Representational photo © Getty Images
Representational photo © Getty Images

Playing for Assam, Samarjit Nath created history at Guwahati on January 10, 2002. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the day when a man made his way to cricket history — before vanishing for good.

For years Assam has played the refuge of players at the dusk of their careers. At the time of writing this article (September 2014), both Dheeraj Jadhav and Niraj Patel are part of the team. Despite that breaking through to the Assam side of the early 2000s as a wicketkeeper was near-impossible, mostly due to the presence of Syed Zakaria Zuffri.

A hard-hitting batsman, Zuffri had started his career at Assam, and did a short detour of Railways before moving to Assam. He was also good enough to be a regular for East Zone, and was the biggest star of the Assam side in the early 2000s. It was only because he pulled out of the bout against Tripura at North-East Frontier Railway Stadium, Guwahati in the Ranji Trophy encounter of 2001-02 that Samarjit Nath made his First-Class debut.

Seven catches, one stumping

Rather surprisingly, Nath did not effect the first dismissal of the match: Rajib Dutta hit one to Ganesh Kumar off debutant Mark Ingty. Then, after the score read 32 for 1 in the 17th over, Jayaram Gokulakrishnan found the edge of Sourav Dasgupta, and Nath found his maiden First-Class dismissal.

Ingty, Gokulakrishnan, and Gautam Dutta kept on striking as wickets tumbled. Ganesh Kumar gave Nath his first stumping — that of Timir Chanda. Tripura finished the day on 209 for 8: Nath had taken 6 catches and a stumping.

Once again the next day started with Sunil Shukla escaping Nath (he was trapped leg-before off Dutta), but Nath rounded things off by catching Rasudeb Dutta off the same bowler. He finished with 7 catches and a stumping as Tripura finished on 216.

Assam’s response

Tripura’s spin duo of Jayanta Debnath (5 for 79) and Tushar Saha (3 for 96) bowled their hearts out, but the Assamese were too good to contain at their den. Despite being reduced to 110 for 5 Assam fought back, mostly through a 180-run stand between Sumit Das and Sukhvinder Singh. Assam eventually took a 195-run lead. Batting at ten Nath remained unbeaten with a 36-ball 12 with 2 fours.

Nath’s record

Tripura finished the day on 80 for 1, but not before Nath caught Dasgupta off Gokulakrishnan. Assam claimed Rajib Dutta early on the last morning (without any involvement from Nath), but Subal Chowdhury and Abdul Sattar added 81 in two hours to as good as save the match for Tripura.

The partnership was broken by Parag Das. Bowling his occasional military-medium (he was introduced as the seventh bowler) Das found the edge of Chowdhury, giving Nath his 10th dismissal of the match. Then, with close to an hour left, Das caught Chetan Sachdev — once again off Parag Das — to give Nath his 11th victim and a new world record! The match, however, fizzled out to a draw after Tripura reached 288 for 6.

What followed?

- Astonishingly, Nath never played another First-Class match as Zuffri was back. In fact, after playing for Assam Under-22s against Bihar Under-22s at Kolkata. He scored 23 and 11 in the match and effected 4 dismissals.

- Playing against Federal Areas against Punjab at Islamabad in 2008-09, Jamal Anwar took 10 catches (7 and 3 catches in the two innings) on debut. However, the extra stumping meant that Nath holds his record.

- There have been 28 instances of 11 victims in a First-Class match till date — but only one of them on debut.

Brief scores: 

Tripura 216 (Timir Chanda 62, Sourav Dasgupta 52; Gautam Dutta 3 for 41, Jayaram Gokulakrishnan 3 for 45, Mark Ingty 3 for 52, Samarjit Nath 7c 1st) and 288 for 6 (Subal Chowdhury 76, Abdul Sattar 69, Rajib Datta 45, Sourav Dasgupta 41; Samarjit Nath 3c) drew with Assam 411 (Sukhvinder Singh 118, Sumit Das 67, Parag Das 57, Jayaram Gokulakrishnan 52; Jayanta Debnath 5 for 79, Tushar Saha 3 for 96).

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