The cricketing ties between India and England date back to 1721, when a group of British soldiers played cricket in Cambay. The first Indians toured England in 1886, a British team came to play in 1889/90, and bilateral Test cricket began in 1932.
Here are some moments from the rich and–thankfully–meticulously chronicled history.
From India, for England
The first four men of Indian origin to play for England all scored hundreds on their Ashes debuts: K.S. Ranjitsinhji (154 not out at Old Trafford in 1896), K.S. Duleepsinhji (173 at Lord’s in 1930), I.A.K. Pataudi (102 at Sydney in 1932/33), and Raman Subba Row (112 at Edgbaston in 1961).
Arthur Gilligan’s team of 1926/27 was the first really strong team of English cricketers to tour India. They finished the four-month tour of India, Ceylon, and Burma unbeaten–almost, that is. The Delhi Ladies beat them by 55 runs. While it was not a match played in all seriousness, it remains a fact that they were the first Indian team to beat a formidable team of British men.
C.K. Crosses a River
In a tour match on the 1932 tour of England, C.K. Nayudu hit Hal Jarrett of Warwickshire for a six over square leg at Edgbaston. The ball crossed the ground and even the adjacent River Rea. The borders have changed since then. As per the today’s definitions, the ball would have landed in Worcestershire.
Band at the Ground
In 1933/34, Lala Amarnath became the first Indian to score a Test match hundred, against England at the Bombay Gymkhana. The band at the ground (predecessors of the IPL DJs of today?) immediately played the national anthem, God save the king. It was still the British Raj, you see.
The Maharajkumar of Vizianagram (‘Vizzy’), the autocratic captain on India’s ill-fated tour of England in 1936, successfully split the squad into two factions, rewarding his supporters lavishly. To impress him, Baqa Jilani, the designated 12th man for The Oval Test match, insulted Vizzy’s rival C. K. Nayudu at the breakfast table. Vizzy rewarded Baqa Jilani with a Test cap.
Lionel Tennyson brought an English team to India in 1937/38. They played five unofficial ‘Tests’ against all-India side. During the first of these, in Lahore (Partition was still some time away), a strong earthquake stopped play. The pavilion clock fell on the ground with a deafening crash, forcing the crowd to run for the safest place in the vicinity: the ground.
The Forgotten Tour
England were supposed to tour India in 1939/40. On 2 August 1939, they even named a 16-member squad. The itinerary featured 26 matches, including three Tests. Then, on 1 September, Adolf Hitler attacked Poland, bringing Europe–and beyond–to a halt for half a decade.
Rice and Potatoes
India’s 1946 tour of England also marked the debut for John Arlott at the BBC. Arlott travelled with the Indian team throughout their tour. Once, he invited Vijay Merchant, Vijay Hazare, and Vinoo Mankad home for dinner–without the knowledge of Merchant and Mankad being vegetarians. Arlott ended up serving them rice, potatoes, and tea.
In 1961/62, India beat England by 128 runs in the fifth Test match, in Madras, to win a Test series against England for the first time. England began the last day on 122/5 and were bowled out for 209. Watching the match was Srivijay Raghavan, a 56-year-old man from Vellore. He had a heart attack in the stands and died on his way to the hospital.
The thoroughbred racehorse Mill Reef won the Epsom Derby in 1971 and became synonymous to speed that summer. After securing a 71-run lead in the historic Oval Test, England were 24/1. As Bhagwat Chandrasekhar came to bowl, Dilip Sardesai asked him to bowl the Mill Reef. The ball came so fast that it hit the stumps before John Edrich could lift the bat properly. England collapsed to 101.
The Indians were playing Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge on their 1974 tour of England. During the match, a group of amateur parachutists landed near fine leg. The match was stopped until the ground was cleared. The incident inspired the title of a Wisden compilation, Parachutist at Fine Leg and other Unusual Occurrences.
Gundappa Vishwanath scored a hundred in the fifth Test match of the 1972/73 series, in Bombay. Tony Greig came up to Viswanath, lifted him in his arms, cradled him like a baby, and sang a lullaby. Viswanath, plotted ‘revenge’ with Sunil Gavaskar. But when Greig got a hundred, 5’5” Gavaskar and 5’4” Viswanath failed to lift 6’5” Greig.
Peace in Car Park
In the mid-1980s, the alleged rift between Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev was magnified by manifolds by the Indian media. During India’s tour match against Northamptonshire in 1986, team manager Raj Singh Dungarpur invited the entire media to the team coach in the car park. The two legends addressed the media together, ending all speculations of a rift.
Richard Blakey was visibly nervous when he debuted during England’s nightmarish 1992/93 tour of India. He scored 0, 6, 1, 0, and was bowled thrice and leg-before once, and fell to Kumble in three consecutive innings. On the long flight back home, he simply kept shaking his head, breaking only to utter ‘f**king Anil Kumble’ from time to time.
The Bus Driver’s Wrath
India were chasing 326 in the famous NatWest Trophy final of 2002. When Mohammed Kaif came out to bat at 146/5, England captain Nasser Hussain sledged him, calling him a bus driver. Kaif went on to score 87 not out–his most famous innings–to pull off a once-in-a-lifetime chase. After the match was won, he–to quote Hussain–gave the English captain a ‘not bad for a bus driver’ look.
India beat England once in 2008. Nothing unusual about that–barring the fact that this was a team from the Indian Navy that had recently done the three-pole challenge (South Pole, Mount Everest, North Pole). At the North Pole, they beat ‘England’ by one run in a match played at -40°C. Socks were strapped up to make a ball, a shovel became a bat, and ski poles served as stumps.
The Other World Record
India toured England in 2011, months after M.S. Dhoni hit a six to seal the World Cup. On the tour, the same bat was auctioned for a staggering GBP 60,000 in London to raise funds for the Sakshi Foundation. The winner shook Dhoni’s hand and announced that he would pay GBP 100,000 instead. The Guinness Book of World Records named this the most expensive cricket bat.