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Rangy Nanan: The only Test cricketer with a palindromic surname

Rangy Nanan. Photo Courtesy: Best of Trinidad
Rangy Nanan took four wickets in one Test at 22.75 for the West Indies. Photo Courtesy: Best of Trinidad

Born May 29, 1953, Rangy Nanan was an outstanding off-spinner who served Trinidad and Tobago for close to two decades. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the man who missed out on more opportunities for being a contemporary of Lance Gibbs, and later on for Clive Lloyd’s ruthless fast bowlers.

If one discounts surnames like Arun Lal and Madan Lal, Rangy Nanan has the only palindromic surname among Test cricketers. Nanan’s career coincided with the final days of Lance Gibbs’s career, and after time Gibbs had retired, Clive Lloyd had tried out a group of spinners in the 1970s (Inshan Ali, Imtiaz Ali, Albert Padmore, Maurice Foster, Derick Parry, Elquemedo Willett, Raphick Jumadeen, and Sew Shivnarine are a few examples), none of whom had clicked. Once he fell back on his endless supply of fast bowlers, however, spinners took a backseat forever.

Nanan was a quality off-spinner who served Trinidad and Tobago with distinction, leading them in the Shell Shield in the 1980s. His accuracy was famous in the Caribbean cricket circuit (he finished with an exceptional First-Class career economy rate of 2.18). In all he had 366 wickets from 94 matches at 23.10 with 20 five-fors, and was good enough to score 2,607 runs at 20.85.

Nanan was not happy. He later told in an interview with Vaneisa Baksh for ESPNCricinfo: “Nobody (West Indian spinners contemporary of Nanan) got a long run, to play Test after Test. Captains of West Indies teams didn’t really know how to set fields for spinners. Cricket is a game of angles, and you had to think differently for spinners…If Shane Warne was living in the West Indies nobody would have heard of him. It took 15 Tests before he made any breakthrough.”

Early days

Nirmal Nanan, uncle of Rangy, was less than two years older than him, and both were born in Perysal, Trinidad, and played a lot of cricket. Nirmal later went on to become a leg-spinner who played for South Trinidad, Central Trinidad, and Nottinghamshire.

Rangy Nanan made his First-Class debut for Central Trinidad against East Trinidad in a Texaco Cup match at California (not the USA state), scoring nine and 49 and finishing with figures of one for four and five for 43. In a couple of months he made his Shell Shield debut, but his appearances at Shell Shield were sporadic.

Nanan came to limelight following the Shell Shield encounter against Jamaica at Queen’s Park Oval in 1977-78. He ran through the tourists with figures of six for 54 and two for 76. When a second-string (thanks to Kerry Packer) Australian side toured the Caribbean in the same season, Nanan put the tourists on a leash in the tour match, finishing with three for 61 (including the wickets of Bobby Simpson and Steve Rixon).

The next season saw Nanan pick up his only ten-for as he single-handedly defeated Jamaica at home with five for 71 and six for 66. With 136 wickets from six seasons at an outstanding 19.06, Nanan was selected for the Pakistan tour of 1980-81.

Test cricket

Nanan started the tour with match figures of three for 59 against North-West Frontier Province Governor’s XI at Peshawar, followed by two for 55 against Sind Governor’s XI at Sukkur and nine for 86 against Punjab Governor’s XI at Sahiwal. He missed the first Test at Gaddafi, but was picked for the second Test at Faisalabad.

Lloyd decided to bat, and the spinners, led by Mohammad Nazir, bowled the tourists out for 235 after they were 99 for one, Nanan scoring a 27-ball eight. The West Indian pace trio (not quartet, for a change) of Colin Croft, Malcolm Marshall, and Sylvester Clarke barraged the hosts with hostile fast bowling.

Nanan played his part, holding one end up, and finishing with two for 54: he had Wasim Raja stumped and Abdul Qadir bowled. West Indies, leading by 59, were down to 198 for nine when Clarke joined Nanan; as the off-spinner stonewalled at one end, Clarke hit a few lusty blows, scoring an 18-ball 35; the pair added 44 in 44 minutes, Nanan fell for a 39-ball eight, and Pakistan’s target was raised to 302.

They need not have bothered: Croft and Marshall were unleashed on Pakistan, and they were skittled for 145. Nanan had two wickets, those of Imran Khan and Qadir, both caught by Richards; he finished with two for 37. Unfortunately, he never played another Test. Despite the presence of Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Marshall, Clarke, and Croft, Nanan topped the bowling averages for the tour, finishing with 18 wickets at 16.17. He was never considered again.

Winning the Shell Shield

Nanan won the Man of the Match award in the Shell Shield encounter against Leeward Islands at Pointe-a-Pierre in 1982-83; he bowled marathon spells in each innings, finishing with match figures of 88.1-22-190-6. Batting at seven, Nanan also scored 125 — his only First-Class hundred.

Nanan led Trinidad and Tobago to a Shell Shield victory in 1984-85; it was their first title since 1975-76 (when they had shared with Barbados) and their first solo title since 1970-71. Since then they have clinched the title only in 2005-06. Along with Ganesh Mahabir and Tony Gray, Nanan played a crucial role in the victory, finishing with 15 wickets at 20.13.

He continued to play till 1990-91, leading Trinidad and Tobago playing his final match against the touring Australians at Pointe-a-Pierre. Unfortunately, the match was rained off after Australia had reached 206 for six, and Nanan did not get a chance to bat or bowl.

Post-retirement

Nanan worked as a police officer during and after his retirement. A Pentecostal Christian, Rangy married Martha, and is the father of two sons, Kevin and Gary. His nephew, the curiously named Magnum Nanan, bowled Chinamen for Trinidad and Tobago as well.

Rangy Nanan survived a stroke in 2013, but after being rushed to San Fernando GeneralHospital. He continues to live in perfect health. He also went on to become a Trinidad and Tobago selector.

(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)

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