It was one glorious innings on December 1, 1926, that got India its Test status. At the Bombay Gymkhana in a Hindus versus MCC XI, Col C K Nayudu’s 153 in a span of 100 minutes had Maurice Tate and company running for cover, as the elegant batsman picked up 11 sixes and 13 fours. His innings had such an impact on MCC XI captain Arthur Gilligan that he pushed for India to be granted Test status.
To commemorate the innings, the MCC presented India’s first cricket icon CK, as he was popularly known, with a silver-plated bat signed by Gilligan’s team. The four-kilogram bat is now in the Polly Umrigar Sportsman’s Bar at the Cricket Club of India (CCI) thanks to C K Nayudu’s daughter Chandra Nayudu, who donated the bat.
Polly’s Bar, as it is popularly called, was set up by the regal, flamboyant Raj Singh Dungarpur, a cricket aficionado who has had the fortune to get up, close and personal with cricket greats all the way from K S Duleepsinhji to Sachin Tendulkar.
Along the way, the 72-year-old has put together a collection of memorabilia that even Christie’s might kill for.
And a section of Polly’s Bar is filled with items loaned from Dungarpur’s personal collection, including the 110-year-old volume, Jubilee Book of Cricket, written by K S Ranjitsinhji.
But the story Dungarpur likes to recount is how Umrigar once marked his disappointment with the collection in Polly’s Bar. “You have some rare pieces of memorabilia, Raj, but you don’t have photographs of the two gurus from whom I learnt cricket
— Vijay Merchant and Vijay Hazare,” Umrigar told Dungarpur. “I realised my mistake, and we soon found a photograph featuring Polly with his two heroes,” says Dungarpur. And answers the unasked question: “Polly was delighted"