Lala Amarnath

Lala Amarnath

Player Bio

Lala Amarnath, whose full name is Nanik Amarnath Bharadwaj, is a name that resonates with cricket enthusiasts, especially in India. Born on September 11, 1911, in Kapurthala, Punjab, he went on to become a cornerstone of Indian cricket. Not only was he known for his prowess on the field, but he also played a pivotal role off the field, contributing as a selector, manager, coach, and broadcaster. His legacy in the cricketing world is further cemented by the fact that his three sons pursued first-class cricket, with two of them even playing in Tests.

Lala Amarnath's influence on Indian cricket was profound. He was the first to challenge the overwhelming control of Indian cricket by local princes and their imperial supporters. This audacious stance, while it did hamper his career momentarily, showcased his character and determination to bring about change in the cricketing landscape of India.

Early Life and Entry into Cricket

Amarnath hailed from a modest background in Lahore, which was then a part of India. His journey to cricketing stardom began when he scored a commendable 109 for Southern Punjab against MCC in the 1933-34 season. This performance was described as a "brilliant display" by Wisden. But it was a few weeks later that he truly announced his arrival on the international stage.

In India's first-ever Test match at home, played at the Gymkhana ground in Bombay, the team was staring at an innings defeat against England. It was in this challenging scenario that Amarnath showcased his mettle. He played with a vigour and confidence that seemed otherworldly, scoring 83 runs in just 78 minutes. His fearless approach against the English bowlers, including confidently hooking Nichols and Clark and stepping out to hit Hedley Verity, was a sight to behold. He reached his century in 117 minutes, becoming the first Indian to score a Test century. The euphoria surrounding his innings was such that the eventual win by England was almost overshadowed. Spectators swarmed him, women offered their jewellery, and Maharajahs presented him with monetary gifts. India had found its cricketing hero.

However, his journey was not without its challenges. During the Indian tour of 1936, captained by the Maharaj Kumar of Vizianagram, also known as "Vizzy", Amarnath faced a significant setback. After waiting to bat during a long partnership in a match against Minor Counties at Lord's, he was informed that other batsmen would be promoted ahead of him. This led to a heated exchange with the captain and the tour treasurer, resulting in Amarnath being sent back home. This incident meant a hiatus of 12 years between his third and fourth Test matches.

Despite this setback, Amarnath's passion for the game remained undiminished. He continued to be a dominant force in Indian cricket, scoring a mammoth 241 for Hindus against The Rest in the 1938-39 season. His prowess was not limited to batting; during the 1946 tour of England, his bowling was particularly potent, most notably in the first post-war Test at Lord's where he played a crucial role in reducing England's first innings.

Lala Amarnath's journey from a humble background in Lahore to becoming one of the stalwarts of Indian cricket is a testament to his talent, determination, and love for the game. His contributions to Indian cricket, both on and off the field, have left an indelible mark, making him a true legend of the sport.

Rise to Prominence in Indian Cricket

Lala Amarnath Bharadwaj's ascent in the world of cricket was nothing short of meteoric. Often referred to as the father figure of Indian cricket, his contributions to the sport in India are unparalleled. His rise to prominence was marked by several key milestones that solidified his position as one of the greats of Indian cricket.

In the 1933 England tour of India, Lala Amarnath emerged as the leading run-scorer. This series was particularly significant for him as he etched his name in the annals of cricket history by scoring the first-ever Test century by an Indian batsman in Bombay. This achievement was not just a personal milestone for Amarnath but also a moment of immense pride for the entire nation.

However, his journey was not always smooth. The 1936 tour of England was marred by controversy. Amarnath was sent back from the tour by the captain, the Maharajkumar of Vizianagram, citing "indiscipline". This decision was steeped in politics and internal team dynamics. Vizzy, the Maharajkumar of Vizianagram, had secured the captaincy after significant lobbying and manipulation. Amarnath, C. K. Nayudu, and Vijay Merchant, to name a few, were among the older players who voiced their displeasure with Vizzy's performance and leadership. 

This led to a divided team, with factions supporting and criticising the captain. An incident during India's match against Minor Counties at Lord's, where Amarnath was made to wait to bat despite nursing a back injury, culminated in a heated exchange and his subsequent removal from the tour.

Key Achievements and Statistics

Lala Amarnath's cricketing statistics are a testament to his skill, dedication, and contribution to Indian cricket:

Test Matches: He played a total of 24 Test matches for India.

Runs in Test Matches: Amarnath scored 878 runs in Test cricket.

Batting Average in Tests: His batting average in Tests was 24.38.

Centuries and Half-centuries in Tests: He scored 1 century and 4 half-centuries in Test matches, with a top score of 118.

First-class Matches: Amarnath played 186 first-class matches.

Runs in First-class Matches: He amassed a total of 10,426 runs in first-class cricket.

Batting Average in First-class Matches: His batting average in first-class cricket was an impressive 41.37, with 31 centuries and 39 half-centuries.

Bowling: Amarnath was a right-arm medium bowler. He bowled 4,241 balls in Test matches, taking 45 wickets with an average of 32.91. His best bowling figures in a Test innings were 5/96. In first-class cricket, he bowled 29,474 balls, claiming 463 wickets at an average of 22.98. He took 5 wickets in an innings 19 times and achieved 10 wickets in a match on 3 occasions, with his best bowling figures being 7/27.

Apart from these statistics, Amarnath's leadership qualities were evident when he captained independent India's first cricket team. Under his leadership, India secured its first Test series win against Pakistan in 1952. His contributions to Indian cricket were not limited to his playing days. He later became the chairman of the Senior Selection Committee of the BCCI and also contributed as a commentator and expert.

In recognition of his immense contributions to Indian cricket, the Government of India honoured him with the civilian award of the Padma Bhushan in 1991. Furthermore, he received the inaugural C. K. Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994, the highest honour bestowed by BCCI on a former player.

Captaincy and Leadership

Lala Amarnath's leadership qualities were not just evident in his on-field performances but also in the way he captained the Indian cricket team. As the first captain of independent India, he had the challenging task of leading a team in a newly sovereign nation, where cricket was not just a sport but a symbol of national pride.

Amarnath's captaincy was marked by his ability to inspire and motivate his team members. He believed in leading from the front, and his personal performances often set the tone for the rest of the team. His fearless approach to the game, combined with his tactical acumen, made him a formidable leader.

One of the most significant achievements under his leadership was India's first Test series win against Pakistan in 1952. This victory was not just about cricket; it was a statement of India's emerging prowess in the international arena. The series win was a testament to Amarnath's leadership skills, his ability to galvanise a team, and his strategic thinking.

However, his leadership journey was not without challenges. The politics of cricket, internal team dynamics, and the pressures of leading a national team often tested his resolve. But Amarnath, with his indomitable spirit, always rose to the occasion. He was not just a leader on the field but also played a pivotal role off the field. His tenure as the chairman of the Senior Selection Committee of the BCCI showcased his vision for Indian cricket's future. His insights as a commentator and expert further highlighted his deep understanding of the game.

Lala Amarnath's journey in the world of cricket is a tale of passion, dedication, and unwavering commitment to the sport. From his early days in Lahore to his rise as one of the stalwarts of Indian cricket, his story is an inspiration for aspiring cricketers and fans alike. His achievements on the field, combined with his contributions off the field, make him a true legend of the sport.

His legacy in Indian cricket is further cemented by the fact that his sons and grandson continued the cricketing tradition. As a player, captain, selector, commentator, and coach, Lala Amarnath's influence on Indian cricket is profound. His journey reminds us of the power of determination, the importance of resilience, and the spirit of sportsmanship.

Who was the first Indian to score a Test century?
Lala Amarnath was the first Indian to score a Test century, achieving this feat in 1933.
When did Lala Amarnath captain the Indian cricket team?
Lala Amarnath captained the Indian cricket team post-independence, most notably leading India to its first Test series win against Pakistan in 1952.
How many Test matches did Lala Amarnath play for India?
Lala Amarnath played a total of 24 Test matches for India.
What was Lala Amarnath's role in Indian cricket post his playing days?
Post his playing days, Lala Amarnath served as the chairman of the Senior Selection Committee of the BCCI and also contributed as a commentator and expert.
Did Lala Amarnath's family continue his cricketing legacy?
Yes, Lala Amarnath's sons, Surinder and Mohinder Amarnath, played Test cricket for India, and his grandson Digvijay is also a first-class player.