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The domestic champion Gogumal Kishenchand was born on April 14, 1925. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the man immortalised by Don Bradman’s hundredth hundred.
If a cricket historian reflects at Don Bradman’s illustrious career and has to choose a single delivery, which one will he select? The one from Eric Hollies that brought the curtain down on the greatest of batting careers at the highest level? Or the one from Bill Bowes that had dismissed him for a golden duck in the Bodyline series?
Or the one, of which the great man had penned down in A Farewell to Cricket: “I think of all my experiences in cricket that was my most exhilarating moment on the field. The huge crowd gave me a reception which was moving in its spontaneous warmth.”
Gogumal Kishenchand Harisinghani was a teenage prodigy who went onto become a domestic batting champion; and yet, it was that single delivery that had etched his name in the annals of the sport permanently.
The touring Indians were playing an Australian XI. The vast arena that was Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) was bubbling with excitement in anticipation of The Don’s hundredth First-Class hundred. The 32,000-strong gallery witnessed Bradman reach 11 by lunch and reach 99, the last over before tea on Day Two.
Lala Amarnath responded to the situation brilliantly. Bradman wrote: “With my total on 99, [Lala] Amarnath called up [Gogumal] Kishenchand who was fielding on the boundary. He had not bowled before and I had no idea what type of bowler he was. It was a shrewd move, as one could have been easily deceived, but I treated him with the greatest respect until eventually came a single to mid-on and the greatest moment had arrived.”
That historic delivery aside, Kishenchand’s leg-breaks were generally innocuous (though his 37 First-Class wickets had come at 31.94 and had included a five-for). Marked as a teenage wonder in his early years, little Kishenchand (he was only 5’4”) had shown immense talent as a batsman, mostly for that quality that is so rare among Indian batsmen: he was a champion against short-pitched bowling.
It was not that he was weak on the front-foot. For a man of his frame (add to that a crouched stance) he drove the ball really hard, often taking the opposition by surprise. Whatever he lacked in build and reach, he made up for with excellent footwork: he was all set to be one of the greats.
And yet, he never really got going at the highest level. While his three-decade-long First-Class record (7,187 runs at 47.91 from 127 matches with 15 hundreds) was excellent, his Test numbers (89 runs from five Tests at 8.90) were abysmal. His ten innings included five ducks — one in each Test — which was perhaps the only salient feature of his batting at the highest level. Kishenchand still holds the record for having played the most number of Tests with at least one duck in each Test.
Born in a Sindhi family at Karachi in undivided India, Kishenchand did a matriculation (he later attended Sind University for a year), and made his First-Class debut roughly at the same time. The 15-year old scored 50 and 33 in the Ranji Trophy match against Western India at Rajkot against an attack consisting of Shah Nyalchand and Saeed Ahmed. Unfortunately, Sind lost and were knocked out.
The maiden hundred did not take long: after Vijay Merchant had lit up Brabourne Stadium with a magnificent 153 not out, the teenager responded with an 131, but was left stranded by his teammates, as Sind ended up conceding a crucial first-innings lead of 79. He scored 410 runs that season at 68.33: he was only 16.
He was at his peak during this era: when Merchant and Vijay Hazare were fighting for crown for the best Indian batsman, Kishenchand scored 1,564 runs from 20 matches in his first six seasons at 68.00. Had it not been for the World War, he might have ended up making his Test debut in his teens.
The finest of these performances had come in a relief fund match at Baroda. After DB Deodhar’s XI had amassed 447, Kishenchand was sent into bat at 63 for three, and lost Mushtaq Ali with the score on 74. What followed was a 176-run stand with CS Nayudu, before the latter fell for 104.
On another occasion came a delightful performance — this time with the ball: Nawanagar had conceded a 125-run lead against Western India at Junagadh, but were doing a fine job with the Ozas (Jayantilal and Izzat) and Bhagwat Singh putting up a gallant fight. Enter Kishenchand: the innocuous leg-breaks did the trick, as he ran through the middle-order, picking up five for 67, and Western India raced to a target of 88 in 16 overs in a race against time. It remained his only five-for.
Then Kishenchand opened up, dominating a 136-run stand with CK Nayudu, followed by another 73-run partnership with his Sind teammate, Naoomal Jaoomal. The attack consisted of Ranga Sohoni, Hazare, Amir Elahi, and Vinoo Mankad, but they could not dent the armour of the 18-year old: he reached his double-hundred, and eventually retired out after a 409-minute 204.
Despite his form, Kishenchand did not make it to the Indian squad that toured England in 1946. He started the next season with a vengeance: the Zonal Quadrangular Tournament (later the Duleep Trophy) seemed to be set for a riveting contest when South Zone, after being bowled out for 227, had reduced North Zone to 132 for five at Brabourne Stadium.
Kishenchand found support in Anwar Hussain, who hung around, helping him add 149. Then Fazal Mahmood walked out, and the pair made merry at the expense of Sohoni, Commandur Rangachari, Ghulam Ahmed, and Sadu Shinde, adding 207 in quick time. Kishenchand though, eventually was run out for a career-best 218 (in 370 minutes), while Fazal remained unbeaten on 100. North Zone secured a 279-run lead and won by ten wickets. That innings, along with a couple of others, earned him a spot in the 1947-48 tour of Australia.
The match against Australian XI (mentioned above) is usually remembered for Bradman’s hundredth hundred; what is usually overlooked is the fact that the Indians had actually won the match thanks to Mankad’s eight for 84 in the fourth innings. The other forgotten bit is Kishenchand’s prolific performance in each innings.
Coming out at 177 for six in the first innings, he had scored an unbeaten 75, adding 97 for the last wicket with CS Nayudu and taking the score to 326; in the second innings, too, he walked out at 183 for six, added 55 for the seventh with Hemu Adhikari and 57 more for the ninth wicket with Sohoni, allowing Amarnath to declare. The bowling attack consisted of Keith Miller, Bill Johnston, Sam Loxton and Bruce Dooland.
Unfortunately, those remained Kishenchand’s only fifty on the tour, as he finished with 418 runs at 24.58. He played in four of the five Tests. He scored one and a golden duck at The Gabba, Brisbane on debut, while in the second Test he managed 44 (almost half of his career runs), adding 70 for the seventh stand with Dattu Phadkar. He was dropped for the next Test, and followed it with ten and a duck at Adelaide Oval and 14 and another duck at MCG.
Back home, and a brief comeback
The family had meanwhile moved to Gujarat, and Kishenchand began his journey with 50 and 21 for Gujarat against Baroda at Ahmedabad. He did a commendable job against the touring Commonwealth XI (that had George Tribe, Frank Worrell, Fred Freer, and Cec Pepper in their line-up) starting with a run of 91, 42, 39, 49, and 79, and finished the season with 551 runs at 61.55, and was named an Indian Cricketer of the Year.
Kishenchand barged his way back to the national side with his 181 against Maharashtra at Kolhapur (he added 293 with Polly Umrigar). After India had gone one-up in the home series against Pakistan at Delhi, Kishenchand was recalled for the second Test at Lucknow. Unfortunately, he scored a duck and 20, as Fazal Mahmood routed India with figures of five for 52 and seven for 42. Pakistan won by an innings, and Kishenchand never played another Test. He was only 27.
Back to domestic cricket
Kishenchand moved to Baroda the following season and played a whopping 17 seasons for them. He was a part of the Hazare’s Ranji Trophy winning side of 1957-58, and generally performed consistently in the domestic circuit. His insatiable appetite for runs did not wane even, as he approached his forties.
His 1964-65 tally read 53 against Saurashtra; 25 and 69 not out against Maharashtra; 45 not out and 92 not out against Bombay (all three innings had come at home); and finally, an unbeaten 170 against his old side Gujarat at Ahmedabad. He finished the season with 454 runs at 227.00, and had a run of 376 runs without being dismissed. He scored 96 in his opening match (against Saurashtra at Rajkot) the next season, which meant he had scored 472 runs between dismissals.
Kishenchand played on till an age of 44 and quit after completing 29 First-Class seasons. In his last match against Gujarat at home, he scored one and 13, but still managed to clean-bowl Nari Contractor. It was somewhat ironic that his illustrious career got lost somewhere in history, leaving behind only that single delivery he had sent down to Bradman.
Kishenchand had worked in the services of the Maharaja of Baroda; he later took up another job at Satyadev Chemicals, Baroda. He passed away from a heart attack on April 16, 1997, just two days after his 72nd birthday.
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