Rangy Nanan © Getty Images
Rangy Nanan took 4 wickets in his only Test at 22.75 © Getty Images

Born May 29, 1953, Rangy Nanan was an outstanding off-spinner who served Trinidad & 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 (‘Ranji’, according to some) 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.

A quality off-spinner who served Trinidad & Tobago with distinction, Nanan led 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 9 and 49 and finishing with figures of 1 for 4 and 5 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 a Shell Shield match in 1977-78, when he ran through Jamaica with figures of 6 for 54 and 2 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 3 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 5 for 71 and 6 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 3 for 59 against North-West Frontier Province Governor’s XI, followed by 2 for 55 against Sind Governor’s XI and 9 for 86 against Punjab Governor’s XI. 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 1, Nanan scoring a 27-ball 8. 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, finishing with 2 for 54: he had Wasim Raja stumped and Abdul Qadir bowled. West Indies, leading by 59, were down to 198 for 9 when Clarke joined Nanan; as the off-spinner stonewalled at one end, Clarke hit some lusty blows, scoring an 18-ball 35; the pair added 44 in 44 minutes, Nanan fell for a 39-ball 8, 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 2 wickets, those of Imran Khan and Qadir, both caught by Richards; he finished with 2 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 in 1982-83; he bowled marathon spells in each innings, finishing with match figures of 88.1-22-190-6. Batting at No. 7 Nanan also scored 125 — his only First-Class hundred.

He led Trinidad & 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 & Tobago; his final match was against the touring Australians. Unfortunately, the match was rained off after Australia had reached 206 for 6, 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 & Tobago as well. He also went on to become a Trinidad & Tobago selector.

Rangy Nanan survived a stroke in 2013, and had to be rushed to San Fernando General Hospital. Unfortunately, he was bedridden thereafter. In March 2016 he complained of severe body pain, and had to be rushed to St Clair Medical Centre, and was released after five days.

At 9.20 AM On March 23, he suffered another stroke at his home in Preysal, and passed away an hour later at Couva District Hospital. He was 62.

(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)