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Old warrior takes fresh guard

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June 13, 2007 16:31 IST

The Board of Control for Cricket in India has a tendency to fall back on old hands in an hour of crisis. Hence the appointment of 72-year-old Chandrakant Gulabrao Borde as interim manager-cum-coach of Team India for the twin tour of Ireland and England after the Graham Ford fiasco.

"Borde is an experienced player and administrator and capable of handling Team India as manager-cum-coach on the tour of Ireland and England," the BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah told on Tuesday

The former India captain is quite a seasoned hand at cricket administration, too. Besides being the manager of the Indian team on a couple of tours, he had what he calls two "eventful" spells as the chairman of national selectors in the early 1980s and the late 1990s respectively. Of course, like most chairmen of selectors the world over, Borde also could not steer himself clear off controversies.

"There're pressures from outside. But we didn't bother. Fortunately, I had a very good team of selectors. Our aim was to select the best possible side. We didn't take into account the political pressures. We just concentrated on picking the right team. Luckily, all the players selected by us were exceptionally good cricketers," he told this correspondent during an interview a few years ago.

One of ten children born (on July 21, 1934) into a family not very well off, Borde made it big in cricket thanks to assistance from the then Maharaja of Baroda and the encouragement from Prof. D B Deodhar, the doyen of Maharashtra cricket.

He commanded tremendous following during his playing days as a dashing, courageous right-hand batsman with a rich repertoire of handsome shots, deceptive leg-break and googly bowler and outstanding slip fielder.

"I liked to drive the ball. My square-cut was modelled on the great Vijay Hazare's as I had an opportunity to practise with him. In fact, I had played for Baroda also. I could see him in the nets and also bowled at him," he revealed.

He loved to go after fast bowlers and hit them for full-blooded hooks and lusty pulls. Not surprisingly, many young ladies were on record saying they had a crush on him for his brilliant cricket and majestic personality.

As a key all-rounder of the Indian team, Borde played 55 Tests (including 50 in a row), scored 3,061 runs at 35.59 (inclusive of 5 centuries), claimed 52 wickets at 46.48 apiece and held 37 catches.

He came agonisingly close to scoring two centuries in the fifth Test against a formidable West Indies pace attack in Delhi in 1958-59. He scored 109 in the first innings and was hit-wicket for 96 when he tried to hook a bouncer from Roy Gilchrist. It was his maiden Test series.

"Wes Hall told me he broke two batsmen's fingers but couldn't break my head in that match," he recalled. "I was quite happy playing those two innings. I suppose I could have completed my second innings hundred as well. I did hook the ball and it went to the boundary but, unfortunately, I dislodged the bails in the process. I was very much disappointed. But then it's a part of the game. One has to accept this."

Borde's 1,060 runs and 72 wickets were some of the redeeming features of an otherwise dismal 1959 tour of England undertaken by the Indian team.

In the fourth Test at Old Trafford, he scored 75 in the first innings and captured three wickets. In the final Test against Australia at Kolkata in the following series, he scored a splendid 50 and took 3 for 23 in 13.1 overs.

In 1960-61, he headed the batting averages against Pakistan with 330 runs at 82.50 and scored his highest score -- 177 not out in nine hours -- in the fourth Test in Chennai.

"It was a very satisfying innings because it was played in a very difficult situation. Polly Umrigar and I stayed on the wicket and eventually we succeeded in getting India out of trouble," he remembered.

From 1960 to 1962, he played for Rawtenstall in Lancashire League. Though he tended to bowl less and less now, his batting continued to be very crucial for whichever team he represented. Borde had a peculiar bowling action. He would begin bowling with a curious "bird flap" of both arms and at the end of which he spiralled his leg-breaks towards the batsman  

Asked why he did not bowl much in the heavyweight division of cricket, Borde explained: "When the MCC came to India in 1961-62, Salim Durrani and I were the recognised bowlers. I bowled nonstop for 40-odd overs in the Chennai Test and tore my shoulder towards the end. I didn't take enough precaution. Though I did take some medical aid, it wasn't sufficient. Later on my shoulder started giving trouble and that's why I couldn't bowl much later in my career. And then I started concentrating on my batting."

Just for record, he scored 314 runs at 44.45 in eight innings against the Englishmen and claimed 16 wickets and enhanced his growing reputation as a world-class all-rounder.

He was required to bowl larger number of overs than even the regular spinners Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, Durrani and Bapu Nadkarni against Australia in 1964-65. But he recorded his finest ever bowling figures in the Chennai Test: 67.4-30-88-5.

The same season Borde made more runs than any other Indian batsman -- 371 at 61.83 -- against the touring Kiwis. Against the mighty West Indies at home in 1967, he easily headed the batting averages with 346 runs at 57.66.

On India's tour to the Antipodes -- his last overseas jaunt -- he was the most consistent batsman on show, scoring 408 runs in the Tests at 34.38, although his top score was just 69 in the first Test at Adelaide when the circumstances forced him to lead his country for the only time. Australia won by 146 runs.

He made his last appearance against Australia at home in 1969-70. When he called it a day, a bunch of accomplished young batsmen with oodles of talents had appeared on the horizon of Indian cricket. Two of them were Gundappa Viswanath and Sunil Gavaskar and Borde felt India's batting, which depended so heavily on him, was in "safer hands".

Haresh Pandya