The first cricket match in the England versus India 2021 test series starts today. In the records of the India Office Information Department there is a file with papers from 1946 about matches between the two teams since 1889.
Martin Bladen Hawke, 7th Baron Hawke ('Statesmen. No. 601.') by Sir Leslie Ward, published in Vanity Fair 24 September 1892 NPG D44613 © National Portrait Gallery, London
By 1946, six English cricket teams had visited India.
Vernon’s team 1889-1890 – amateurs sponsored and captained by G. F. Vernon.
Lord Hawke’s Team 1893 – amateurs and a few professionals led by Lord Hawke.
Oxford University Authentics 1902-1903 - led by K. J. Key.
Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) Tour 1925-1926 –the first official England team to visit India led by Arthur Gilligan.
MCC Tour 1933-1934 – an official team led by D. R. Jardine.
Lord Tennyson’s Team 1937-1938 – an unofficial team led by Lord Tennyson.
Douglas Robert Jardine - cigarette card, 1935 NPG D49066 © National Portrait Gallery, London
India cricket teams had visited England on three occasions before 1946.
Patiala Team 1911 – led by the Maharaja of Patiala, a great patron of cricket and a first-class player.
Sir Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala by Vandyk, 5 July 1911 NPG x98678 © National Portrait Gallery, London
First Official Tour 1932 – led by the Maharaja of Porbundar.
Second Official Tour 1936 – led by Lieutenant Colonel Sir Vijayananda Gajapathi Raju, the Maharajkumar of Vizianagram, aka Vizzy.
The file has notes on the sixteen players invited to join the 1946 tour to England- ‘the best team that India has ever sent out and everyone expects them to do well’.
Iftikhar Ali Khan Bahadur, Nawab of Pataudi by Bassano Ltd, 19 July 1929 NPG x96773 © National Portrait Gallery, London
The Nawab of Pataudi captained the team. Pataudi was the first Indian to win a ‘triple blue’ at Oxford – cricket, hockey, and billiards. He also played football, tennis and golf. At the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics he was a member of the India hockey team.
Pataudi joined Worcestershire Cricket Club in 1932. He was selected to play for England against Australia and the West Indies. Unfortunately his career was interrupted by bad health.
V. M. Merchant, vice-captain – India’s top batsman. ‘His play is a mixture of caution and daring…His strokes are scientifically perfect but equally elegant.’
Lala Amarnath was a fine all-rounder, ‘a sturdy batsman who combines cautious judgement with aggression’.
Syed Mushtaq Ali - ‘the idol of millions who are thrilled by his abandoned, often reckless, batmanship’. ‘His uncanny reach and unorthodox stroke play … keep the spectator in continual suspense.’
D. D. Hindlekar - a ‘quiet and efficient’ wicket-keeper and good opening bat.
Shute Banerjee – India’s leading fast bowler able to deliver a perfect length for hours; almost unplayable some days.
C. S. Nayudu – excellent spin bowler, and a good bat ‘who can effectively hit out at an awkward moment’.
Rusi Modi – ‘ a disciplined and versatile batsman’, ‘one of the greatest cricket-finds of recent years’.
S. W. Sohoni – a medium-paced bowler who could have earned a place for his batting alone.
Vijay Hazare – one of the best all-rounders with many spectacular batting performances to his credit.
Abdul Hafeez – a joyous and audacious batting style, sometimes taking incredible risks.
R. B. Nimbalkar – a good batsman and ‘understudy’ wicket-keeper.
Vinoo Mankad – an exceptionally good all-rounder.
Chandu Sarwate – one of best spin bowlers in India and a reliable bat.
Gul Mohammad – a courageous batsman and one of the finest fielders in India.
S. G. Shinde – a fast bowler and newcomer to first-class cricket.
India played 29 first-class fixtures in England in 1946, with eleven wins, four defeats and fourteen draws.
Lead Curator, East India Company Records
British Library, IOR/L/I/1/251 Cricket and Sport (General) 1932-1948