Home > Features > Moments in history >

Rusi Modi: Among the batting giants of India’s pristine cricketing past

image_20121111161029

Rusi Modi used to stun the audience with his grace, elegance and consistency – Caricature by Austin Coutinho

Rusi Modi, born on November 11, 1924, was one of the finest of the early Indian batsmen. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at the career of a man with an insatiable appetite for runs who competed hard with the two legendary Vijays, Merchant and Hazare, for the spot of the best Indian batsman in the 1940s.

Rusi Modi died in the club house of the Brabourne Stadium, a ground that has given him more than any other. He was 71. It was an end as sudden as his disappearance from the world of international cricket.

If one puts a 10 Test cut-off, Modi ranks eighth in the list of Indian batsmen in terms of batting averages, ahead of the likes of VVS Laxman, Mohammad Azharuddin and Sourav Ganguly. In an era of uncovered wickets, Modi scored 736 Test runs at an average of 46.00. His 560 against the formidable West Indians in 1948-49 remained a series record for India for 13 years until Vijay Manjrekar went past him, though Polly Umrigar had equalled his tally in 1952-53.

Modi was one of those batsmen who could combine elegance with consistency. He scored hundreds with an efficiency that seemed almost mindless. Yet he managed to stun the audience with his grace. He was characterised by his trademark “thumbs-up” (a gesture towards the dressing-room from time to time that became quite famous), after which he resumed his batting. His faultless timing made him possibly the most attractive Indian batsman of the 1940s.

He was thin, almost frail. The English cold often made him pale, and he looked almost helpless in the damp English summers. But once he took the field he was a completely different entity; strokes flowed to every corner of the ground, bringing the crowd to their feet.

Modi made his Pentangular (an annual, communal tournament that was played in Bombay till 1946 between five teams — Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Europeans and The Rest) debut at the age of 17. He impressed all and sundry with his 144 against the Europeans. Two years later, he made his Ranji Trophy debut. He came into his elements in the next Ranji Trophy season, scoring 160, 210 not out, 245 not out, 31 not out, 113, 98 and 151 – a total of 1,008 runs from five matches. In the process he also became the first batsman to go past 1,000 runs in a single Ranji Trophy season. Sandwiched between the 160 and an unbeaten 210 came a 215 for the Parsis against the Europeans. His 1944-45 season tally eventually read 1,375 runs at 114.58.

The following season, when the Australian Services XI toured India, Modi scored 203 at Madras. It was an innings he considered his finest. It was also the first double-hundred scored by an Indian in a representative match. Coming in at 110 for four, Modi lifted the Indian XI to 525 against an attack comprising of Keith Miller and Cecil Pepper.

He was an automatic selection for the 1946 side that toured England. He had a decent tour in unfamiliar conditions in a very wet summer, scoring 1,196 runs at 37.37. He made his Test debut at Lord’s, alongside Vinoo Mankad and Vijay Hazare. Coming in at 44 for three, he top-scored with an unbeaten 57, after being dropped by Wally Hammond off Doug Wright. However, Alec Bedser routed India with 11 wickets on his Test debut, and India lost by 10 wickets.

He withdrew from the Australia tour next year citing “personal reasons”. It was in the home series against West Indies in 1948-49 that Modi really came to his elements. His combination with Vijay Hazare resulted in three century partnerships: 156 at Bombay; 129 at Calcutta; and 139 again at Bombay. He top-scored for India with 560 runs. The highlights of the series were the two Bombay Tests: after trailing by 356, he scored 112— his only Test hundred— and combined with Hazare to save the second Test for India. In the fifth Test, with India chasing 361 for an improbable victory, Modi scored a heroic 86, as India finished at 355 for eight.

After this series, though, Modi mysteriously faced a slump in form. He played fewer matches due to professional commitments. He figured in just two more Tests and failed in both. He still managed to retain a batting average of 46.00. His natural charm seemed to disappear from his batsmanship, and he sort of faded away from the forefront, though he continued to play domestic cricket through the 1950s. In all he scored 2,196 Ranji Trophy runs at 81.69.

After his retirement, Modi became one of the more renowned Indian cricket authors – and became probably the most-read among Indian Test cricketers before the advent of Sunil Gavaskar.

(A hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobiac by his own admission, Abhishek Mukherjee is a statistical analyst based in Kolkata, India. He typically looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – not necessarily as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the game with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a rather steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers the sport has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks and googlies in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in)

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 20, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Kolkata

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 22, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Dubai

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 22, 2014 (19:00 IST)   at Cuttack

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 24, 2014 (03:00 IST)   at Mount Maunganui

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Oct 25, 2014 (09:00 IST)   at Dhaka

More

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 21, 2014  at Mount Maunganui

South Africa won by 6 wkts

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 17, 2014  at Dharamsala

India won by 59 runs

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 14, 2014  at Visakhapatnam

Match cancelled

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 12, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

Australia won by 1 run

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 11, 2014  at Delhi

India won by 48 runs

Photos

New Zealand vs South Africa, 1st ODI

Videos

Australia perpare for 1st Test against Pakistan

MS Dhoni rested, Virat Kohli as captain, and other points of interest from squad for first 3 India vs Sri Lanka ODIs

India vs Sri Lanka 2014: MS Dhoni gets much-needed break ahead of Australia tour

Virat Kohli becomes fastest to 20 ODI hundreds

A Pakistan all-time XI: A galaxy of captains

Australia Australia tour of UAE 2014 Australia vs Pakistan Australia vs Pakistan 2014 India India vs West Indies India vs West Indies 2014 New Zealand Pakistan Salaam Cricket South Africa West Indies West Indies tour of India 2014 West Indies vs India West Indies vs India 2014

WICB seek meeting with BCCI to minimise damage

AB de Villiers: What gets me going is finishing games for the team

Luke Ronchi seeks consistency ahead of ICC World Cup 2015

Australia to play an ODI in Ireland

Rajasthan U-19 player slams record 18 sixes in double ton

Australia’s best opportunity to bury ghosts of playing on spinning track

Duleep Trophy, 1st Semi-Final; Central Zone vs North Zone: Players to watch out for

Pakistan’s chances in ICC World Cup 2015 bleak: Mohammad Zahid

Quinton de Kock equals wicketkeeping record with six catches in South Africa vs New Zealand 1st ODI

MS Dhoni rested, Virat Kohli as captain, and other points of interest from squad for first 3 India vs Sri Lanka ODIs

Fan of the Day

Suraj Gowda

Suraj Gowda

642 Posts | 9 Fans

Virat Kohli's Family Meets Anushka Sharma

Boyfriend Vs. Parents — Call In The Referee ‘Paging Pri’

AB de Villiers: What gets me going is finishing games for the team

Luke Ronchi seeks consistency ahead of ICC World Cup 2015

Drink ginger tea to relieve a migraine naturally

Allocate spectrum to telcos within 90 days after payment: Panel

How BMI and BMR play a role in weight loss

Bigg Boss 8 Highlights: Sonali Raut’s double standards; Puneet Issar’s aggressive avatar

Box Cricket League 2014: All you need to know about the sports reality show

Indian Painting Exhibit Kicks off at Quebec City

International programme in Animal Husbandry

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here