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ML Jaisimha: ML Jaisimha, the cricketer who sent back Suchitra Sen’s champagne | Cricket News

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They remember his walk; its languid cool. Blend that with the fresh creased flannel, the upturned collar, the easy charm. Even film-stars indulged him. The Hyderabad batsman, a biography says, once returned a bottle of champagne sent by diva Suchitra Sen with the words that it meant nothing unless she delivered it herself. She did eventually. ML Jaisimha truly walked through life like it was a breeze.

But Jaisimha was much more than a Page 3 star cricketer before Page 3 had been born. Business professor Aaron Levenstein once aptly said that “statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” In Jaisimha’s case – 2056 runs in 39 Tests with three centuries at an average of 30.68 and nine wickets – they hardly capture the impact and influence that the cricketer had both on and off the field.

“His audacious batting could light up a stadium but he could also play to the needs of the team and shut down one end,” Test cricketer Abbas Ali Baig told TOI. The two had played alongside since school.

Fellow Test cricketer Chandu Borde said that he was an elegant player with beautiful timing. “And he was among the first of his generation who started playing lofted shots,” he said. Jai, as friends called him, is also known to have played the reverse sweep.

Jaisimha’s Test career spanned over 12 years, from 1959 to 1971. In his very second Test, he set a world record batting on all five days (20 not out and 74) and earning a draw for India against the formidable Australia in 1960. Nobody had done it before.

Even in his last Test innings, his obdurate 23 in an 81-run stand with Sunil Gavaskar (220) was vital in India’s first series win (1-0) over the West Indies. Captain Ajit Wadekar acknowledged Jaisimha’s contribution in his autobiography, My Cricketing Years. “He held on, though shaken by a barrage of bouncers, to enable us draw the final Test,” he wrote.

Jaisimha’s finest cricketing moment came against Australia in 1968 when he almost single-handedly took India to the verge of an improbable win scoring 74 and 101. He had walked into the game as a mid-tour replacement for an injured B S Chandrashekhar.

The incredible backstory of him reaching Australia is graphically recounted in his biography My Way, penned by Hyderabad-based sports journalist A Joseph Antony with Jayanthi, the cricketer’s wife.

Jai, son of a real estate construction magnate, hopped from Madras to Singapore to Perth to Sydney to Brisbane, “merry-making” all the way. After reaching the hotel, he again had an “all-night drink and discussion with (captain) Tiger Pataudi.” He had no time to practice at the nets. After watching him bat, cricketer-writer Jack Fingleton praised his “correct upright stance, free and flawless backswing of the bat with strokes on all sides. His footwork is exemplary. So one fell to wondering why this debonair and elegant batsman shaping excellently in crisis was not in India’s original side.”

In his autobiography Sunny Days, Gavaskar described Jai as, “one of the shrewdest cricketing brains in the country.” Baig says he was a born leader. “He was a shrewd observer who could assess a match situation in no time.

He led the Hyderabad with distinction for so many years. His only fault is that Hyderabad never won the coveted Ranji Trophy under him,” he said. It’s a tribute to Jai’s reputation as a skipper s that MAK Pataudi played under him for Hyderabad while Jaisimha played under the Nawab for India.

Youngsters profited from his words of wisdom. Stories of his generosity, especially in helping out young cricketers, are legion. Wrote Gavaskar: “Jaisimha nursed me on my first tour with the Indian team to the West Indies in 1970. So little wonder then that I should name my son ‘Rohan Jaivishwa'”.

Interestingly, Jaisimha wrote the foreward of Sunny Days while Gavaskar returned the compliment in Jai’s biography. Recalling his teenage years, the Mumbai batting maestro recalled that “it was clear as soon as we arrived in Hyderabad that he (Jai) was everybody’s hero. The youngsters were all trying to walk and even bat like him. When he came for practice, everybody dropped everything and watched him.”

Jaisimha died of lung cancer at the age of 60 in 1999. Baig says: “He was quite a phenomenon. It was a privilege to play along with him.”

A short story of three posters

One time, my father hung a poster of Karl Marx in my bedroom; in response, my mother hung one of Lakshmi, the Indian goddess of plentitude and contentment…My reaction? The only poster I really wanted was one of my cricketing hero, the Hyderabadi great, ML Jaisimha, famous for his boyish good looks and graceful style, on and off the field.


– from Hit Refresh, written by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

The allrounder

On the 1985 tour of Sri Lanka as manager of the Indian team, Jai was challenged to a game of tennis by the brash wicket-keeper Sadanand Vishwanath at the Taj Samudra. Not knowing perhaps that Jai in his time was a junior national finalist, Vishwanath even placed a bet. Not only did the youngster lose the wager and the game but left the venue out of breath as well. (Jai was 46 then, Sadanand Vishwanath 23)


– from My Way, ML Jaisimha’s biography, written by A Joseph Antony with Jayanthi Jaisimha

Updated: November 7, 2017 — 8:31 am

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