'Lion Hearted' Jaisimha: A Crowd Puller and A Stonewaller
The first to bat on each day of a five-day Test
It is a feat that has been performed a few times in Test cricket but still remains a coveted one for batsmen.
To bat on each day of a five-day Test match brings out all the qualities required to be a top class batsmen – technique, temperament, concentration, determination and dedication. And to ML Jaisimha goes the honour of being the first to achieve this feat.
Jaisimha is known as the gay cavalier of Indian cricket. In the sixties he entertained spectators with silken strokes all round the wicket and even big hits. A six in a Test match was a rarity in those days but the spectators sensed that when the elegant stylist from Hyderabad was in he could just provide the thrills associated with the ball flying high and handsomely over the ropes.
Jaisimha was a crowd puller and along with Salim Durrani, Farokh Engineer, Nawab of Pataudi and Budhi Kunderan made sure that even if the Indians lost they would provide entertaining cricket.
But before he established himself in the side Jaisimha was a bit of a stonewaller. He came into the touring squad for England in 1959 as a 20-year-old on the basis of some sterling displays around the domestic circuit. But he was taken only as an extra batsman and his opportunities were limited.
One such opportunity came his way when Chandu Borde was injured in the first Test and Jaisimha made his Test debut in the second Test at Lord’s. He made 1 and 8 opening the second innings in place of the injured Nari Contractor. Predictably enough he didn’t get another chance during the series and was forgotten till the final Test of the home series against Australia at Calcutta in January 1960.
Having regained his hard earned spot Jaisimha was not going to squander it away. The Australians were the No 1 side in the world having come with an array of attacking batsmen, a trio of renowned pace bowlers and an astute captain in Richie Benaud who was also one of the world's best spin bowlers. When the teams came to Calcutta Australia were ahead 2-1 in the five-match series and the favourities to make it 3-1.
This feeling gained momentum when India batting first made a fair mess of their innings, Pankaj Roy (33) and CD Gopinath (39) put up some resistance but Benaud, Alan Davidson and Ray Lindwall got among the wickets and India were 147 for seven late on the first day when Jaisimha walked out to join skipper Gulabrai Ramchand. At stumps India were 158 for seven with Ramchand on 12 and Jaisimha 2.
Resuming on the second morning India were restricted to 194 but Jaisimha defied the bowling for about an hour and remained unbeaten on 20. Australia went for quick runs to press home the advantage and were all out for 331 midway through the third day.
India faced an uphill task particularly when they lost Kunderan in the first over without a run on the board. Contractor and Roy added 67 runs for the second wicket before in the dying minutes of the day’s play the former was out for 30. Jaisimha was sent out ostensibly as a night watchman and after facing a few deliveries he had not yet opened his account before stumps were drawn with India 67 for two.
About the only interest left in the game now was when Australia would wrap up their third victory of the series, India were still 70 runs behind with eight wickets in hand and two days remaining. The situation didn’t get any better on the fourth morning and by lunch India were 123 for five, Surprisingly however Jaisimha was not among the three batsmen dismissed during the morning’s play. Not only that he was secure in defence and while he proceeded at snail’s pace it really didn’t matter. Time and not runs were essential to India’s cause.
The recovery commenced after the interval. First Borde dominated a sixth wicket partnership of 83 runs with Jaisimha. Borde scored 50 and by the time he was dismissed Jaisimha too had just crossed his half century. Ramnath Kenny now joined him and the two came together at stumps with India 243 for six.
Kenny was on 26 but all eyes were on Jaisimha who received a standing ovation as he came in unconquered on 59, In the interests of the team he had curbed his natural strokeplay and concentrated on defence. During the day India had scored 176 runs and Jaisimha displaying intense concentration had got only 59 but these runs were priceless.
So Jaisimha resumed on the final morning becoming the first to bat on all five days of a Test match. But he realized that his work was not over. India were only 106 runs ahead, they had only four wickets in hand and there was a full day;s play remaining, He and Kenny resumed in the same resolute fashion and continued to defy the bowlers as well as Benaud’s shrewd tactics.
Jaisimha batted almost 90 minutes on the fifth morning before with the total on 289 he was bowled by Ken Mackay for 74 having added a further 83 runs with Kenny for the seventh wicket a partnership that went a long way towards helping India to draw the match against all odds. Kenny was out for 62 and the tail no doubt inspired by Jaisimha;s long and heroic vigil added their mite before India were all out for 339. Australia were left to get 203 runs for victory in about 2-1/2 hours and at final draw of stumps were 121 for two,
Jaisimha batted 390 minutes in the second innings and his gallant role in ensuring that India drew a match they appeared to be losing did not go unnoticed.
He received plaudits aplenty,the press hailed him as the ''Lion Hearted Jaisimha’’ and for some time he was the most talked about cricketer in the land. It also signaled the start of a notable career that was to last till 1971 during which he played 39 Tests and scored 2056 runs with three hundreds.