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(ARCHIVE) VOL. XXII No. 13, October 16-31, 2012
That first Ranji triumph
BALU ALAGANAN, a friend of this journal from its first days, passed away recently. We pay tribute to him with this summary by P.N. SUNDARESAN of that unforgettable 1954-55 season when Alaganan led Madras (now Tamil Nadu) to...

R.B. 'Balu' Alaganan.

Madras won the title for the first time defeating Holkar in the final. Though they had reached the final twice before, in 1935-36 and 1940-41, Madras lost to Bombay and Maharashtra respectively. It is also a sad fact that the triumph has not been repeated in the following 29 years. The captain of the triumphant team was R.B. Alaganan, a sound batsman and a fine team man, who continues to take a keen interest in the game in the various roles of selector, administrator and commentator.

"Many views have been expressed on that victory," recalled Alaganan, "one such being that the victory was a fluke. Whatever it may be, there is no gainsaying the fact that there were in this particular season certain contributory factors which, to my mind, did help considerably in achieving our ultimate victory by merit alone. A predominant desire to win prevailed, which indirectly erased the inferiority complex of some of our younger players. I shall always remember young Murugesh walking up to join me for the last wicket in our match against Holkar at Indore in the second innings, when our position was none too rosy, the scoreboard reading 219 for nine. Instead of being perturbed, he instructed me calmly not to throw my wicket away as he was quite confident of holding one end up. His were not empty words as subsequent events proved1. I was extremely lucky indeed to have as my colleagues a band of fine sportsmen whose aim was only to do well as a team. In this respect much credit is due to our two coaches, Ram Singh and K.S. Kannan. They spared no efforts in moulding us into a well trained and well disciplined unit."

The outstanding batsman of the Madras team as well as of the season was Ram Singh's eldest son A.G. Kripal Singh, who sported a beard in his early years. He had an aggregate of 636 runs and a sequence of scores which reminded us of Rusi Modi at his peak. The captain himself, with 181 runs to his credit, M. Suryanarayanan, a grandson of the late M. Baliah, who led Madras in their first appearance in the final in 1936, C.D. Gopinath, an elegant stroke player, and M. Balakrishnan, a delightful striker of the ball, provided him fine support. Like Kripal Singh, the young left-arm spinner M.K. Murugesh was the leading bowler of the team as well as of the championship. He had a tally of 23 wickets at an average of 19.52, Kripal Singh, with his off-spinners, provided him admirable support to take 13 wickets.

Superior as they were in all departments of the game, Madras were forced to a draw by Travancore-Cochin in their opening match at Ernakulam. A splendid knock by Balan Pandit of 81 runs helped T-C to a total of 247 runs. With Kripal Singh touching grand form and with Alaganan offering him solid support, Madras set right a poor start to their reply to make 414 runs for the loss of eight wickets, when the innings was declared. Kripal Singh compiled 208 runs, which still stands a record for the State, and with his captain, who scored 106, added 276 runs for the fifth wicket. T-C were 141 for six in their second innings. The match being drawn, Madras were declared winners on their lead in the first innings.

Madras next beat Hyderabad on similar lines. Consistent batting by the short, stocky and ebullient D.L. Chakravarthi (61), Kripal Singh (67), M. Suryanarayan (54) and the bowling of the spinners A.K. Sarangapani and Murugesh saw Madras through. For Hyderabad, Gul Mahomed and Ibrahim Khan, who took seven wickets in the match, bowled well. Earlier, Hyderabad had beaten Andhra and Mysore, by an innings and on first innings lead.

In their only home match of the season, Madras then defeated Bengal by 157 runs. Fresh from his experience of a tour of Pakistan, Gopinath excelled in scoring a scintil-lating 121 while Kripal Singh missed the hundred narrowly in both innings, 98 and 97. Though Madras (347 runs) dismissed Bengal for 174 runs thanks to the spirited bowling of J. Ramakrishnan, right-arm medium-paced, and Alva – they took five for 66 and four for 59 – Alaganan did not enforce the follow-on. Bengal then hit back to skittle out Madras for 139 runs in the second innings, thanks to an excellent effort by Chowdury (six of 35). Only a masterly knock by Kripal Singh saved them from a rout. And it was Kripal Singh, now with the ball, in association with Murugesh who then enabled dis-missal of Bengal for 155 runs to help Madras to a fine victory. Murugesh took five for 53 and Kripal Singh four for 18.

Holkar2 moved to the final beating Madhya Pradesh by an innings and 180 runs. The final was played at Indore. Mushtaq Ali surprised everybody by putting Madras in to bat after winning the toss. "Our opening batsmen, Chakravarthy and S. Balakrishnan, gave us a flying start which was later consolidated by another brilliant century by Gopinath. Kripal Singh batted well scoring 75, but the most enterprising batting came from Sarangapani and his last wicket stand of 65 runs with Murugesh was really worth watching. In our first innings total of 478, I had the dubious distinction of being the only member to contribute nothing to the score. Holkar, in reply, scored 417. Our slow bowlers Murugesh, Sarangapani and Kripal backed up by excellent fielding did a grand job. Going in to bat a second time we scored 311 leaving Holkar to get 373 runs for an outright victory. I must confess the day's game was really exciting with our opponents making a grand effort to get the requisite runs. They just failed by 46 runs, and Madras won the Ranji Trophy for the first time since its inception," Alaganan recalled.

Kripal Singh got seven for 213 for the match, Murugesh got eight for 211, while Sarwate, with six for 194 was Holkar's best bowler. Kripal Singh made 75 and 91, Gopinath 133, Sarangapani 74 not out, while N.R. Nevsarkar (85), Mushtaq Ali (55 and 51) Jadhav (77), and Sarwate (56) were the leading scorers on either side.

(Excerpted from Ranji Trophy: Golden Years 1934-35 to 1983-84 by P.N. Sundaresan for the Board of Control for Cricket in India, 1984).

1    At that point Madras were 280 ahead. Alaganan and Murugesh took the score up to
     311, leaving Holkar with a stiff target.
2    Holkar's team included Mushtaq Ali, B.B. Nimbalkar and C.T. Sarwate who played in
      the English Leagues.

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In this Issue

Why so much secrecy?
Need supervised renovation, NOT demolition
"Let's bury 'road in-the-sky' and save the Cooum River"
The creation of a Chennai landmark
Following the trail of Vere Levinge
A merchant remembers...
Opportunity beckons in Rock Fort City
Madras chunam and other finds
That first Ranji triumph
Steps to bring back the House Sparrows

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your diary


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