Rameshchandra Gangaram ‘Bapu’ Nadkarni, the former India left hand bat and left arm orthodox spinner, is dead at age 86.
Nadkarni played 41 Tests for India between 1955 and 1968, scoring 1,414 runs with a century, and taking 88 wickets including a career-best 6/43. His greatest strength was, however, his accuracy while bowling, which helped him retire with a career economy rate of 1.67 in Test matches.
It is also this aspect of his career that will be remembered the most — one which produced what remains among the most remarkable events in the history of Test match cricket.
On January 12, 1964, Nadkarni bowled four spells to batsmen from England that continue to be spoken of as the gold standard of bowling miserliness.
Nadkarni’s stats on that day were 32-27-5-0, broken into four spells of 3-3-0-0, 7-5-2-0, 19-18-1-0, and 3-1-2-0. He sent down 131 consecutive dot balls — or 21 overs and five balls without conceding a single run.
It must be remembered, however, that this feat was achieved at a time when Test cricket went through a phase of unexciting safety-first style of play — and that the game paid the price for it with a sharp decline in popularity.
This is the story of what happened on the third day of the fourth Test (January 10-15, 1964, including a rest day) between India and England during England’s 1963-64 tour of India at the Nehru (Corporation) Stadium in Madras.
Earlier, India, batting first, had declared at 457/7 in the first innings, with opener-wicketkeeper Budhi Kunderan scoring a career-best 192, and Vijay Manjrekar getting 108.
Captain MAK Pataudi (who unfortunately could not get off the mark himself) gave England 90 minutes to bat on the second day, during which time India sent back two English batsmen, and the visitors ended the day at 63/2.
When England returned on day 3 (January 12, 1964), several of its players were not fit. Both Mickey Stewart (the father of former England batsman Alec Stewart) and wicketkeeper Jim Parks were too ill to take the field, and Fred Titmus and Barry Knight, though at the ground, were unwell too.
“Against this backdrop, and with the pitch starting to misbehave, England decided their only hope was to put up the shutters,” recalled Martin Williamson in an ESPN Cricinfo article in 2012.
Nadkarni, who came on after lunch, achieved his feat under these circumstances.
His slow, flat spinners were accurate; however, the English batsmen also helped him along by making no effort at all at scoring — “even half volleys and long hops were studiously patted to fielders”, Williamson wrote.
When Nadkarni was finally taken for a single by Ken Barrington, he was, as The Times, quoted by ESPN Cricinfo, reported, “immediately taken off as though being altogether too expensive”.
RIP, Bapu Nadkarni. You were a legend of Indian cricket in your own right.
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