Sarwate - a thorough gentleman

Mumbai Dec. 24. For cricket aficionados with a sense of history, a visit to Indore was incomplete without meeting Syed Mushtaq Ali and Chandu Sarwate. Known for his fearless stroke-making and style, Mushtaq Ali turned 89 recently. His famous ally since the Holkar days, Sarwate is no more. He died at Indore on Monday and was 83.

"I am a diabetic, but I keep myself fit and do not miss a match,'' said Sarwate helping himself to a local delicacy at breakfast at his home less than two years ago. Now his friends and admirers can only remember the man who was gentle by nature and a distinguished cricketer.

Sarwate was picked for the 1946 tour of England by right. He was regarded competent enough to be part of an Indian team that had virtually the then `who's who' of Indian cricket. That team comprised of Vijay Merchant, Vino Mankad, Lala Amarnath, Mushtaq Ali, Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Vijay Hazare, Rusi Modi and Nawab of Pataudi (Sr). He made his debut in the second Test at Old Trafford and was dismissed by Alec Bedser for zero in the first innings and for two in the second.

It was by default though that he was chosen for the historical first tour to Australia under Lala Amarnath's captaincy. He himself regarded it a stroke of luck to have played against Sir Don Bradman in five Test matches. Those missing from the team were Vijay Merchant, Mushtaq Ali and Russi Mody. He did not begin the tour disappointingly; he made 47 against South Australia and captured four wickets.

Following his encouraging scores of 32 and 58 against an Australian XI, he opened the innings with Vinoo Mankad in all the five Tests. After a not-so satisfactory showing in the first two Tests, he and Mankad put on 124 runs for the first wicket against an attack that had Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller, Bill Johnston, Ian Johnson and Bruce Dooland (legspinner) in the third Test at Melbourne. His individual contribution in the big stand was 36, while Mankad went on to make 116.

In all Sarwate played nine Tests, made 208 runs and took three wickets (Arthur Morris [hit wicket in the first Test at Brisbane], Don Tallon and West Indian Francis Cameron).

Sarwate's last Test was against Nigel Howard's England at the Brabourne Stadium in December 1951. "I was not much with him at international level. But I used to meet him during Ranji Trophy matches. He used to score lot of runs, bowled off and leg breaks and was a useful all-rounder in the domestic tournaments. He was a quiet and unassuming man. He used to mind his own business,'' said Polly Umrigar, who was Sarwate's teammate in the latter's last Test.

N. Srinivasan, president, Tamil Nadu Cricket Association, expressed his shock and a deep sense of grief on the passing away of Sarwate.

"Sarwate was unassuming, simple and was very popular on and off the field. The TNCA sends its heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family to bear the irreplaceable loss. May his soul rest in peace," Srinivasan said in Chennai.

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