History makes future great

The appeal of India-England Tests has a lot to do with its memorable past

It is not surprising that a series against England stirs the senses. In recent times encounters against Australia have produced a little more vitriol and cricket against Pakistan tends to consume everyone, often for the wrong reasons. But in spite of the fact that the Empire is now a distant memory and the Commonwealth merely a reason to cobble together some fine athletes, India vs England has a gravity to it. India's first test at Lords was eighty years ago and the most significant one in recent times came in Chennai in December 2008 when England admirably returned after the Mumbai bomb blasts and did both India and cricket a huge favour.

Blast from the past

It is the history that does it for me. It is scattered everywhere; in the crumbling books in our house, in sepia toned photographs at cricket grounds, in magnificent literature in those anthologies and even though cricket writers inevitably looked down on India they still produced excellent prose. I sometimes wonder if they actually made up some of it but even if it was a tale it was told enchantingly. There was a generation to whom India was a land they ruled and so taking the odd liberty with the Indian way was thought ok. We'd bristle at any such suggestion now but in an era where rupees were few, and pounds unthinkable, where a visit to England got you a photograph in the local paper, even Indians seemed to accept being portrayed like that.

And it is the history that I turn to as I look forward to another series. Mine begins as a little boy reading Sports and Pastime in a neighbour's house and imagining Tiger Pataudi making 64 and 148 at Leeds in 1967. He was a charming and handsome man who learnt his cricket in England and led India with pride. His father, of course, is the only man to have played test cricket for both countries but it was Tiger whose story was more remarkable. His passing away last year was a very sad moment and increasingly we lose such bridges between our nations. I know the Anthony de Mello Trophy exists but there must be a way of making Pataudi that link between India and England. We will lose an opportunity if we do not do so.

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