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Tribute to Indian cricket's first superstar - Col. CK Nayudu

EXPERT COLUMNIST
Feature
31 Oct 2018, 01:51 IST

The Legend.
The Legend.

For the last couple of decades or so, cricket has arguably been the most followed sport in India. So, it may seem surprising that not much is known about Col. CK Nayudu, a person considered to be Indian cricket’s first superstar. 

Leaving apart the cricketing fraternity and probably the historians, today’s generation rarely mentions anything about CK (as he was called). And I experienced this first hand during the research of my book on him titled - ‘A Colonel Destined to Lead’. Many of my friends didn’t have much clue about CK other than the fact that he was India’s first Test captain. 

India's first test captain Col. CK Nayudu
India's first test captain Col. CK Nayudu

In fact, one of the motivators for me to write this book was to share CK’s wonderful story with generations to come. Only time will tell if I will succeed in this endeavour. 

Now, I was born exactly 18 years after CK passed away at the age of 72 years; so I am definitely not the best person to talk about his batting. But I will try to paint the picture based on what I have heard from people who saw him play.

Visualise the most aggressive batsman that you can think of and imagine him playing without any protection with a bat thinner and lighter by a considerable margin as compared to today’s bats. That’s CK for you. 

Known for hitting long sixes

He played in an era when hitting lofted shots was considered a sin. And still, his first scoring shot in Bombay Quadrangular was a six in 1916. He was known for hitting long sixes and there are plenty of tales around this. Talking about CK’s six-hitting prowess, noted writer Ramchandra Guha once said that people wouldn’t mind even if someone wrote that CK’s sixes travelled many miles. 

There is an interesting story about how one of his sixes had landed in another county. Apparently, CK had hit a six which crossed a nearby river which acted as a natural boundary between Warwickshire and Worcestershire. The distance of that six could have been around 115 metres, which again is comparable to the longest sixes being hit today. 

CK’s words were gospel for the Holkar team

But there was more to CK than just aggressive batting. He was a shrewd captain and probably did not get enough chance to show his brilliance while leading India. When India made its test debut in 1932, CK was already 37 years old and ended up playing only 7 Tests. However, he led the Holkar team to four Ranji trophy titles. 

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He had his own unique and sometimes weird ways when it came to leadership. But since he had the results to show, no one could question him. His words were the gospel as far as the Holkar team was considered. 

The other astonishing thing about him was that his first-class career lasted for an astonishing 47 years. And out of these, he played regularly for close to four decades. He played his last first-class match at the age of 68 years. 

“I am hopeful that history will remember this match with pride”

Today, as he celebrates his 123rd birth anniversary hitting sixes up there in the heavens, I will end by sharing a note from his diary written after India’s first test match in 1932 against England.

He wrote, “I am satisfied that we played aggressive cricket. Although we were defeated, we were not humiliated. I am hopeful that history will remember this match with pride and people will realise that we had given our everything. We had gone with the aim of winning and while playing at Lord’s we did not think about any other result”

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