in what had happened.

Then, their tension released, there was a roar of appreciation.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to ““C.K. Why don’t you just smack it?” – from Tavare to Sehwag in four balls

  1. John Halliwell

    Wonderful TM. from Tavare to Sehwag in four balls. The words of Ranji must have burned into his brain. This from Wikepedia:

    ‘Arthur Gilligan led the first MCC tour to India in the 1926-27 season. For the Hindus at Bombay Gymkhana, Nayudu hit 153 in 116 minutes with 11 sixes. One of the sixes, off Bob Wyatt, landed on the roof of the Gymkhana. The MCC presented him with a silver bat in recognition of that heroic innings.’

    • John, thanks for this striking encapsulation – which with your permission TM would like to use as a sub-title.

      Demands on the Time Machine are considerable at this point in the year but the co-ordinates have been set for the very match to which you refer – when the blows from C.K.’s bat were reportedly knocking spectators from their arboreal perches.

      As the Squire is so fond of saying, “It’s only a matter of time.”

  2. John Halliwell

    A writer as good and entertaining as you, TM, doesn’t need permission from the likes of me for anything. The Time Machine is such a marvelous vehicle. I would love a trip back to a fairly recent time: Edgbaston 1957: May and Cowdrey destroying the hitherto unassailable Ramadhin, who had taken 7 – 49 in England’s first innings. May’s 285 must have been something very special. And the tragic Collie Smith’s 161. How great would Sobers’ pal have become? But I digress – the Time Machine is surely for much longer, mist-shrouded, journeys than that……

  3. Last season, I read Ranji’s Jubilee Book (and what a masterclass is that) at my club in Blackpool. The extracts are pretty vague but I’ve been in a fix for the past half an hour whether this is from that. But it surely isn’t. Absolutely loved the flow here. And oh The Time Machine.

  4. Sardar Ghorpade (the first one from the left) looks absolutely like a chubby R Ashwin. No?

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