Reference: – The genius of Indore (Past and Present column, The Hindu Magazine, 03.07.2005)
Dear Sri Guha,
This is in response to your article on one of the best Indian openers of all time — Mushtaq Ali. It is really difficult for somebody in this era (and of yours) to have known precisely about the heroics of such a legend, since we could get to see only grayscale pictures of such players and no motion pictures. Even the stance of these players were quite different from those of modern era. But I have read quite a lot about this man and his capabilities. He stands out from other players by receiving great appreciation from people across India at a time when no TV covered matches live or in any other form. But the biggest of all problems here is the absence of TV coverage in that era itself. After some 50 years or so, I am afraid, nobody would consider him among the ranks of truly great players, for he didn’t enjoy a healthy career average. That generation might look at numbers only and by no standards one would consider an average of 32 in test cricket brilliant. WG Grace, Bev Congdon, Monty Noble all fall in this category. And what if they try to compare their average with the 54 of Vinod Kambli, 44 of Robin Smith, and the 42’s of David Lloyd and Praveen Amre!
In fact, there were cricketers who attracted devotion from the public other than Mushtaq Ali; in the likes of Salim Durani, Dattu Phadkar and Eknath Solkar. Remember; the slogan “No Mushtaq, No Test” was reiterated with a change as “No Durani, No Test” before the 1973 Kanpur test.
Mushtaq Ali was also a man who thought beyond contemporary tastes in cricket. He once had said, he never saw any fast bowler before or after his playing days as accurate and fiersome as the very under-rated (certainly, not his playing days) Amar Singh.
I thought you missed one point in your article — Mushtaq was the youngest to play for India when he made his debut against England at Kolkata in 1933-34 at 19 years and 9 days. Incidentally, the second youngest upto that time CS Nayudu also debuted in that game at 19 years and 262 days! Mushtaq could keep that distinction for 33 years.
So nice of you to have mentioned the name of the former wicket keeper from Karnataka, Budhi Kunderan, whose 192 against England in the 1963-64 series, still remains as the highest test score by a specialist Indian ‘keeper. Interestingly, there was another similarity between him and Mushtaq; both were headaches to the Indian cricket officials for reasons known and unknown, with many others to share the company with — Ladha Ramji, Madhav Apte, Salim Durani, Bishan Bedi, Mohinder Amarnath et al.