Garudachar leaves a mark

Last Updated 26 February 2016, 19:55 IST

B K Garudachar had one century in his 27 first-class matches. He had taken an even 100 wickets with his assortment of spin and medium-pace bowling. And in about 11 months’ time, he would have accomplished the most significant century of his life. He was 99 before he breathed his last at his Bengaluru residence on Friday morning, the oldest living first-class cricketer in the country.

Garudachar’s contributions to Karnataka cricket far transcend the numbers that he managed to gather over his 15-year long career. If Karnataka went from South Zone’s favourite whipping boys to a dominant force, a lot of credit goes to Garudachar, an all-rounder of immense quality. Karnataka, then Mysore, played their first Ranji Trophy match, which was also the first ever Ranji fixture, in 1934, the year they also formed their association – the Mysore State Cricket Association. The match was an unmitigated disaster for Mysore who suffered an innings and 29-run defeat at the hands of Tamil Nadu (then Madras) in just a day’s play on a rain-affected pitch.

Garudachar, born in Chikmagaluru on Janaury 13, 1917, made his debut the following season in 1935-36 but it wasn’t until 1941-42 that Karnataka tasted their first Ranji victory over Hyderabad. And Garudachar was the principle architect of their 111-run win. His match haul of 11 for 128 set up their memorable win which was just the beginning of a stirring run to a maiden appearance in the final.

Garudachar repeated his heroics against Madras, his all-round show flooring their old nemeses. After scoring 57 in the first innings, he took 6 for 56 and 8 for 99 and along with another Karnataka stalwart, the late K Thimmappaiah, who made a memorable 127 which was also Mysore’s first century in the Ranji Trophy, powered the team to a 22-run win and a semifinal showdown against Bengal.

Mysore emerged 17-run winners, following another splendid all-round performance by Garudachar. He made 46 in the first innings and took 5 for 68 in the second innings as Bengal, chasing 237 for victory, were dismissed for 219, thus setting up a final date with  Mumbai under Safi Darashah.

The final was one-sided as Mysore, shot out for 68 and 157, lost by a massive innings and 281 runs. It was a disappointing end to a remarkable season but the seeds to become one of country’s cricketing power houses had been sown.

“He was definitely one of the primary persons who put Karnataka cricket on the path to progress,” noted former India captain G R Viswanath, while expressing his gratitude to the departed soul. “Karnataka cricket owes a lot to him for what it is today. He was perhaps one of the finest cricketers not to have played for India but I never saw any bitterness in him. He took great pride in playing for Karnataka and led from the front. He was known for his batting when he began but he eventually turned out to be a very good bowler as well — he could bowl off-breaks, leg-breaks, googlies and medium pace as well. He was very versatile.”

Garudachar — who also played for Bombay (while working in that city) and United Provinces (while studying in Benares University) — also dabbled in tennis. His interest in the game led to a lifetime friendship with India’s first Test captain Col CK Nayudu. Like most cricketers from the South, Garudachar was also academically inclined. An engineer by profession, he enjoyed reading classics in English, Kannada and Sanskrit and listening to Carnatic and Hindustani music.

Though advancing years had slowed him down, he still followed the game keenly. “I met him a couple of times and the most recent meeting was in 2013,” Viswanath said. “I was awestruck by his enthusiasm towards the game even at that age. I wish he had played for India; he would have been the first person to do so from Karnataka.”

(Published 26 February 2016, 19:55 IST)

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