Lala Amarnath, born on September 11, 1911 in Kapurthala, Punjab scored India's first Test century against England on his debut in 1933 at the Bombay Gymkhana Grounds. He was also independent India's first Test captain; he led the team on a tour of Australia in 1947-1948.
Amarnath's sons - Surinder, Mohinder and Rajinder - all played first-class cricket, with the first two also representing India.
Amarnath died in New Delhi on August 5, 2000.
Amarnath is known as the doyen of Indian cricket and this is a well-deserved tag. Here are some interesting trivia of his personal and professional career.
1. His full name is Nanik Amarnath Bharadwaj.
2. The major teams he has played for apart from India include Gujarat, Hindus, Maharaja of Patiala's XI, Railways, Southern Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
3. Lala Amarnath was controversially sent back from the 1936 tour of England by the captain, the Maharajkumar of Vizianagram, for "indiscipline". Amarnath, however, alleged it was due to politics. This also cost him 12-year gap between his third and fourth Test.
4. His international record is nothing spectacular - 878 runs at 24.38 and 45 wickets at 32.91 from 24 Test matches. But, his influence on Indian cricket, far transcends these numbers, as he was the first to oppose the domination of Indian cricket by local princes and their English backers. He also wasn't afraid to express his views.
5. In his 186 first-class matches, Lala Amarnath scored 10426 runs, including 31 centuries and 39 half-centuries with a highest score of 262, at an average of 41.37. He took 463 wickets with his medium-pace bowling at an average of 22.98 and strike rate of 63.6.
6. As a captain, Lala Amarnath was lauded for his aggressiveness, tactical acumen and being a remarkable reader of the pitch.
7. Under his leadership, India won its first-ever Test against Pakistan in Delhi in 1952, and won the series 2-1.
8. Lala Amarnath is the only bowler to dismiss Donald Bradman hit wicket.
9. When the Partition of India took place in August 1947, Amarnath and his family had to flee from Lahore to escape a Muslim mob. He lived in Patiala till 1957, when he moved to India's capital, Delhi.
10. After his retirement, Lala Amarnath became chairman of selectors; managed the Indian team; and also a commentator.
11. In 2011, the BCCI decided to institute an award in Lala Amarnath’s name for the best all-rounder in the Ranji Trophy and the best all-rounder in limited overs domestic competition to commemorate the great man’s centenary.
QUOTES BY LALA AMARNATH:
In an interview in August 1994, Lala Amarnath came up with these gems:
"When you ask me to name the proudest moment of my career, I'd say it was when, in my very first Test innings, I was top-scorer with 38. I was a youngster then, you see, and I just felt so happy that I was playing for India and had made the highest score."
"The most disappointing event was being sent back home before the Test series began on the 1936 tour. You see, that was my prime year, and I know I'd have been a great success, both in batting and in bowling. I must also say that, during my Test career, we had the best team in 1936, but the worst captain."
"If I ever fought an election in Pakistan, I'd win! I'm really proud of the great regard and respect the people there have for me."
"The best captain I came across was D.R. Jardine. Test cricket is a tough battleground, and I must tell you I appreciated his Bodyline strategy."
QUOTES ON LALA AMARNATH:
Jack Fingleton, reporting India's 1947 series to Australia for The Hindu, made this observation when the Don and Lala inspected a rain affected wicket. "Then ensued a long discussion in the middle in which Amarnath did most of the talking while Bradman listened with a hand to chin."
"One cannot praise Amarnath's batting too highly. Innings after innings, he is saving his side, and no player in the world is better now than this brilliant batsman. How long can the strain be borne ? His physique is grand, and each day, he trains with his team for half an hour's physical jerks before breakfast. No captain has done as much to bring a team to the top as this man." - On the 228 not out against Victoria in 1947-48, Vic Richardson, wrote in The Hindu.
"Skipper kept the team together and all parochial and regional considerations at bay. Indian cricket has never had a captain like this." - Former India Fast bowler CK Rangachari who toured Australia with Amarnath as captain in 1947-48.
“When Pakistan captain Abdul Hafeez Kardar asked him what would he do if he won the toss, Lalaji spoke the truth — I would field — knowing fully well that the Pakistan captain would do the opposite because of his distrustful nature."
“Kardar opted to bat and Lalaji ran through the top half. Similarly, he spoke of using a light roller when a Pakistan player asked him. Expectedly, Pakistan used a heavy roller, the pitch crumbled and India won in style.” - Mohinder Amarnath on his father's shrewd tactics against Pakistan at Bombay in 1952-53.
“We learnt cricketing mannerisms from him, the importance of punctuality, respect for the game. He was very strict and would spare none but was quick to laud too. We would never look into his eyes. Head bowed, we just followed his advice blindly. And never came to regret." - Lala Amarnath's eldest son, Surinder, pays tribute to his father.