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A brief history of cricket amidst Wayanad's tea estates

Colin Cowdrey
Colin Cowdrey
EXPERT COLUMNIST
Modified 02 Jan 2020, 18:02 IST
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The district of Wayanad may not figure in the list of revered places for even the hardcore cricket fans in India. Hence, cricket was not on the top of my mind during the trip to Wayanad last week with my wife and in-laws. But, thanks to my father-in-law’s Facebook post about our trip, senior cricket writer Makarand Waingankar suggested me to visit the bungalow of former English captain Colin Cowdrey and also the Krishnagiri Stadium.

Now, the name Michael Colin Cowdrey isn’t an alien name to any cricket fan. He was the first cricketer to play 100 Test matches and also the first one to score centuries against all the other six Test playing nations of that era. His legacy has been kept alive with the MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture, an annual event started in 2001 organised by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). Interestingly he shares his initials with the prestigious cricket body. 

Scenic Krishnagiri Stadium in Wayanad

Krishnagiri Cricket Stadium in Wayanad
Krishnagiri Cricket Stadium in Wayanad

But I had no idea about Cowdrey’s Indian connection. So, based on the contacts provided by Mr. Waingankar, I proceeded to the Krishnagiri Stadium. As, we entered the premises of the stadium, I was spellbound by the beauty. A friendly match was in progress and it was a lovely sight to see players in white dress against the backdrop of Sahyadri mountain ranges.  Of all the Indian stadiums that I have visited, the scenery was probably only second to the one in Dharmashala. 

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The Honorary Secretary of Waynad Cricket, Nazir Machan was kind enough to show me around the place and over a cup of tea he proudly said that the ground had also hosted an international match (featuring India A and South Africa A).

Into the bungalow

Cowdrey
Cowdrey's Bungalow

Located in the tea estates in Chundale, the bungalow took one back to the colonial era. It was at the top of the hill and had an old-school charm about it with a magnificent view of the adjoining tea gardens. 

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Front-yard of the house
Front-yard of the house

A cricketing dressing table

With a bit of reading, I found out that Colin Cowdrey’s father Ernest Arthur Cowdrey used to run this tea-estate back in pre-independence era and it was at this house that the English skipper probably received his first cricketing lessons. Apparently, the house also used to have a tiny room for young Colin with a dressing table which had slots to keep the cricket bats. 

Unfortunately, the dressing table, photos or wall-hangings of the Cowdrey family were no longer there as the current occupant and General Manager of the tea estate informed me. It might have been removed couple of years back before he moved in.  

Wall-hangings which was present earlier Pic Courtesy - Makarand Waingankar
Wall-hangings which was present earlier Pic Courtesy - Makarand Waingankar
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Nevertheless, sitting in this large living room, it gave me a feeling of being attached to a piece of cricket history. I could visualize young Cowdrey hitting balls in the tea gardens and making the fielders fetch for it. 

A case for cricket museums in India

At the same time, I wondered, why is it that we have not converted these places into cricket museums? And this isn’t just about Waynad or the bungalow of the Cowdrey family. 

As a country, we are sitting on a gold mine of rich cricket history. In my opinion, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) should take a stock of these historical places and ensure that they are preserved. These gems do not deserve to get lost and it should be our duty to pass it on to the next generation of cricket fans. 

With these thoughts in mind, I left the bungalow and came out of the cricket world of Cowdrey’s. As Orhan Pamuk had written, “Real museums are places where time is transformed into space,” my last hour or so had been spent watching kid Colin Cowdrey embarking on a cricket journey with tiny steps.

Published 01 Jan 2020, 07:27 IST
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