Mohinder Amarnath, popularly called Jimmy Amarnath is one of the most enigmatic cricketers in the history of Indian cricket. Today, September 24th, on his birthday, let us go on a nostalgic journey about the man who Sunny Gavaskar called the best batsman in the world and which Imran Khan agreed to and added that Jimmy should have been permanently in the Indian team right from his debut in December 1969 to his last match for India in October 1989.
Son of Lala Amarnath who was captain of India and had a century on debut, Jimmy had a distinguished career. His brother Surinder too played for India and had a ton on debut while another brother Rajinder too played first-class cricket.
Jimmy is a rarity among Indian batsmen that he performed far successfully abroad than in India. Nine of his 11 test centuries were abroad. Jimmy’s overall test average in 69 Tests was 42.5. However abroad this increases to 51.8, while it’s just over 30 at home. His Test tons abroad were at Australia, Pakistan (versus Imran at peak), West Indies and Sri Lanka.
Most of his test tons were in adverse circumstances and after coming back to the Indian team. He has so many comebacks that he was called “Comeback man of Indian Cricket”. His comebacks from injury were also remarkable. Richard Hadlee, Imran Khan, Malcolm Marshall and Jeff Thomson all gave him frightening injuries but yet his bravery was unaffected and he still was among the best to play fast bowling.
World Cup Success
In 1983, Clive Lloyd’s West Indies team was expected to win their 3rd ODI World Cup in a row. However, much to the surprise of the cricket world, the Indian team, nicknamed as Kapil’s Devils after their charismatic skipper not only entered the final but shocked the giants to become World Champions.
Jimmy Amarnath was the man of the match in both the semi-finals and the finals for crucial contributions with both bat and ball. Versus England, he scored 46 and got the wickets of Mike Gatting and David Gower in a miserly spell of 12 overs for 27runs. In the low scoring final, he scored 26 and took 3 for 12 in 7 overs and took the last wicket, sparking is a lifetime memory for millions of Indians.
High point of Test career
Jimmy Amarnath played crucial knocks throughout his career. However, the high point was the Imran Khan dominated 1982-83 test series where Imran took 40 wickets and helped Pakistan to a 3-0 series win. Jimmy scored 3 centuries and crucial 50’s as well. This series hastened the end of the great Gundappa Vishwanath’s career. However, Jimmy, who started the series batting at Number 5 was elevated to Number 3 midway which shows his captain’s trust and faith which he paid off in full.
Low point of career
This has to be the West Indies tour of India where inexplicably Jimmy could score just 1 run in 6 test innings. The lethal attack of Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Winston Davis and Wayne Daniel got the better of him.
His Last Test and ODI series
Fittingly for someone who had fought so courageously against the dreaded West Indian quicks, Jimmy’s last test series was against West Indies and his last ODI too was against West Indies. His last test match was the one in which Narendra Hirwani, WV Raman Ajay Sharma made their debuts and Hirwani had a world-record-breaking performance.
His last ODI series was the Nehru Cup where India bowed out in the semi-finals versus West Indies. In the same tournament, Jimmy was out obstructing the field for 28 vs Sri Lanka.
Interestingly, he has also featured as the 1st batsman to be out “handling the ball” which was versus Australia in the WSC final in 1985-96. He remains till date the 1st and only Indian to be out in such a manner. Amarnath after pushing away the Greg Matthews spinning delivery from the wickets with his hand realised his mistake and walked back to the dressing room with his hands behind his back. The umpire did not even need to signal him out.
Coaching, Selection, Analyst and Columnist
Jimmy was the coach of the Bangladesh cricket team but after the team failed to qualify for the 1996 World Cup his contract was not renewed.
Jimmy himself had once called the selectors a “Bunch of jokers”. He got a chance to be National selector itself but his contract was not renewed when it was speculated that he would become Chairman, Selection committee. Later Jimmy said that the Committee had selected 17 players and no captain and BCCI President Srinivasan vetoed the sacking of Dhoni.
Jimmy said that he had not known of the rule that the President’s approval is required and that no selector knows of such rules. According to him, the committee was looking forward to a young player like Virat as captain.
As an analyst and columnist, Jimmy is regularly seen on national visual and print media. His views are widely followed.
Happy Birthday Jimmy Bhai.
The blogger, Ritesh Misra, is an IRS Officer currently based in Mumbai. He tweets @riteshmisra. His hobbies are sports, films and music.
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