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A Memorable Ranji Trophy Match at Thalassery

- October 13, 2022

Dr.Ajith Kumar/ Kochi – 13 0ct

Going down memory lane one of the most thrilling Ranji trophy matches one witnessed at our maidan was undoubtedly the Ranji match between Kerala and the erstwhile Madras, now Tamilnadu, that commenced on the Xmas day of 1964.

Madras came without its captain the redoubtable Satwinder Singh and the stand in captain was none other than V.V.Kumar. The team had brilliant stars in Ran Ramesh, Belliappa, S.V.S.Mani, A.G.Milkha Singh besides the youngsters Prabhakar Rao and S. Venkatraghavan who was just 19 years old.

Kerala was led by local hero Babu Acharath and had in its ranks fine players like Balan Pandit, Ravi Achan, S.P.Mallik, Kelappan Thampuran and fast bowlers Rajagopal and T.K.Madhav. Madras started clear favourites. One amusing thing I would like to quote was the presence of A.G. Milkha Singh attracting a lot of attention because those days we in Thalassery were not familiar with patka wearing Sardarjis. 

Coming to the match, Kerala won the toss and Babu Acharath decided to bat. Now comes the utter disappointment. Before the lunch break on the first day Kerala was bundled out for 69 much to the sorrow of the highly knowledgeable Thalassery crowd.

The young pacer Rajaram scalped five wickets. One thing I remember clearly is Rajaram got the wicket of Balan Pandit and out came the captain and local hero Babu Acharath to a real hero’s welcome from the crowd. Still remember everybody standing and applauding as Babu Master made his way to the crease. But as an anti climax Rajaram clean bowled Babu master the very first ball he played. There was a deathly silence as Babu Master made his way back to the pavilion crestfallen.

Madras began their innings in real style. Belliappa was in fluent touch and Madras overhauled the Kerala innings without losing a single wicket. I still remember the first wicket. Ramesh went for a big hit and the ball went right into the air and landed in the safe hands of Babu Master who took a really fine catch. A misunderstanding between Belliappa and Milkha Singh who had walked out at one down saw Belliappa being run out for 70. I remember we boys commenting Belliappa made more runs than the entire Kerala team put together. At close of play Madras had made 225 and lost six wickets.  Surprisingly they declared at 285 for 6 as if they were keen on finishing the match on that day itself.

When Kelappan was clean bowled by Rajaram in the very first over of the second innings one thought it was going to be a repetition of the first innings. But after lunch things started changing. TVS Mani was joined by S.P.Mallick and the people of Thalassery were treated to one of the finest of feasts in batsmanship. The two added 161 runs for the second wicket. Mallick was just unstoppable. He banged every bowler without any mercy. Just as we were settling down applauding Mani reaching his half century there was a most unfortunate run out and Mani was out. I still remember Mani played the ball to the left of Milkha Singh at backward point and called Mallik for a single. Mallik responded very fast and through a direct hit on the bowler’s end Mani was run out. Many in the crowd felt he had reached, but I think the direct hit went against Mani. Mallick went on to score 130, the only century of the match. All others chipped in useful scores, but I remember Babu master again failed with the bat. On the third morning Kerala all out 323. Madras needed 108 for victory.

Of the very first ball of the Madras second innings, Ran Ramesh was brilliantly caught by Rajagopal of T.K.Madhav. Belliappa was injured and Rajaram opened the innings. He and Milkha took Madras to 35-1 at lunch. Immediately after lunch Madras lost Rajaram. Excitement started building up. For the first time in the match Madras was on the back foot. But the veteran SVS Mani stood his ground. Both he and   Milkha batted ever so slowly but steadily and though both were dismissed in quick succession, they had led the side to safety. Just before the tea break on the third day Madras won the match by six wickets.