Remembering India's first fast-bowler - Mohammad Nissar

Ishan Sen 1/08/2016
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The latter half of the 1920s witnessed the fantastic opening pair of Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe accumulating massive scores for England in Test cricket. Hobbs’ retirement in 1930, therefore, left England in a quandary. While there was no dearth of openers in the country, an able replacement for Hobbs seemed to be elusive.

Percy Holmes slotted in, and he justified his promise in 1932 during a record breaking 555-run stand with Sutcliffe for Yorkshire against Essex. Ten days later, as England faced an inexperienced Indian team, no-one had anticipated two touring 21-year-olds to seize the limelight ahead of the English openers.

Mohammad Nissar and Ladha Amar Singh, India’s first fast bowlers in Test cricket, tormented the famed English line-up and built the foundation to what would turn out to be one of the most successful bowling partnerships for India in its history.

Standing at around six feet, Nissar was tall and brawny – traits ideal for a fast bowler. Indeed, he hurled the ball at such breakneck speed that his contemporaries swore that he was the fastest they had ever faced.


Within minutes of having bowled the first ball for his country in Tests, Nissar sent Sutcliffe packing with an intimidating yorker that swung in and late. Another vicious delivery claimed the wicket of Holmes shortly after, with England stunned at 11-2.








Nissar completed a 5-wicket haul that day, becoming the first Indian to do so and leaving a lasting impression on the opposition. The 1932 tour saw him claim 71 victims at an astounding average of 18.09. Fast and lethally accurate, Nissar turned out to be a nightmare for the opposition.


NISSAR'S FIRST-CLASS CAREER

  • Matches: 93
  • Wickets: 396 @ 17.70
  • 5WI: 32
  • BBI: 6/17

INDIA’S FASTEST BOWLER IS BORN


Born August 1, 1910 at Hoshiarpur, Punjab, Nissar found himself training at an early age in the nets of Lahore’s Minto Park. He took 6-68 in the trials held to select the team for touring England and was subsequently drafted in for the pilgrimage to cricket’s motherland.


Running in from a distance of nearly twenty two yards, the sight of Nissar’s colossal frame uncoiling in its final act before the ball left his hand used to be a treat for the traditional lovers of the game. India’s first skipper, CK Nayudu, said: “Early in his spells, Nissar was quicker than even [Harold] Larwood.”


When Jack Ryder’s Australia visited the country in the winter of 1935, Nissar ensured a warm welcome. If 32 wickets in four unofficial Tests at 13 apiece weren’t enough, eminent cricket writer Neville Cardus’ tribute highlighted the impact Nissar’s raw pace had on the Aussies. “Nissar’s speed during half a dozen overs was really capital; in every over, we saw half-hit defensive strokes, untidy, uncertain,” he wrote.


In six Tests, Nissar grabbed 25 wickets at an average of 28.28. The fact that 13 of his victims were either bowled or trapped leg before bears testimony to his sheer pace and precision. He averaged as low as 17.70 in 93 first-class matches with 396 wickets in his tally.



UPHOLDING THE SPIRIT OF THE GAME


Despite possessing the physique and pace required to intimidate batsmen, Nissar always preferred a more gallant approach. He believed in allowing the ball to do the talking instead of relying on sledging or peppering batsmen with bouncers. It was this quality that persuaded former India captain Vijay Merchant to liken him to Australian Ray Lindwall, another advocate of a gentle approach to the gentleman’s game.


Nissar’s approach didn’t go down well with everyone, though. His refusal to bowl bouncers at the injured Vinoo Mankad during the Pentangular match in 1939 against The Hindus left The Muslims captain Wazir Ali extremely displeased.


THE SWANSONG AND THE END


Quite justly, Nissar’s last Test in the 1936 English tour did not rob him of the glory a bowler of his stature deserved. With England cruising at 422/3 at The Oval, Nissar returned with the ball to castle double centurion Wally Hammond and centurion Stan Worthington. He claimed four scalps in five overs and finished off with figures of 5-120.


Once the Second World War broke out in 1939, international cricket came to a standstill. Nissar continued to ply his trade on the domestic circuit for Southern Punjab, but never featured in an international again.


Amar Singh’s demise at a young age of 29 also played a role in scripting the end of Nissar’s cricketing career, for he never quite managed the pace or performance that had once catapulted him to stardom.


He moved to Lahore and founded the Pakistan Cricket Board where he worked as an administrator and selector, before passing away in 1963 at the age of 52.


In 2006, Nissar was honored by both the Indian and Pakistani cricket boards when they announced the Nissar Trophy – an annual match played between the winners of Ranji Trophy and Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.




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Should Pujara get more time to prove his worth?

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Pujara still has a lot to offer as far as Test cricket goes

All the major academic admission examinations across the world make sure to include ‘Permutations & Combinations’ as a topic to test the candidate’s quantitative aptitude.

A question or two asking how to arrange a number of guests at a party across a fixed number of seats around tables are certainties in papers like the SAT and GMAT. As a result, students often aim to ace the exams by understanding these topics inside out.

Like the students, India’s team management too, will severely hope that cracking India’s top-order conundrum in Test matches can be achieved by applying a few ‘Permutations & Combinations’ formulas, because the alternative options seem to be throwing up some tough choices.

Ahead of the series, the talk was about Shikhar Dhawan and whether the Delhi batsman really merited a place in the side or not. But thanks to his well made 84 in the first Test against West Indies, the rumbles settled down and it seemed that Dhawan’s immediate challenger, Rahul would have to wait in the wings; but then Murali Vijay ended up injuring himself and opened the door for the Karnataka star.

As things stand, Rahul lapped up the opportunity with both hands scoring a commanding 158 in the ongoing Kingston Test, thereby raising some serious questions regarding the ideal make-up of India’s top order.

With Vijay being a certainty in the XI as a result of his consistent performances over the last two seasons, and with Dhawan buying himself some additional time, it looks like the fight has boiled down to who the management picks: it’s a battle between Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara for the number three batting berth.

While many would argue it is a problem worth having and is probably a good thing – one really wouldn’t want to be in Anil Kumble or Virat Kohli’s shoes at the moment. Pujara has been Indian cricket’s most selfless player in recent times. His willingness to shift up and down the order, ability to tackle hostile spells and doggedness to bat for long hours make him an absolute asset at one wicket down. But his failure to convert his starts into big scores has cast doubts over his worth in the side.

In contrast, Rahul has made the most of his opportunities every time he has got a chance and he’s done exactly what has been asked of him. The 24-year-old has scored three hundreds in six Tests for India, with five of those Tests coming in scenarios where he has had to fill-in for an injured opener. Australia, Sri Lanka and now, West Indies – Rahul has managed to tick the ‘make runs away’ box as well.

KL RAHUL'S BEST KNOCKS

  • 158 vs WI at Kingston '16
  • 110 vs AUS at Sydney '15
  • 108 vs SL at Colombo '15

It’s a fact that Pujara no longer remains the run machine he once used to be and therefore his utility is often replaceable. But it’s beyond doubt that out of the two, Pujara is far more dependable than Rahul and can be expected to put a greater value on his wicket, as his low percentage of single-digit scores in Tests suggest.

What makes things precarious for Pujara though, is his inability to convert starts ever since he scored a patient 77 on a minefield in Mohali last winter. His scores of 21, 31, 14, 28, 16 and 46 in his last six Test innings might be indicative of the rut he is getting into – one he’d need to come out of real fast. Something similar happened to him in 2014 in England as well, after which he was temporarily dropped from the Test side; and he will be aware of the scarce opportunities an Indian Test batsman gets to stake a permanent claim over a batting position.

Saying so, India should ideally give Pujara this entire series to prove his worth, even if it is at the cost of having an in-form Rahul warming the benches. There seems to be no two ways about it as Pujara’s experience and solidity is something that could hugely benefit an Indian line-up filled with flamboyant players.

In the unlikely scenario that the Indian management decides to go with both, discarding all the permutation-combination formulas at hand, the talismanic Rohit Sharma and Kohli’s five-bowler strategy would be the first casualties of the move.

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Rahul hits masterful 158 as India take control

Leading the way: Lokesh Rahul.

Lokesh Rahul’s determined knock of 158 took India to 358 for five in reply to West Indies’ first innings total of 196 on the second day of the second Test at Sabina Park in Jamaica on Sunday.

India, who won the opening Test match in Antigua by an innings and 92 runs, were ahead by 162 runs with five wickets in hand.

Rahul (158) was finally dismissed in controversial fashion, given out caught by wicket-keeper Shane Dowrich down the leg side off fast bowler Shannon Gabriel. By then, India had reached 277, 81 ahead.

Unlike Saturday, when Rahul played several shots, the Bangalore batsman was content to wait for opportunities. He was cautious in the first session, even though he reached his century with a six.

Cramping with his effort in the humid conditions a couple of times, Rahul bravely decided to play on. His innings lasted 303 balls in which he hit 15 eye-pleasing boundaries and three sixes.

Seemingly well entrenched and with an eye to emulating Rahul’s marathon effort, Pujara got to 46 off 159 deliveries when he was run out at the non-striker’s end by Roston Chase’s direct hit from squareleg midway through the afternoon.

His second-wicket partnership with the opening batsman was worth 121 runs and gave the new man at the wicket, Virat Kohli, a formidable platform on which to build India’s advantage heading into the final session of the day.

Fresh from a career-best 200 in the first Test in Antigua, the Indian captain reached the interval on 21.

Just when Kohli (44) started showing aggressive intent, he fell to a soft dismissal, caught at forward short leg by Rajendra Chandrika as he tried to steer Chase.

The Indian captain smashed two fours and a towering six off Devendra Bishoo’s previous over to collect 16 runs.

Another centurion from the first Test, Ravichandran Ashwin (3) was the next to go, leg before to Bishoo. Ajinkya Rahane (42 not out) was then joined by Wriddhiman Saha (17 not out) as the duo put on 31 runs for the sixth wicket.

West Indies went wicketless through the morning session with the overnight pair of Rahul and Pujara putting on 59 runs in the two hours of play.

It was a period when play meandered along, the exception being the moment Rahul reached his third Test century, hoisting off-spinner Chase over wide long-on for the first six of the innings. He hit two more sixes in the afternoon session, but continued to bat carefully as he reached a valuable ton.

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