Obituary: M. L. Jaisimha

NOT ONLY was M. L. Jaisimha one of India's old-style cricketers, good-looking and charming, but he was also one of the most stylish batsmen with an indolent grace that was both flamboyant and dashing .

He played for India through the Sixties, when cricket was fun, with little or no thought for monetary compensation. In his spotless white cricketing gear, he looked the picture of elegance. Off the field his film-star good looks and frail, dignified bearing were accentuated by the distinctive cigarette almost always dangling from his lower lip.

A firm driver of the ball, Jaisimha played 39 test matches during his 12-year cricketing career from 1959 to 1971, scoring 2,056 runs, including three centuries and 12 half-centuries. He opened the innings for India, occupied a slot in the middle order and even tried his hand at off breaks, albeit with limited success, taking just nine wickets for 829 runs with two for 54 runs against England at Kanpur in northern India in 1963 - 64 being his best effort.

Jaisimha's biggest score was his knock of 129 against England in the 1963-64 home series, while his other two centuries were made against England (127 in 1961-62) and Australia (101 in 1966-68) when he flew in as a substitute. Within hours of landing at Brisbane he was padded up and stylishly hammering the ball to all corners of the field.

Motanganahalli Laximinarsu Jaisimha was born into a middle-class family in Secunderabad in southern India 1939, the twin city to Hyderabad, a deliciously decadent state then ruled by the Nawab, one of the world's richest men. He was educated locally and displayed an aptitude for sport in high school, especially cricket and tennis. He made his cricketing debut playing for Hyderabad in the Ranji Trophy league matches in 1954- 55, scoring 90 runs and taking three wickets for 51 runs. He played Ranji Trophy - the equivalent of English county cricket - for 23 seasons without a break and the Duleep Trophy for 12 years.

Jaisimha captained Hyderabad for 14 successive seasons till 1977, when he retired from first-class cricket having scored 12,700 runs in 237 matches and 374 innings. He also took over 400 wickets at an average of 30.75 runs per victim.

Jaisimha played his first test against England at Lord's at the age of 20 in 1959. It was a lacklustre debut - he made seven runs in the first innings and eight in the next. But he made a dramatic comeback in the Indian team against Australia later that year in the fifth and final test at Calcutta, creating a record of sorts by batting on all five days. Sent in at number eight, Jaisimha came into the crease in the closing minutes of the first day's play and scored two runs. He was 20 not out when the Indian innings folded the following day. On the third day, with India forced to a follow-on, Jaisimha scored zero not out, followed by 59 not out on the fourth day. He was bowled out on the fifth and final day for 74 runs.

Jaisimha was a superb player of spin with nimble footwork and unorthodox style which was a delight to watch. He was also a great strategist - in the opinion of several cricket writers the best captain "never to have led India". After retiring from first-class cricket in 1977, he was appointed the national selector for the Indian team a year later and was responsible for picking Kapil Dev - who blossomed into one of the world's best all- rounders - for the tour of Pakistan in the late Seventies. Under Dev's captaincy India won the World Cup in 1983.

A loyal friend, Jaisimha went out of his way to help sportsmen. He had a droll sense of humour and could regale people for hours with hilarious, irreverent anecdotes.

Kuldip Singh

Motanganahalli Laximinarsu Jaisimha, cricketer: born Secunderabad, India 3 March 1939; married (two sons); died Hyderabad, India 7 July 1999.

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