End of a matchless innings

In the passing of Polly Umrigar, cricket has lost an iconic hero.

india Updated: Nov 09, 2006 00:19 IST

In the passing of Polly Umrigar, cricket has lost an iconic hero, inarguably one of the best cricketing brains of his time and an excellent all-rounder. Umrigar was a pillar of India’s middle order in the Fifties and Sixties and notched up a string of records during his 15-year Test career, playing 59 Tests and scoring 3,631 runs at an average of 42.22. This included a highest score of 223 (against New Zealand in 1955) and a dozen centuries (including a double ton). By the time he retired from international cricket in 1962, he was only one of two Indians (Vinoo Mankad being the other) to score a century and take five wickets in an innings — a feat he achieved against the West Indies at Port of Spain in 1962.

Besides his exploits with the bat, Umrigar was also a superb bowler, if with an unusual action. The way he thrived on dual responsibilities should be a good lesson for some of India’s current ‘stars’ who make such a big deal of playing the all-rounder’s role. Statistics, however, probably tell only part of the story of players like Umrigar who represented cricket’s glory days when batsmen played innings after marvellous innings with little protective armour. Today’s batsman-friendly game with its helmets, arm pads, thigh pads and new-age cricket gear let even a tailender send the ball to the ropes by a mere caress of the bat.

Players like Umrigar played on uncovered pitches, where they were also exposed to the vagaries of nature. Playing on moisture-laden wickets, for instance, must have required the best of technique and temperament — a task made more difficult in the absence of laws to restrict bouncers. To have played 59 Tests and scored all those runs in such an era is truly remarkable.

First Published: Nov 09, 2006 00:19 IST