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ML Jaisimha: Cricketer noted for exuberance

This elegant right-handed batsman, off-break bowler and sharp fielder was among the most popular and stylish cricketers who emerged from Hyderabad.

inspiring-lives Updated: Apr 15, 2020 17:32 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Jaisimha made his first-class debut aged 15 in the Ranji Trophy in 1954–55. He shone in domestic cricket, including the Ranji Trophy.
Jaisimha made his first-class debut aged 15 in the Ranji Trophy in 1954–55. He shone in domestic cricket, including the Ranji Trophy.(Illustration: Gajanan Dnyaneshwar Nirphale)

Born in Secunderabad, that was then in Andhra Pradesh, in 1939, Jaisimha had a flair for cricket and tennis that came to the fore during his years in high school.

He made his first-class debut aged 15 in the Ranji Trophy in 1954–55. He shone in domestic cricket, including the Ranji Trophy. In 1959, he earned a slot in the national team that visited England. He played his very first Test match at the hallowed Lord’s ground in London. He went on to represent India in 39 Tests from 1959 to 1971 and scored over 12,700 runs in his first class career which included 259, his highest score against Bengal in a Ranji knock-out match.

Of a world record & a heroic effort

As the first man to script what was then a world record, Jaisimha played a memorable Test match against Australia in Calcutta during the 1959–60 series.

Having occupied the batting crease around the end of the first day, he remained unbeaten on 20 on the second day. He again went in to bat in the second innings just before stumps on the third day, batted through the fourth to score 59 runs and was out for 74 on the last day, having logged 442 minutes in the middle.

He thus became the world’s first batsman to wield the willow on all five days of a Test. Many other emulated him but Jaisimha was the very first man to achieve the unusual feat.

Another memorable Test he played was in Brisbane in 1967-68. Though not part of the original team, Jaisimha got his big chance when BS Chandrasekhar sustained an injury.

He had practice sessions with his Hyderabad teammates and then in Madras before he left for Australia.

Despite a series of energy-sapping flights, he went on to score 74 in the first innings and followed it up with a century in the second to nearly pull off an Indian win.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be and the visitors, who chased a huge target of 395, fell short by just 39 runs.

An indication of Jaisimha’s prowess as an all-rounder can be had from the fact that he had to his credit 400 wickets averaging 30.75. On 16 occasions, he had bagged five or more wickets as well as 10 or more wickets in a match ten times. Equally impressive was his tally of more than 150 catches.

Multiple roles

Jaisimha was made Honorary Life Member of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC, England) in 1978.

His association with the highest-level of the sport continued in the capacity of a selector during 1977–78 and 1980–81. Jaisimha was the manager during the Indian team’s tour to Sri Lanka in 1985–86. He also had a stint as a TV commentator that included the 1987 Cricket World Cup. He passed away on July 6, 1999 in Secunderabad, Telangana, aged 60.

Interesting facts

Renowned for his flamboyant batting, with an elegant front foot drive that was probably his crowning glory, Jaisimha inspired generations of cricketers from Hyderabad including former skipper Mohammed Azharuddin who imitated his idol’s wristy strokes as well as his signature ‘collar-up’ style. Jaisimha also shared an excellent rapport with Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, who was his contemporary. Their strong friendship was evident not just during matches but also on many occasions off it.

Jaisimha was an excellent strategist too. Appointed as a national selector in 1977, he picked Kapil Dev who became one of the world’s best all-rounders for the tour of Pakistan. It was under Dev’s captaincy that India won the 1983 World Cup.

Recalling an incident in July 1999 when he had attended an under-13 cricket coaching camp conducted by Jaisimha, former Test star VVS Laxman said that the former would commute to the venue on a bicycle which reflected the great simplicity.

Jaisimha’s biography, My Way, had a foreword by ex-skipper Sunil Gavaskar, who was an admirer of the former. For his son the original ‘little master‘ combined the names of great West Indies batsman Rohan Kanhai, Jaisimha and Gundappa Vishwanath.

Source: famouspeople.org, wikipedia, cricinfo.com

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