Alimuddin © Getty Images
Alimuddin became the youngest First-Class debutant on February 26, 1943. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at the day when a boy had walked out to rub shoulders with men.
You are not supposed to play First-Class cricket at 12 years and 73 days. You simply are not supposed to.
Just think what might have gone through the Ajmer-born Alimiddin’s mind when he was picked to play for Rajputana at that age! His classmates had probably still not migrated from visiting the zoo to staring at girls; and there he was, thrust into the arena at Maharaja Pratapsingh Coronation Gymkhana in Baroda in a Ranji Trophy semi-final, no less!
Baroda used to be an extremely strong side those days: they already had an all-time great in the form of Vijay Hazare; they also had the likes of Hemu Adhikari and CS Nayudu in their ranks, and the star brothers, Vivek Hazare and Raosaheb Nimbalkar, which made them one of the strongest sides of the tournament.
The record and the baptism
Things might have been easier for the kid had his side got to field first, but when Narsingrao Kesari came back to the pavilion and told his team that they were batting first, he realised that he would not even have the time to settle down. As Raghbir Singh and Asad Wahab walked out to bat, poor Alimuddin waited, padded-up, ready to go first-down. Little did he know that the moment the toss had been made, he had become the youngest ever First-Class cricketer — a record that still stands.
The team score was on one when Vijay Hazare found Wahab’s edge and the ball landed peacefully into Nimbalkar’s gloves. Alimuddin, not even a teenager, too young for facial hair, walked out in flannels and cricket boots to take on Baroda in their own den.
The second-wicket partnership lasted only 20 runs, but Raghvir and Alimuddin were obdurate enough to see off Vijay Hazare and Paul Carey. Vijay introduced his brother Vivek, and eventually fell back to spin, bringing on CS Nayudu — the giant of Indian domestic cricket.
Nayudu removed both batsmen in quick intervals: Raghvir was bowled for 10, and Alimuddin holed out to Mutyalswami Naidu for 13. Little did anyone realise that Alimuddin’s score was going to be the highest for Rajputana: Nayudu finished with 10-2-20-5, while Vijay Hazare came back to join him, returning figures of 14.2-4-17-4. Rajputana were routed for a paltry 54 in 36.2 overs.
Left high and dry
To everyone’s surprise Rajputana hit back hard: while Masoom Ali Khan removed both openers (Nimbalkar and Yacoob Sheikh), Kesari himself accounted for Adhikari, and suddenly, Baroda found themselves reeling at 23 for 3. Vijay Hazare tried to put up a resistance with Naidu when Kesari threw the ball to young Alimuddin.
Alimuddin had managed to keep Hazare out, but it did not happen the other way round: sure enough, the leg-spinner, still in his teens, found the great man’s edge; Raghvir took the catch, and Hazare had to depart: 67 for 4.
Thereafter, it all went horribly wrong for Rajputana: both Naidu and Nayudu made career-best scores, adding 239 in 170 minutes for the fifth wicket, before Nayudu was bowled by Masoom Ali for 127; Naidu fell a single run short of his 200, and Wyankatrao Ghorpade joined in the fun too, scoring 97.
Baroda were eventually bowled out for 543 on the third morning with a whopping 489-run lead. This time Raghvir (28) and Wahab (24) added 54 for the first stand, and once again Alimuddin fought gamely against Nayudu’s wiles. However, there was little support from No. 4 onwards, and Alimuddin’s 27 (the second-highest score of the innings) went in vain.
Rajputana were bowled out for 133 in 53.1 overs on Day Three: Nayudu finished with 7 for 36 and match figures of 30.1-4-56-12. The innings-and-356-run defeat was as comprehensive as it could get, but despite the crushing defeat, Alimuddin had his name etched in history forever.
- CS Nayudu picked up 6 for 60 and 5 for 21 in the final at Secunderabad, where Baroda thrashed Hyderabad by 307 runs to clinch the Ranji Trophy. Nayudu finished that season’s Ranji Trophy with 40 wickets from four matches.
- Alimuddin went on to represent Pakistan in 25 Tests, scoring 1,091 runs at 25.37 with 2 hundreds. His brothers Salimuddin and Azimuddin also played First-Class cricket.
Rajputana 54 (Alimuddin 13; CS Nayudu 5 for 20, Vijay Hazare 4 for 17) & 133 (Raghbir Singh 28; CS Nayudu 7 for 36) lost to Baroda 543 (Mutyalswami Naidu 199, CS Nayudu 127, Wyankatrao Ghorpade 97, Mahipatrao Indulkar 42; Masoom Ali Khan 4 for 143) by an innings and 356 runs.
(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)