The day MV Nagendra could not help raising his finger

MV Nagendra’s explanation for ruling Mike Brearley out wrongly remains an all-time classic.

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Representational photo. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Representational photo. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Different umpires cite different reasons for their errors — some justifiable, others, perhaps not as much. However, when MV Nagendra ruled Mike Brearley out at Bangalore on January 29, 1977, it was a one-of-a-kind thing, as Abhishek Mukherjee recalls.

The name of MV Nagendra is familiar to cricket quizzers. When Mysore (later Karnataka) played Andhra at Central College Ground, Bangalore, the umpires were MG Vijayasarathy and his son MV Nagendra. It was the second such (known) instance in history, after Frank and Louis Tarrant.

That was in 1959-60. In four seasons’ time Nagendra stood in his first Test, at Calcutta. He would stand in 10 more; the match in question was the 11th and last of his career.

Tony Greig’s Englishmen were all over India that winter. John Lever bowled England to a Vaseline-soaked innings win at Delhi. Greig himself battled high fever to score a hundred at Calcutta after Bob Willis polished India off; England won by 10 wickets. And Lever rose to the challenge again at Madras, where England won by 200 runs. India’s scores in the series till that point read 122, 234, 155, 181, 164, and 83.

The tide turned at Bangalore. India crossed 250 in each innings, something they had failed to do even once till then in the series; Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, Bishan Singh Bedi, and EAS Prasanna shared 19 wickets; and debutant Yajurvindra Singh equalled all sorts of records by holding 7 catches. The last Test at Bombay would be drawn: England, chasing 214, would finish on 152 for 7.

Our incident took place on at Bangalore. India were bowled out for 253 in the second afternoon. Bedi replaced Yajurvindra after an over with himself. Soon afterwards, Chandra replaced Ghavri at the other end. Dennis Amiss and Mike Brearley dug in. Amiss was 3 when he was dropped at gully off Bedi. Runs came in a trickle.

It continued for over half an hour before Chandra found Brearley’s edge and the ball went to Gundappa Viswanath at slip. It was obvious that it had not carried, but Nagendra decided otherwise. “There was not another pair of eyes on the ground who thought it had carried,” reported The Times, and Brearley walked back.

Viswanath did not recall Brearley. Three years later, in the Jubilee Test at Bombay, he would recall Bob Taylor under similar circumstances. Brearley himself would recall Iqbal Qasim the year after, preventing Geoff Cope from taking a hat-trick on Test debut.

But let us return to the match in question. Nagendra gave a wrong decision. While that was poor umpiring, it was certainly not the only time in history that an official had erred. It was forgotten as the players broke for lunch.

Brearley was having his meal peacefully when Nagendra approached him. His apologetic explanation regarding the dismissal remains a classic till date: “Mr Brearley, I am very sorry. I knew it was not out, but I felt my finger going up and I just couldn’t stop it.”

Brearley’s response remains undocumented. Perhaps it was unprintable as well.

Brief scores:

India 253 (Surinder Amarnath 63, Syed Kirmani 52; Bob Willis 6 for 53) and 259 for 9 decl. (Sunil Gavaskar 50, Gundappa Viswanath 79*; Derek Underwood 4 for 76) beat England 195 (Dennis Amiss 82; Bhagwat Chandrasekhar 6 for 76, EAS Prasanna 3 for 47, Yajurvindra Singh 5c) and 177 (Alan Knott 81*; Bishan Singh Bedi 6 for 71, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar 3 for 55) by 140 runs.

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