Much before India registered their first win over England, a local team from Chamba, an independent province then, had achieved the feat. Chamba, now one of the 12 districts of Himachal Pradesh, hosted a club team from England in 1940 and beat them hands down at its famous ‘chaugan’.
In what was a Lagaan-style match, the local team was an assortment of officials, from the Raja of Chamba’s court, and natives. “It was a one-innings match and a huge crowd had turned out to see it. I don’t remember the exact scores but the local team emerged comfortable winners,” said Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association founding secretary, SC Nayyar, who watched the match as a 10-year-old. Reliving memories that are almost 70-years-old, Nayyar recalled that the local team’s victory was engineered by a century from a gentleman called Mahant. “Unlike the others, this man didn’t have a proper kit and came out to bat barefoot. The English players protested, and it was only after much pleading by the locals that they allowed him to play,” said Nayyar.
It turned out to be the turning point as he carted the English bowlers all around the ‘chaugan’.
“The locals told them (the English side) that he was an ordinary player and would last just a couple of balls. The English players took the bait and all they could do was rue their decision to let him in,” chuckled the 77-year-old.
Nayyar said all the team members had passed on, but their descendants had kept the kit they wore as souvenirs. “The striped blazers and white flannels for both the teams came from England. Their kit have become heirlooms for the families,” he said.
Apt, one would say.