images  DEEP within the dimly lit forests of Sundarban, it is said, lives an ascetic who is cognizant of all human knowledge. Gradually he got better of  my  wonder so I sought out for him. Once getting past an ashram filled with venomous cobras I chanced upon an old Sadhu at the base of ghat  who was blabbering an obscure status that I found out to be that of Bedi’s career bowling figures. Was he telepathic? Did he know that I, a cricket enthusiast, will travel all the way from city to confirm his claims of remarkable knowledge?

Well, my troupe, by the way, have already forsaken me and took off with the speedboat. So I devoted the next three years of my life under his auspices learning various kept secrets of the sport. He seemed to be omniscient but I focused on affairs of cricket as he gave a first hand demonstration of quoting any paragraph from any Wisden published till now.

Earnestly I began my lesson. I began to scribe down everything I could hear, see, feel and even taste. I was immersed in cricket.  Thus began my forays into the sylvan world of cricket idiosyncrasies.

Every night I would spend meditating in a vigil silently learning the tales he recollected from memories.   I learned of 98. A contradictory, a tied , a dead heat, and a turnaround match where a strange chiasmus ruled the innings of the first and third reciprocally to second and fourth of a minor Jundaryan and Brobenah. Another minor match was even tied at 71 all out. The contradictory one was mentioned in Wisden for the imbalances of the reciprocal innings and of course he told me the story of the ’Great Hampshire Turnaround’ on the following night.

At another occasion, he revealed, perhaps nothing was stranger than the cases of the 116. Bilocation men of Billy Murdoch playing in a Test as a sub for his own team mate and taking catches while in most recent years Wisden noting of one Michael Bates wh o played for both sides in the same match.


Sadhu would also carry on with 287. Musician XI comprising of the likes of Bradman and Parr and Fry and Curtly Ambrose and Brett Lee. Speaking of XI, he also related: 8. Tale of the tattooed ones with Mitchell Johnson’s Japanese koi and Virat Kohli’s samurai warrior; of 299. Guard of Honor XI  or say, 310. Cricketers and their automobiles.  He mentioned about 454. Recollection of the triumvirate, the unlikely trio of Wilfred Rhodes, Syd Gregory, and Vinoo Mankad each from different countries forming the unassuming club of only ones batting in all positions.  Or consider the time  in 662. Prisoner’s dilemma about how John Derrick was the first ‘wrongfully prisoned’un’ to John Evans the England cricketer who escaped from two prison of war camps during the wars to the modern convicted ones for ball tampering.
For the continuing nights he talked of the ball caught on knife, the lost ball at USA-Canada boundary of a minor Winnipeg match, statistician finding ‘missing runs of Don Bradman’, Stoner XI and even 559. Cricket on moon

The tales must be narrated one at a time, for a therapeutic dosage as needed.

“You surely must’ve then heard of the man with the golden arm or the one who took 10 wickets in an innings unassisted for any other fielders?” Sadhu would announce.

I confessed I haven’t.

 “That’s a story for tomorrow night, then!”


714. All players on horseback (1735)


99. Pheidippides of cricket

A French player once completed a winning run in the European Nations competition not realising he had suffered a fractured skull, readers of a famous almanack were told in 1998.

The France last man David Bordes nearly killed himself before a one-run victory over Germany could be achieved, a result that landed the 1997 European title in Switzerland. He declined to wear a helmet, knowing he only had one ball to face at the end of the innings, and he was struck on the forehead before staggering through for what turned out to be the crucial run.

After the incident, mentioned on page 1002, Bordes collapsed after making his ground for the honour of his country and spent two weeks in hospital. It was several months before he could claim a full recovery, but he went on to play a major part in the rise of cricket among ethnic French people.

Quoted verbatim the guru to me on a lone night chirping with grasshoppers and alligator snores.

8. Tale of the tattooed ones

My Tattooed XI would be: Brendon McCullum (c) (w/k), Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, Kevin Pietersen, Shikhar Dhawan, Michael Clarke, Hershelle Gibbs. Lasith Malinga, Dale Steyn, Mitchell Johnson

Gayle has a tattoo of tribal design on right arm. Mitchell Johnson has Japanese koi and cherry blossoms for luck.  Gibbs? A cross and a barbed wire on his right arm. Kohli? Japanese warrior with raised sword. Etcetera. What amuses me is the depth and strength of the squad and looks like a powerful XI!

Michael Clarke tattoos on 4arm

7. The man with no dismissal records

guru_disciple-336x352Sadhu continued: as published in History Today in January 1955 from the Derby Mercury that there lived a certain gentleman by the name of Mr Osgothorpe of Sheiffield ‘of whom there is no record of his ever being dismissed’. In fact at one match in 1772 her batted for several hours against Sherwood Foresters and the match had to be to be abandoned after the audience were ‘hampered’.

Little is to say that records are little at this and no more such records exist as to the fact of this matter!



6. Colonel Brett’s gallantry at Chittagong (1934)


This happened during Chittagong Uprising in the early 1930s.  Surya Sen, leader of the rebels was hanged and the Hindu terrorists sought revenge by rounding off spectators during a cricket match. George_Cross

At teatime on Sunday January 7, 1934 about 50 European players and spectators, including women and children, were in the tea tent chatting and taking refreshment.At about 5.30 pm teatime an attack was suddenly made upon a group of European players and spectators by four youths armed with a revolver and seven bombs.   The group included children and women and they were taken under a shamiana (tent) on a hillock and two assailants came out from behind a small bungalow and threw bombs running at the Europeans. Both the bombs were dud. As one was firing, Major Douglas Brett, unarmed, rushed to the man, wrestled him to the ground and saved the day from the terrorist.

Colonel is the only one man who has received a medal for bravery on the field of play. Subsequently he was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal, later officially exchanged for the George Cross.


I believe this will keep you enchanted till tomorrow for about the gentleman who was never dismissed in his life, ended the Sadhu solemnly!

5. A 160-mile six

Once, the Sadhu narrated next night, a well known professional was playing in a ground adjacent to a railway. As he took a great drive the ball went straight through the carriage window and landed in it and traveled at sixty miles an hour. It was found by a porter about 160 miles from the epicenter!

4. From ‘Catapulta’ to Loughborough: cricket inventions

Oh did you know that Mongoose MM13 – he seem to refer it as a rifle or something- guarantees to offer 20% more power than traditional designs?

No, I admitted, I did not know that.

Well then. You have also probably heard of the famous ‘Catapulta’ mentioned in Wisden how it was the first bowling machine invented by Nicholas Felix. He was a many of many talents. A classical scholar, a musician, linguist, author, artist and of course an inventor, his highest score in first-class cricket was 113 for Kent against Sussex in 1847. He scored – Sadhu seemed to have phenomenal memory – a century for England v. M.C.C. and Ground at Lord’s in 1843. Also in the year of 1842, his innings of 88 won the match for the Gentlemen when they had not beaten the Players, on even terms, for 20 years.

He is also known for the inventor India rubber batting gloves.

But of course a first known invention would obviously have to be the ball. The construction of the ball is unique and there is an exactness to it. In 1780, Duke of Kent manufactured the ball and still delivers for first-class matches. It is 5½ ounces of cork covered by four quarters of shiny leather casing woven together by six pieces of string or seam. Contrast it with the tape ball of recent times introduced in the streets of Pakistan first where a half of a tennis ball is covered with electrical tape.

But from the early days of the Catapulta before we enter the labs of Loughborough, do note the importance of sightscreen, catching cradle, the score sheet, the bails, and of Hawkeye and hotspot.

There is also the Snickometer which was invented by the English computer scientist Allan Plaskett, and it records a ‘snick’ through soundwaves on a computer screen.

But the ultimate wizardry of invention must be that of Merlyn invented by Henry Pryor. As the site proclaims:

Merlyn by BOLA’ is a state-of-the-art machine that delivers programmable, spinning balls, of every imaginable variety. It really has had everyone in a spin!

It surely must have taken a fletcher’s imagination to create the first bowling machine for it to evolve into one programmable of such subtle nuances.


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