Home > Features >

11 religion-based trivia in Indian Test cricket

In 1946, Vijay Hazare became the first Christian to debut for India © Getty Images
In 1946, Vijay Hazare became the first Christian to make his debut for India © Getty Images

As two Christians, Varun Aaron and Stuart Binny, took field at The Oval on August 15, 2014, Abhishek Mukherjee looks at some of the religion-based trivia in Indian Test cricket.

Despite the religious wars and riots across her history, India continues to remain a secular nation. As a result Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsees, Sikhs, and representatives of have co-existed, and have gone on to represent the country at the highest level.

In the dark days of the 1940s, when World War II traumatised the world and religious riots had left India burning, the Bombay Pentangular — a tournament involving Hindus, Parsees, Muslims, Europeans, and The Rest — formed what can perhaps be called the strongest bonding between the religions.

Unfortunately, a wrong message was sent across, and there were calls to bring the tournament to a halt because of its religious base. It was ironic, since there had been no instances of major violence across around the tournament. Mahatma Gandhi (himself a keen and competent was perhaps the strongest voice in the movement. He issued a statement in 1940, requesting the “sporting public of Bombay to revise their sporting code and to erase from it communal matches”.

[Note: The Bombay Pentangular had originally started as the Presidency Match between Europeans and Parsees, the first match being played in 1892-93. As the Hindus came to the fray, and the Bombay Triangular started from 1907-08, which became Quadrangular in 1912-13 with the Muslims joining as well. The Rest, joining in 1937-38, finally made it a Pentangular.

Here, then, is a list of religion-related trivia in Indian Test cricket.

1. The first Test

India’s first Test — against England at Lord’s in 1932 — was as secular a team as they made: it consisted of four Hindus (CK Nayudu, Janardan Navle, Naoomal Jaoomal, and Amar Singh), four Muslims (Wazir Ali, Nazir Ali, Jahangir Khan, and Mohammad Nissar), two Parsees (Sorabji Colah and Phiroze Palia), and a Sikh (Lall Singh).

[Note: Though Lall Singh turned up for the Hindus in Bombay Quadrangular in 1934-35 and 1935-36, it had to do with the fact that The Rest were not a team at that point of time.]

2. Only Hindus and Muslims

India played their third Test at Eden Gardens in 1933-34; it was also the first time that they had fielded a team comprising of only Hindus (seven: CK Nayudu, Jaoomal, Lala Amarnath, Vijay Merchant, CS Nayudu, Amar Singh, and MJ Gopalan) and Muslims (four: Dilawar Hussain, Wazir Ali, Mushtaq Ali, and Nissar).

3. Six Muslims in a Test

The only instance of six Muslims playing for India in a single Test was in 1936 at The Oval when Mushtaq, Wazir Ali, Dilawar, Nissar, Jahangir, and (thanks to the choicest of words aimed at CK Nayudu on the morning of the Test) Baqa Jilani.

4. The first Christian

At Lord’s in 1946, Vijay Hazare became the first Christian to make his debut for India. Once again the team represented four religions: Hindus (Merchant, Vinoo Mankad, Amarnath, Dattaram Hindlekar, CS Nayudu, and Sadu Shinde), three Muslims (Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi, Gul Mohammad, and Abdul Hafeez Kardar), a Parsee (Rusi Modi) and a Christian (Hazare).

5. The only conversion

Amritsar Govindsingh Kripal Singh, perhaps the most successful cricketer from the famous Singh clan of Madras cricket, was the first known Test cricketer to have changed his religion during his international career. Interestingly, he did not change his initials, adopted the name Arnold George, and continued to remain AG Kripal Singh.

[Note: It is not known exactly when Kripal changed his religion, so he has to be left out of a few lists mentioned in this article.]

6. Five religions represented in same Test

The first instance of five religions being represented in a Test happened at Brabourne Stadium in 1961-62 against England. The line-up included Hindus (ML Jaisimha, Vijay Manjrekar, Budhi Kunderan, Ramakant Desai, Vasant Ranjane, and VV Kumar), a Parsee (Nari Contractor), a Sikh (Milkha Singh), a Christian (Chandu Borde), and a Muslim (Salim Durani). The 11th man in the line-up was Kripal, whose religion at that time was unknown, but it would not have affected the record.

Bishan Bedi’s debut — against West Indies at Eden Gardens — witnessed an encore: barring the lone Sikh (Bedi), the side featured six Hindus (Jaisimha, Kunderan, Hanumant Singh, Venkataraman Subramanya, Srinivas Venkataraghavan, and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar), two Muslims (Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and Abbas Ali Baig), a Parsee (Rusi Surti) and a Christian (Borde). There were a few such occurrences till Borde’s final Test — against Australia at Brabourne Stadium in 1969-70.

7. Three Sikhs in the same Test

Balwinder Sandhu made his debut at Hyderabad (Sind) in 1982-83 — the Test famous for the 451-run stand between Mudassar Nazar and Javed Miandad, and Imran Khan’s famous spell of five for three — making it the first instance of two Sikhs playing for India (the other being Maninder Singh).

Sandhu’s last Test (against West Indies at Ahmedabad in 1983-84) also saw Navjot Sidhu making his Test debut, thus creating the first instance of three Sikhs playing for India in the same Test. It is to be noted that Gursharan Singh, another Sikh, was the 12th man in the Test and became the first ever substitute fielder to take four catches in a Test.

When Harbhajan Singh made his Test debut against Australia at Bangalore in 1997-98, he joined Sidhu and Harvinder Singh (who is a Sikh) to make it the second and last occasion when three Sikhs took field for India.

[Note: It is to be noted that the brothers Milkha and Kripal Singh played together at Brabourne Stadium against England in 1961-62. However, it is not known whether Kripal, born a Sikh, had converted to Christianity before or after the Test; so Sandhu and Maninder were probably the first.]

8. Two Christians in the same Test

The 2014 Test at The Oval featured Stuart Binny and Varun Aaron — thus making it the first occasion when India has fielded two Christians in a Test.

[Note: Once again, we are ignoring the instances of Borde and Kripal turning out for India in the same Test.]

9. Four Parsees in the same Test

Surti made his Test debut against Pakistan at Brabourne Stadium in 1960-61 to join Contractor and Polly Umrigar. This was the first instance of three Parsees playing in the same Test (the trio have played several Tests together). Surti was dropped later, but Farokh Engineer kept the Parsee balance going.

Contractor, Umrigar, Surti, and Engineer all played at Queen’s Park Oval and Sabina Park during the 1961-62 tour of West Indies before Contractor had the fateful injury. It also turned out to be Umrigar’s last series. Despite their immense contribution to Indian cricket, the Parsees never had more than four representatives in the Indian Test team.

10. The first Jain?

No Buddhist has played Tests for India, but there has been at least one Jain in the form of Dilip Doshi. Though he played alongside Syed Kirmani and had a small overlap with both Maninder Singh and Roger Binny, at no point of time did representatives from five religions take field during Doshi’s career.

11. The first all-Hindu team

There is perhaps no bigger evidence of the secularism in India than the fact that the first all-Hindu Test team took field as late as the Edgbaston Test of 1979. With both Kirmani and Bedi dropped, India fielded Venkataraghavan, Sunil Gavaskar, Chetan Chauhan, Dilip Vengsarkar, Gundappa Viswanath, Anshuman Gaekwad, Mohinder Amarnath, Kapil Dev, Karsan Ghavri, Bharath Reddy, and Chandrasekhar.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 30, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Abu Dhabi

Sri Lanka tour of India, 2014

Nov 2, 2014 (13:30 IST)   at Cuttack

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 3, 2014 (09:00 IST)   at Khulna

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 5, 2014 (14:05 IST)   at Adelaide

Sri Lanka tour of India, 2014

Nov 6, 2014 (13:30 IST)   at Ahmedabad

More

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Nov 15, 2014  at Ahmedabad

Match cancelled

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Nov 7, 2014  at Bengaluru

Match cancelled

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 30, 2014  at Hyderabad

Match cancelled

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 27, 2014  at Hamilton

No result

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Oct 25, 2014  at Dhaka

Bangladesh won by 3 wkts

Photos

Pakistan vs Australia, 2nd Test

Videos

Tendulkar provides teaser on upcoming book

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: Younis Khan’s double ton puts Pakistan on top against Australia at stumps on Day 2 of 2nd Test

Duleep Trophy 2014-15 final: Central Zone 214/4 at stumps; lead by 111 runs

Yuvraj Singh — have we seen the last of the man who won India three World Cups?

Younis Khan continues piling up records for Pakistan

KL Rahul could be opening option for India’s tour to Australia

Australia Australia tour of UAE 2014 Australia vs Pakistan Australia vs Pakistan 2014 Central Zone Duleep Trophy Duleep Trophy 2014-15 India Pakistan Pakistan vs Australia Pakistan vs Australia 2014 South Zone South Zone vs Central Zone Sri Lanka Sri Lanka tour of India 2014

India vs Sri Lanka 1st ODI at Cuttack, Preview: Teams aim for winning start

WICB officials should visit India to minimize damage: Andy Roberts

Younis Khan: I want to be remembered as team-man

ICC World Cup 2015: New Zealand prime minister urges Indian fans to attend the tournament

Mohammad Yousuf: Muttiah Muralitharan would not have been allowed to bowl under current ICC rules

Don Bradman dismissed twice on the same day

Virat Kohli’s captaincy opportunities important in context of India’s succession plans

Rohit Sharma looks to strengthen career after an inconsistent year

Younis Khan equals Javed Miandad’s record of most 150+ scores by Pakistan batsman

India vs Sri Lanka 2014: Manish Pandey showing signs of fulfilling potential

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

678 Posts | 6 Fans

Video Highlights: Younis Khan century during Pakistan vs Australia 1st Test at Dubai

India A vs Sri Lanka: Fringe players look to impress

NGOs pursue education for all

Dance Basanti from Ungli: Put on your dancing shoes and practice the Basanti move!

Weight Loss Tip #59: Eat oranges to lose weight

Sensex surges 150 points in early trade to regain 27,000-mark

PricewaterhouseCoopers partners Google to offer business solutions to clients

Google X Lab working on nanoparticles to help detect diseases early

Priyanka Chopra has the best no make-up selfie on Instagram, think fans!

Lisa Haydon: I slept off midway while watching the original Shaukeen!

International programme in Animal Husbandry

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here