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Jack Hobbs (left) opted out of the match; Herbert Sutcliffe scored a hundred © Getty Images

November 23, 1930. Enrolled by Vizzy, Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe turned up to play for his team for a tour across India and Ceylon. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at a day when Hobbs refused to play at Calcutta.

It is well-known that Vizzy had employed Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe (along with several future Indian Test players and the Ceylonese Edward Kelaart) for his side in 1930-31. Hobbs had just quit from Test cricket, but Sutcliffe was still an active player. Despite the alien conditions, the great men adapted well to the conditions, scoring runs by the dozen.

The tour started with two non-First-Class matches against Allahabad at Banaras. Allahabad were bowled out for 172 in the first match, following which Sutcliffe (93 run out) and Hobbs (100 not out) put up an exhilarating show of batting. They carried on after winning the single-wicket match (for the sake of the public), and finished on 223 for 1.

The third match, against a Rest of India side at Roshanara Club, was given First-Class status. Though Anthony de Mello’s 6 for 66 (including wickets of Hobbs, Sutcliffe, and CK Nayudu) reduced Vizzy’s XI to 172 in the first innings, Hobbs (81) and Sutcliffe (69) and put up 122 in the second. Vizzy’s XI won by 193 runs.

The side then moved to Calcutta. The match at Eden Gardens started on a Friday. The hosts, Bengal Governor’s XI, were to be led by Hampshire’s Alexander Lindsay Hosie (the Bengalis — affectionately or conveniently, it is not known which — used Amrita Lal to refer to AL Hosie). Though they were bowled out for 173, they reduced Vizzy’s XI on a drying pitch to 16 for 3 by stumps.

Though Vizzy’s men probably held the upper hand, it was a disappointment for the 10,000-strong crowd to see Hobbs in such poor form, especially on Day One. He batted for an hour against relatively unheralded names like Robert Gourlay and Terence Sweeney and managed a mere 5. He eventually crawled to an 80-minute 14.

Vizzy’s XI were dismissed for 78 next morning. Then Ghulam Mohammad and Mushtaq Ali struck back, skittling out the hosts for 46. Vizzy held back Hobbs and Sutcliffe. Naoomal Jaoomal and Dilawar Hussain remained unbeaten at stumps. The score read 25 without loss. They needed another 117.

Hobbs opts out

On the rest day — a Sunday — Vizzy’s men were supposed to play against Calcutta Sporting Union on their ground. Sporting Union, founded in 1896 by Sarada Ranjan Roy and Hemanga Bose, was no mean side.

The side was bolstered by the Bose brothers (Kartik, Ganesh, Bapi, and Babu). The Roys (Pankaj, Ambar, and Pranab) played for Sporting Union, as did Mantu Banerjee, Subrata Guha, Dilip Doshi, and Devang Gandhi. The club also boasted of Dattu Phadkar, Madhav Apte, and Ramnath Kenny at various points of time.

The ground (at Marcus Square near College Street), and surroundings, was filled with enthusiasts. The Register News-Pictorial, Adelaide wrote: “The small ground is surrounded by three-storeyed Indian houses, whose balconies and roofs were crammed with sightseers. An immense crowd watched the match with the greatest interest.”

It was an alien experience for the foreign correspondents. Register News-Pictorial added that the match was played “in novel surroundings, with crows and farmyard fowls pecking contentedly in the outfield, and thousands of half-dressed urchins and Bengali babus encroaching on the boundary line.”

Of course, the two biggest attractions were the English legends. Unfortunately, Hobbs refused to play for the match. His reason was simple: he would not play cricket on a Sunday. The Sydney Morning Herald reported: “Hobbs said that he was sorry, but that nothing would induce him to play cricket on Sunday. He had been brought up in a religious atmosphere, and taught to respect the Sabbath. He did not wish to do anything which might injure Christianity in India. His wife also objected to his playing on Sunday.”

Sutcliffe, however, had no such reservations. It was a one-day single-innings match. Vizzy’s XI batted first, and Sutcliffe immediately set out scoring runs. They lost two wickets when the great Yorkshireman was joined by CR Nayudu — brother of CK and CS (and CL as well).

Sutcliffe duly got to his hundred amidst tumultuous applause. The innings was declared closed at 209 for 2 with Sutcliffe on 110 and Nayudu on 56. Sporting Union held firm, and the match petered out to a draw with them on 99 for 7. Called upon to bowl his medium-paced bowling, Sutcliffe claimed 1 for 15.

There was the Eden Gardens match waiting for him next day.

What followed?

– Naoomal Jaoomal and Dilawar were both removed by the time Vizzy’s XI reached 35 the next day, but a back-to-form Hobbs (36) and Sutcliffe (62*) made small task of the target. Vizzy himself walked out at 128 for 3 (he was certainly not willing to miss out on a moment of glory) and remained unbeaten at close. Following the win, both legends came out of the pavilion to address their fans.

– Hobbs played 7 First-Class matches on the tour, scoring 571 at 63.44. Sutcliffe’s numbers read 344 at 49.14 from 5 matches.

Brief scores:

Maharaj Kumar of Vizianagram’s XI 209 for 2 decl. (Herbert Sutcliffe 110*, CR Nayudu 56*) drew with Sporting Union, Calcutta 99 for 7.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)