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Like many other sports, cricket has often been the saga involving fathers and sons. Some of them were legends, some quirky, and some excellent coaches. Abhishek Mukherjee pays homage to the most iconic father-son relationships in cricket.
I’m no sexist, but it cannot be denied that fathers, having played (well, most of them) the sport themselves at some level or the other, have played a greater role over years in moulding their children’s cricket (and other sports). Here, then, is a look at the fathers (not necessarily the greatest cricketers) who have been immortalised for some act in relation to their sons — inspirational, quirky, and what-not.
On Father’s Day, let us go down the cricket timeline to unearth a few of the iconic fathers in the history of the sport.
Not only was he The Father of Cricket, he also fathered two sons — WG Grace jr (who was also called William Gilbert, just like his illustrious father) and Charles Butler Grace — both of whom played First-Class cricket. That was not too uncommon. WG (senior) played with both of them, but that was not too uncommon either.
The Doctor’s First-Class career spanned from 1865 to 1908; WG jr played from 1893 to 1903, while Charles’ career extended from 1900 to 1906. This meant that the father’s career enveloped both sons’ careers on either side: WG continued to play after his sons quit.
Some shadows turn out to be too big for comfort.
Fred Tate was an excellent seamer who had a distinguished career with Sussex and a reputation for being unplayable on a wet pitch. Unfortunately, his outstanding career has been overshadowed by the happenings in his only Test at Old Trafford in the famous summer of 1902.
Victor Trumper wielded his wand with characteristic panache to score 104 as Australia scored 299; in response, England piled up 262 thanks to Stanley Jackson’s 128. Bill Lockwood was introduced early, and the tourists were reduced to ten for three; Lionel Palairet, the usual square-leg fielder for Len Braund during their Somerset days, was at his position; then, when Syd Greogry took a single, Tate, fielding at point, now became the square-leg fielder for Braund as the southpaw Joe Darling came on strike.
Tate dropped Darling at square-leg when he was on 16. Wisden later commented that Australia might have been bowled out for 50 or 60 had the catch been taken. The pair added 54 before Australia were bowled out for 86, leaving England to score 124 on a steadily deteriorating pitch, but at 92 for three the hosts seemed to be cruising home.
Then Hugh Trumble broke through, and with Jack Saunders for support, broke down the England batsmen one by one. They still required eight when Tate joined Wilfred Rhodes at the fall of the ninth wicket, only to see play being held up for 45 minutes. Tate surprised everyone by smashing Saunders’ first ball for a four, and then surviving the next two balls. The next ball kept a bit low and hit the stumps; and Tate broke down in tears.
“I have got a boy at home who will put it all right for me,” were the famous words he had uttered when the players went to console him. He made sure things turned out that way: Maurice Tate started with 38 wickets at 23.18 in his first Ashes series, and finished with 1,198 runs at 25.48 and 155 wickets at 26.16 from 39 Tests.
While Grace was on his way to become probably the most famous face in contemporary England after The Queen, there grew up in faraway Trinidad a boy called Lebrun Constantine. His grandfather was a slave, as was his father-in-law; it seemed almost impossible that Lebrun would emerge as a champion cricketer, but he did, becoming the first West Indian to score a hundred on English soil.
Most importantly, he also fathered Learie Constantine, the first great cricketer in the history of the island team. A staunch activist against racism, Learie also went on to become a Knight. Lebrun’s influence was as colossal as any father’s in that aspect: in three generations he had managed to change a lineage from slavery to knighthood.
The Nawab of Pataudi, sr
If Grace’s influence as a father was overbearing and Lebrun’s, miraculously inspiring, Iftikhar Ali Khan, the Nawab of Pataudi, left a tragic effect on his son. Pataudi had played only six Tests, but scored a hundred on Test debut (in the Bodyline series) and remains the only person to play for both England and India (he captained the latter).
Pataudi passed away on January 5, 1952 — on his son Mansur’s 11th birthday. Mansur never celebrated his birthday as a result, lost an eye subsequently, but still went on to become the then youngest Test captain, and perhaps the first captain who had the vision to take India to the next level.
Some father-son relationships are based on tears as well.
The history of Indian cricket is full of stories of Lala Amarnath being a strict disciplinarian, especially when it came to his sons. He brought up three of them: the first, Surinder, a debut Test centurion just like him; the second, Mohinder, reputed as one of the finest Indian batsmen against quality pace and bounce; and the third, a competent First-Class who served Haryana with competence.
The Lala’s temper and attitude towards discipline is well-documented. A perpetual presence at the ground as the sons grew up, Lala was famous (notorious?) for lambasting his sons openly at the slightest sign of failure. Whether the myths surrounding him walking into the dressing-room and slapping his sons in public are true, one cannot tell: but what is well-documented is the impact he had on his sons.
Colin and Chris Cowdrey became the second father-son combination to lead England. Colin, as we know, was the first cricketer to play a hundred Tests, and more: when Chris made his Test debut, the father was apprehensive; when Chris was called up from forward short-leg to bowl on his debut at Wankhede, he even forgot his shin-guards before bowling.
That did not deter him: Chris took a wicket with his fourth Test ball. An anxious Colin (in other words, Michael Colin Cowdrey, Baron Cowdrey of Tonbridge, CBE) was driving back home when Chris clean bowled Kapil Dev with his fourth ball in Test cricket. His “old man” was so astonished that he drove down the wrong way on a one-way street.
The policemen, thankfully, appreciated the excuse, and Cowdrey managed to get away.
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