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On the occasion of Raksha Bandhan, Abhishek Mukherjee draws a list of cricketers who, besides being teammates, have been tied to each other by one marrying the sister of the other.
Exactly why the word saala (used in several North Indian languages including Hindi; stands for “wife’s brother”) is used in a derogatory sense remains elusive to the day. Whether one wants his brother-in-law as his teammate is debatable: while one would get all the moral support in the world, he would certainly not be able to take those “adventurous detours” during trips.
Here, then, is a list of brothers-in-law who have played the sport. (Please note that this list consists of international cricketers who had married the sisters of Test cricketers; it does not consist of men who have married a pair of sisters):
1. Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa Viswanath: The most celebrated brothers-in-law to have graced the sport, the diminutive pair of Gavaskar and Viswanath were both born in 1949, captained India, and scored more than 16,000 Test runs between them. Had Gavaskar’s sister Kavita played cricket, she would have perhaps received the most coaching tips in the history of women’s cricket. Incidentally, Gavaskar other sister, Nutan, played women’s cricket.
2. Abdul Hafeez Kardar and Zulfiqar Ahmed: Usually referred to as The Father of Pakistan Cricket, Kardar, a former India player, went on to become Pakistan’s first Test captain; he led Pakistan in all 23 Tests he played for them, and led them to victories against all Test-playing nations of the time barring (obviously) South Africa. Zulfiqar, whose sister Kardar married, was no mean player: from nine Tests he scored 200 runs at 33.33 and picked up 20 wickets at 18.30.
3. Jahangir Khan and Baqa Jilani: Jahangir Khan, the doyen of the famous Khan clan of Pakistan (that produced three Test captains) was among those who had laid the foundation of Pakistan cricket. On the other hand, had Baqa Jilani not insulted CK Nayudu, he may have ended his career by playing more just one Test. But that one Test helped Jilani, the first man to take a Ranji Trophy hat-trick, and Jahangir Khan make this list as brothers-in-law.
4. Alec Stewart and Mark Butcher: “The Gaffer” can almost certainly be an English legend, but his Surrey and English teammate Mark Butcher could never reach those lofty standards; he had his moments, the greatest of which was his iconic 173 not out against Australia at Headingley in 2001. Judy, Stewart’s sister, was married to Butcher, but the marriage ended in a divorce when Butcher was involved in an extra-marital relationship.
5. Darren Lehmann and Craig White: Ashes rivals linked by marriage are certainly not common phenomenon, but the foundation of that was laid when Lehmann had joined Yorkshire. White had asked his sister Andrea to show “Boof” around Scarborough; Cupid stepped in subsequently, and Andrea (perhaps) had trouble taking sides when Lehmann and White played three Ashes Tests against each other.
6. Vikram Rathour and Aashish Kapoor: Both Rathour and Kapoor did well in domestic cricket, but neither could make it big at the top level, playing a mere 10 Tests between them. Both played for Punjab and Himachal Pradesh (Kapoor also played for Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, and Tripura). They also played together against Australia at Kotla in 1996-97). Rathour went on to marry Kapoor’s sister.
Special mention — Terry Alderman and Ross Emerson: Alderman had carved a niche of his own in the Australian side of the 1980s; he still remains the only bowler to take 40 wickets in a series twice, and with five-Test series drying up, the record is not likely to be broken anytime soon. His sister Denise also played seven Women’s Tests. Emerson never stood in a Test, but his 10-match One-Day International career is usually remembered for him no-balling Muttiah Muralitharan for chucking.
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