Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Mohinder Amarnath: Punjabi symphony for chin music

"A miracle of rare delight:" Punjabi Beethovan who sent chin-rappers on a Punjabi Bhangra to his tune

October 22, 2013 at 8:02pm
After the rap, the jazz, the calypso and the Punjabi, it is chin-beat. Also known in cricketing jargon as "chin music", the genere is to jaw what Bhangra s to feet. And India have produced not very many who can really handle the baton with finesse while playing or directing this strain, a legacy of the first half of the  20th century when the Captain of "the great and heroic sporting nation - England - Douglas Jardine unleahsed a fast-motion rapper Harold Larwood to blast the ears of the greatest connoiseurs of cricket's semi-classical music, Sir Donal Bradman.Now, Bradman was not exactly the Don of Dodgers, and his hooking had not yet been tested against the persistent and deliberate hostility of the rising and boucning menace.He deicded that while "heard melodies are sweet, those unheard are sweeter still." He was not heard for much longer after this body-line (dis)concert.In India, the practitioners of this thrilling and killing variety of rap have been few and far between. But wherever an except has emerged, it has got the nation and the world hooked to it. There have been the likes of Kapil Dev who knew that if something was thrown at their rib cage or their chin, it had to eb given wings so it could fly safely out of sight into the stands.     Our Sunny Gavaskar, the man who batted 60 overs in World Cup match to score an unbeaten 30 odd, was never afraid of the short-pitched bowlers, but neither were they shverig in their pants at the sight of the diminutive demolitioner.But there was one man, famous for his jog-trot to the crease as a bowler and his massive shuffle out of it to hit fours and sixes as a batsman, who became "a miracle of rare delight," asmuch for what he achieved in muting chin-music as for making the musicians look ridicuous when they saw they missiles eaten up  without a sip of clean water by a number 8 !

In the world of chinytham, Mohinder Amarnath's dance numbers are a quite a unique case, a collector's dream.

Viv called him the "nicest gem ever to have played cricket; Sunny Gavaskar said  Imran said he is quite simple the greatest batsman agaisnt fast bowling. And Imran would simply call him "the greatest player of fast bowling." But I doff my hat at Simpson who said that Amarnath was good to tame Lillee and Thompson even " he had a fractured arm in plaster." And this man - Amarnath - about Imran said that he should not have been kept out of the Indian team for a single day since his debut in 1969 till the time he retired in the later eighties, was made to sepnd all his time listening to his favourite singler, the Great Mukesh.

After Mukesh, chin music  had to be  Naushadic soft and soothing. But wait. Ask what the bowlers ahve to say. We will elave that for a while.

But such is the joke called "cricket selectors"  master was keptout of the Indian team for six of his prime years. And when he was brought backk, it was not primarily as a batsman but as " bits and pieces all rounder." ALmost on com- "passionate", such was the national outcry against his long and seemingly never ending exile.
Amarnath had a an expression to describe the marvellous entertainment value of the selectors.

The courageous Mohinder Amarnath's  career was almost "bounced" out as he was consistently found wanting against short-pitched stuff.  He was felled on a featehr bed of a wicket in Karachi, not by the stinging pace of Imran Khan but by the just above military medium bouncers from Sarfraz Nawaz. Reduced almost to a laughing stock, Amarnath, originally a medium pacer himself and content to bat at number 8 or even 9,  worked hard on his technique against the short-pitched missiles. In one of the greatest turn-arounds in the history of all sports,Amarnath rose from the dead to emerge as perhaps the greatest player against pace bowling that India has ever produced - above Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar -- I know I am about to be lynched for such sacrilegious arrogance against our gods, but Truth is Higher than the Highest, said Nanak. . Promoted from number 8 to number 6 and then suddenly to number 3 - virtually the opener if you remember that against that menacing pace of Holding, Garner, Croft and Roberts, India would usually be one down for practically nothing - Mohinder produced gem after a gem , masterpieces of sheer skill, staying power, stamina and above all stoic courage. The West Indians were tamed. India went to Australia under Bishan Bedi. (1977 ??) Aussies themselves were struggling to put their broken bones together in the wake of the Packer body blow. But led by the legendary Bobby Simpson, they still had one neutron in their arsenal: his name was Thommo - Jefferson Thompson. And Simpson unleashed him at the Indian batsmen in short bursts. The likes of Brijesh Patel - famous for his lethal force against the spinners and the medium pacers, were reduced to just pinch of bones when Thommo lengthened his strides. To be sure, Sunny Gavaskar hit three centuries against on that tour, but the man to be named the greatest player against fast bowling was Mohinder Amarnath. Such was the impression he left on his rivals, especially the opposing skipper Bobby Simpson that when asked by scribes if in his opinion, the expected absence the injured Amarnath fromthe India squad would strengthen India's chances of delivering acoup - coming back from 0-2 in to win a five match series - Simpson had this to say: " Amarnath not playing because of injury?? I bet anything they will keep him in playing eleven even with a fractured arm, so good is he against fast bowlers>" Amarnath led India's historic chase, scoring 86 taking his team to 445 chasing 493. This was till the India's greatest second innings score while chasing. They already held the record fo the biggest fourth innings total (406) to win a Test match ( Versus the West Indies) in which again Amarnath had featured with 85 before being run out with India requiring just 14 to win, which they did in style as Amarnath had kept a long vigil of 440 balls to ensure that India did not lose more than three wickets before sighting the destination within and bat's length. India had lost Chetan Chauhan, Gavaskar and Anshuman Gaekwad with something like 80 runs still required . If another wicket had fallen then, it could have been anything. But his stoicism saw India flash that smile a the end - 406 for 4, only the second time in history that a team had chased down 400 plus in a Test match. Thu Amarnath featured prominently in two of the three historic run chases abroad - against Australia ( lost by just 40 odd while chasing 450 plus; and 406 against West Indies at Port of Spain.)

And although Amarnath was as graceful a "ducker" as a hooker against the bouncer, he never employed the first ploy against selectors, whom he once called " a pack of jokers." Coming from a man as genial and humble as Mohinder Amarnath, this meant tha the selector's bodyline had exceeded even Jardine's.

Amarnath will always be remembered by connoisseurs as "India's greatest player of genuine fast bowling." And he will also be remembered as the one player who was most shabbily treated by this pack of jokers........
Mohinder made his first test century at Perth at the WACA (the fastest and bounciest wicket in the world) batting against Jeff Thomson at his fastest. He followed this test century with another 10 more against top class fast bowling.
Imran Khan respected Amarnath like he respected no other batsman In his book "All Round View", Imran says that Amarnath was  was quite simply the best batsman in the world. Imran said the gutsy right hander  should have played non-stop for India right from his debut in 1969 to the time he retired. ( After his debut series in 1969, he had to wait until 1975 to make it into the team).

And talking about cricket for Amarnath was alway about courage of a warrior facing a thousand guns all at once."In an era replete with fast bowling and unrestricted in use of the bouncer, he never stopped hooking - despite many incentives to do so. He received a hairline fracture of the skull from Richard Hadlee, was knocked unconscious by Imran Khan, had teeth knocked out by Malcolm Marshall and was hit in the jaw so painfully by Jeff Thomson in Perth that he could eat only ice cream for lunch...And yet, he braved it all to make mince meat of the world's fast bowlers and made them like fastish spinners."

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