Master blasters, pinch-hitters and what not. The art and science, if any, of going hell for leather in every sense in cricket has seen many practitioners parade on to the pitch and display their wares for long.
Much before the advent of the slam-bang cricket, there had been many accomplished players in cricket — Indian cricket too — despite being the team being minnows then, who tore any and every attack to pieces.
Long before the modern bludgeoning heroes burgeoned, India had the likes of C K Nayadu, Mustaq Ali, Salim Durrani, Farookh Engineer, Surender Amarnath, Kapil Dev and K Srikkanth.
Way back in 1932, India made its Test debut at Lord’s under C K Nayudu.
Nayudu played in all the 26 first-class matches scoring 1,842 runs and took 65 wickets. More importantly, Nayudu hit 32 sixers, the most by any batsman in that season. Playing at Edgbaston, he is believed to have hit a ball into the River Rhea. Nayadu’s partner Syed Mushtaq Ali, was also a reputed hitter of the ball.
Durrani was the only cricketer who responded to the crowd’s chanting and delivered. “We want sixer”, the crowd would scream and the left-handed Durrani would oblige immediately. Can anyone forget the knock of 94 before lunch on the first day of the Test against an West Indies attack that had the fiery Wesley Hall and the scary Charlie Griffith, the shrewd Gary Sobers or the cheeky Lance Gibbbs? Well, oftentimes, without the psychological comfort of a helmet, India’s wicket-keeper Farookh Engineer went berserk. Not just the crowds in the stadium enjoyed the run-feast, good old All India Radio ensured that cricket’s followers stayed glued to the radio every where.
Surender Amarnath once hammered 44 runs off the New Zealand attack and all in boundaries. The southpaw struck 11 sizzling fours in today’s T20 style. Could anyone keep Kapil Dev quiet? Or could anyone keep K Srikkanth pinned to his crease? T20 was not in vogue then. There have been many T20-like, or even better, displays in Indian cricket.
Possibly, the biggest difference between the displays then and now could be the fact that batting was still out of the books. They were not throw-away with shots like the reverse-hit. Cricket, even at its hurricane best, was then played the way it was meant to be played.