Rummaging through old records, one finds a scorecard of a Kookaburra Cup final of 1994-95, between Ulverstone and Glenorchy at Ulverstone Oval. Scott Blair won the toss for the home team and batted first, going in to open the innings with one Emmanuel Benjamin. Blair was out with 20 on the board. The next two stands took the score to 163. This was followed by scores of 0, 0, 0, 6, 0, 4, and 3. The last man out was Emmanuel Benjamin, for 143, in a total of 245 in 49 overs. Glenorchy were dismissed for 203 in 44.5 over, giving the home side victory by 42 runs.
As a process of natural progression, the question arises in the enquiring mind: “who is or was Emmanuel Benjamin?” As always, the archives provide the answers for these types of questions.
Emmanuel Benjamin was born on February 2, 1955 at Jullundur, Punjab. The boy was more popularly known as Benji, and showed an early interest in cricket, starting from his schooldays. We find his name as part of the Indian Schoolboys squad on tour to British Isles in 1973, aged about 18. He was a bowler with a “deceptive slow left-hand delivery” (The Canberra Times) who could bat a bit. We find him playing in 7 games on that Indian Schoolboys tour alongside future Indian Test cricketer Bharat Reddy and some others who were to make their names in First-Class cricket in India.
Benjamin made his First-Class debut in the drawn quarter-final of the Moin-ud-Dowlah Gold Cup of 1973-74 for Vazir Sultan Tobacco Colts (VSTC) XI against Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) XI. It was a drawn game with HCA XI being declared the winners on a 1st innings lead. Benjamin batted at No. 10 and scored 12 and took 2 for 43.
His next First-Class match was Benjamin’s Ranji Trophy debut, for Punjab against Services at his home town later that season. Also making his Ranji Trophy debut for Punjab was teammate Yashpal Sharma. It was an inauspicious debut, but Benjamin made his mark for Punjab in the next game against Jammu & Kashmir, taking his 5 for 37.
In the semi-final of the Cooch Behar Trophy that season, Benjamin captured 5 for 75 and 5 for 65 for North Zone against South Zone. A young Kapil Dev took 4 for 69 in the first innings. Two future Test cricketers, Roger Binny and Shivlal Yadav, played for South Zone. North Zone lost the final against East Zone, but Benjamin scored 46 and took 3 for 71.
In a modest First-Class career spanning 1973-74 to 1981-82, Emmanuel Benjamin played 22 matches, scoring 463 runs with a highest of 46 and an average of 13.61. He held 19 catches. He also took 37 First-Class wickets. His best innings bowling figures read 6 for 51, and he averaged 29.94 with the ball with 2 five-wicket hauls.
He also represented Bedfordshire in the Minor Counties Championship of 1980, playing 10 matches in all. His performances can only be described as being modest. His best efforts with bat were 85* and 83*, in separate games against Buckinghamshire, while his best bowling effort (6 for 85) was against Suffolk in his last game.
The Canberra Times of Friday, September 18, 1981, includes a report on the prospective non-Australian faces in the Tasmania team for the upcoming Sheffield Shield. The main thrust of the report centres around Barbadian Franklyn Stephenson, always very highly thought of as being a potential match-winner. Bishan Singh Bedi finds mention as the coach for the La Trobe (Grade) cricket team for 1981-82 with the added interesting morsel that Bedi “will be available to play in an emergency for Tasmania.” Also mentioned is “another Indian, Emmanuel Benjamin, an all-rounder who bowls a deceptive slow left arm delivery.” It is mentioned that Benjamin had recently completed his residential qualification to play for Tasmania.
Well, the Sheffield Shield game between Tasmania and Queensland was played at Devonport that season. On his Sheffield Shield debut Benjamin scored only 6, but batted for 73 minutes and faced 50 deliveries, sharing a 9th-wicket stand of 40 runs with Stephenson. He later bowled 23 innings for 81 runs but he did not take any wicket.
This was Benjamin’s last First-Class match. By playing this game, Emmanuel Benjamin became only the second Indian (after Rusi Surti, 35 matches for Queensland between 1968-69 and 1972-73) to play Sheffield Shield cricket.
Benjamin stayed back in Australia and continued to play Grade cricket. He played First-Grade cricket for La Trobe Cricket Club, being awarded the “Baggy Red” No. 231 by his team. He became a naturalised Australian citizen in 1991. In later years he took up coaching responsibilities on behalf of Ulverstone Cricket Club.
In 2014 He had a brief fling with local Government when he contested (unsuccessfully) the Division of Braddon for the Tasmanian branch of the National Party in the State Elections.