When Abbas Ali Baig Was the Toast of the Nation

In 1959 Indian cricket had actually touched all-time low. Throughout the residence season of 1958-59 they misplaced the 5 Take a look at collection to the West Indies 3-0 and on the tour of England that adopted they went down tamely within the first three Checks.

Already having misplaced the collection, they have been headed for a 5-0 whitewash and to make issues worse that they had misplaced the providers of one in all their premier batsmen Vijay Manjrekar, who needed to bear a knee surgical procedure. The temper then was darkish and gloomy on the eve of the fourth Take a look at at Manchester.

However a silver lining had been supplied by the hundred notched up by Abbas Ali Baig within the match in opposition to Middlesex simply earlier than the Take a look at commenced. Baig, a 20-year-old freshman at Oxford College, was not a part of the unique squad. He had been drafted following the damage to Manjrekar.

Straightaway, Baig displayed his prodigious expertise whereas compiling that 102. Not unexpectedly he was included within the squad for the Outdated Trafford Take a look at and whereas there was some pleasure over his inclusion over the primary three days it was clear that India have been doomed to yet one more defeat.

England had led off by getting 490 to which India’s reply was a feeble 208. Inexplicably Colin Cowdrey captaining England for the primary time didn’t implement the comply with on and the house facet went on to make 265 for eight declared at stumps on the third day.

India have been left to get 548 for victory or extra realistically bat out two full days to avert what appeared a sure defeat. Baig who had scored 26 within the first innings batting at No 3 got here on this time with the rating 35 for one.

He settled down properly making beautiful strokes all around the wicket and outscored the extra skilled Nari Contractor with whom he added 109 runs for the second wicket. After Contractor was out for 56 skipper Dattajirao Gaekwad was out for a duck and at 146 for 3 he was joined by Polly Umrigar.

Baig had crossed his half century and was batting with confidence in opposition to the tempo of Fred Trueman and Harold Rhodes and the spin of Ray Illingworth and John Mortimore. He continued to bat with aplomb and displayed youthful bravado in hooking the quick bowlers.

However with the entire 173 and his personal rating 85 he was hit on the again of his head by a ball from Rhodes whereas essaying a hook. He retired for remedy. Chandu Borde who changed him didn’t final very lengthy however Umrigar and Bapu Nadkarni got here in unbeaten at stumps with India 236 for 4.

That India might bat out the entire day to save lots of the Take a look at did not appear probably at this stage however all the identical there was great curiosity surrounding Baig. Might he get a 100 on Take a look at debut was the query on the lips of each Indian cricket fan?

Nadkarni was out for 28 early on the ultimate morning and with the rating 243 for 5 Baig got here out to affix Umrigar. He confirmed no after results of the damage and batted freely. Nor was he overawed by the truth that he was nearing a historic hundred. He sailed easily into the 90s, and on 96 he hooked Rhodes to the fence to maintain his tryst with historical past.

The Outdated Trafford crowd rose to their ft and gave the younger batsman a spontaneous spherical of applause. The press was good-looking of their reward whereas noting that Baig had made his hundred on the identical floor the place the legendary Ranji had additionally began his Take a look at profession with a century manner again in 1896.

Baig was hailed as a messiah who had come to the rescue of Indian cricket. Contemplating what the group had endured over the previous 12 months this was one thing to rejoice. Predictably, the match was misplaced. Baig had added 78 runs with Umrigar since returning to the crease however at 321 he was run out for 112.

Umrigar went on to notch up his solely hundred in eight Checks in England and received 118 earlier than he was ninth out. India have been all out for 376 leaving England victors by 171 runs.

Baig did little of observe within the ultimate Take a look at on the Oval which was additionally misplaced by an innings giving England a 5-0 clear sweep. However when he got here to India for the 1959-60 Take a look at collection in opposition to Australia he discovered himself to be probably the most talked about cricketer within the land.

Indian followers longed to see the most recent hero in motion and Baig didn’t disappoint. After two low scores within the first Take a look at at New Delhi he received a precious 36 within the second Take a look at at Kanpur earlier than ending with two half centuries within the third Take a look at at Bombay.

Within the first innings he added 133 runs for the third wicket with Contractor. Within the second innings he figured in a match saving fifth wicket partnership of 109 runs with Ramnath Kenny who additionally received a half century.

Baig couldn’t participate within the two remaining Checks as he needed to return to Oxford for his exams. However he was concerned on the Brabourne stadium with an incident that has develop into a part of Indian cricketing folklore. As quickly as he had accomplished his second fifty a younger girl ran to the bottom and kissed him on the cheek in full view of the capability crowd.

Baig, younger and good wanting, might solely smile sheepishly however during the last 60 years the {photograph} has made the rounds first in newspapers and magazines and lately on social media.

Sadly Baig didn’t stay as much as this early promise. He performed in solely 5 extra Checks, didn’t get one other 50 and his Take a look at profession petered out. However even now at 83 he’ll undoubtedly bear in mind the heady days of 1959 and 1960 and recall how he was for a short whereas the toast of the nation.

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