While it was a historic moment for India to make their cricket debut at Lord’s in 1932, it came on the back of CK Nayudu. He was not only the first captain of Indian cricket team but also laid the foundation for the country to step into the international stage.
Cottari Kankaiya Nayudu was born on 31 October 1895 in Nagpur. His journey in cricket began at the school level when he played for Hislop Collegiate High School in Nagpur and the Modi Club, where he eventually became its captain
Despite being involved in athletics, hockey, and football -- he earned a distinction in both sports at the association level -- CK Nayudu took a significant interest in cricket when he represented the Hindus team (formed by the Hindu Gymkhana) against the Europeans in 1916.
After stints with Central Provinces in 1919 and Madras in 1920, he was invited by the ruler of Holkar to Indore, where he was made a Captain (land and air) in his army and later conferred on him the title of a Colonel.
However, the biggest breakthrough of CK Nayudu’s cricket career came during the tour of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in December of 1926.
Led by Arthur Gillian, the MCC were high on confidence after being unbeaten in 12 matches played at Karachi, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Ajmer. In the match at the Bombay Gymkhana, MCC posted a first innings score of 363.
In response, the Hindus team was 67/2 at the start of the second day when CK Nayudu came forward and changed the course of the match after he hit 153 - taking just 116 minutes.
India captain CK Nayudu with the touring MCC England skipper Douglas Jardine.— Mumbai Heritage (@mumbaiheritage) December 15, 2018
The English captain Douglas Jardine was born in Malabar Hill, Bombay, in 1900 pic.twitter.com/CgrzxjzKMx
“I cannot find enough words to express my opinion of him,” Arthur Gillian said. “His polished display of batsmanship was one of the best I have ever seen.”
Hardly known around in the cricket circuit then, the boy from Nagpur smashed 13 fours and 11 sixes in his ambitious inning which turned him into an up-and-rising superstar.
In recognition of his knock, the MCC awarded him a silver bat, and MCC’s Gillian, who believed that India would become a strong force in the future, vouched for the formation of an Indian cricket board and the country being recognised as a Test-playing nation.
Sir, this is actually the silver bat that was presented to Col. CK Nayudu for his knock of 153 against MCC in 1926. It currently resides in the Cricket Club of India (CCI) pic.twitter.com/8u6ym3BTxc— Aditya Bhushan (@AdityaBhushan3) December 29, 2020
Team India’s apparent foray into international cricket came in 1926 when the Imperial Cricket Council - now known as the International Cricket Council - invited them to become a full-time member. They subsequently made their Test cricket debut against England in 1932.
Eventually, the Indian cricket board - now known as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) - was formed in December 1928.
Why was CK Nayudu appointed captain?
As India was still under colonial rule and the nobility in control of affairs in the cricket association, the candidacy for India’s first cricket captain title was nothing short of a power struggle.
The earliest candidates were KS Duleepsinhji, nephew of the Nawab of Jamnagar, the legendary KS Ranjitsinhji, and the Nawab of Pataudi, Iftikhar Ali Khan. While the higher-ups burdened Duleep and Ranji to decline the captaincy, Pataudi ran himself into problems with English captain Douglas Jardine, an option to captain India since he was born and raised in Bombay.
Today is the 125th birth anniversary of India's first Test captain, CK Nayudu.— Mohandas Menon (@mohanstatsman) October 31, 2020
Here seen with India's 2nd & 3rd Test captains!
- Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi (1910-1952) capt in 1946
- Cottari Kanakaiya Nayudu (1895-1967) 1932-1934
- Maharajkumar of Vizianagram (1905-1965) 1936 pic.twitter.com/Du4BsK4j0j
Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala and the Maharaja of Vizianagaram were the next set of figureheads running for the captaincy. Inexperienced on their part, the pair later pulled out, and thus, the Maharaja of Porbandar stepped up as the tour captain because the rules called for a royal to be the skipper of the Indian team.
However, knowing his limitations, the Maharaja of Porbandar stepped down and nominated CK Nayudu for the captaincy. As one would expect, some players voiced disapproval; but in time, the team eventually accepted CK Nayudu as the first captain of the Indian cricket team.
India’s first-ever Test match
In the Indian cricket team’s maiden Test match, played at Lord’s on June 25, 1932, CK Nayudu led his side against a mighty England team skippered by Douglas Jardine.
England won the toss and batted to put up 259 on board. Mohammad Nissar picked up a five-wicket haul while the 37-year-old CK Nayudu picked up two wickets, including that of his counterpart Douglas Jardine, who top-scored with 79.
Arthur Gilligan with CK Nayudu, 1932 pic.twitter.com/XXy7efW2aR— Rameshwar Singh (@RSingh6969a) January 2, 2021
In response, India -- then called All-India -- struggled with the bat with CK Nayudu top-scoring for his side with 40 while lasting 80 minutes at the crease with a bruised hand he suffered while fielding.
England declared their second innings at 275/8 with Jardine top-scoring again with 85 not out while Jahangir Khan picked 4/60. Set a target of 346, India slumped to 187, handing the hosts a 158 run win. En route, pacer Amar Singh scored India’s first-ever Test fifty.
With a crowd of over 25,000 people at the iconic Lord’s stadium and King George V also paying a visit, India felt welcomed, and it eventually opened the door to future engagements.
How long was CK Nayudu’s tenure?
CK Nayudu’s international cricket career spanned for just seven Test matches, his top score of 81 coming in his last Test at Kennington Oval. He was 40 at the time.
CK Nayudu led India in the first four matches, losing three and drawing one at Eden Gardens in 1934. India had to wait until 1952 for their maiden victory in international cricket.
Besides the Test at Lords, CK Nayudu captained India in the three-match Test series during England’s tour of India in 1933/34.
Today in 1933: CK Nayudu & Lala Amarnath coming out to bat in the first ever Test cricket played in India, vs England at Bombay Gymkhana pic.twitter.com/MhO9Kqq552— Mumbai Heritage (@mumbaiheritage) December 15, 2018
With a career that spurned for almost half a century, CK Nayudu serves as the early flagbearer of first-class cricket in India.
He played 207 matches, scoring 11,825 runs at 35.94 with 26 centuries and 58 fifties, and a highest score of 200. CK Nayudu also picked 411 wickets at 29.28, with 12 five-fers and two ten-wicket hauls with a best bowling of 7/44.
CK Nayudu was also the first cricketer to endorse a brand, Bathgate Liver Tonic, in 1941. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian award in India, in 1956.
He played his last cricket match at the age of 68. Four years later, on November 14, 1967, CK Nayudu died. But he is still remembered as the first captain of Indian cricket team.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter / ICC