G. S. Ramchand

Former Indian cricket captain
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The Independent Online

Gulabrai Sipahimalani Ramchand, cricketer: born Karachi, India 26 July 1927; married (one son, one daughter); died Bombay 7 September 2003.

G. S. Ramchand was a strongly built all-round cricketer, who was a regular in the Indian Test side in the Fifties, and went on to captain his country to their first ever win over Australia.

He finished his Test career with 1,180 runs at 24.58 and took 41 wickets at 46.31, and, while his Test figures are only modest, he played in 33 of India's 41 Tests between his début and his retirement, making several important contributions to a side that was still in its infancy.

Born in Karachi in 1927, Gulabrai Sipahimalani Ramchand had already made his first-class début before Partition, for Sind against Maharashtra, in 1945/46. After the formation of Pakistan, he moved south to Bombay, where he honed his cricket skills at the famous university there, developing into a hard-hitting middle-order batsman, fine close fielder and bowler of accurate inswingers delivered at a brisk medium pace.

"Ram" caught the eye by making 230 not out for Bombay, also against Maharashtra, in 1950/51, which proved to be the highest score of his career. Still, he was a surprise selection for the series with England in 1952, acquitting himself well with 644 runs and 64 wickets on the tour, but he made little impression in the Tests. India had high hopes after recording their first ever Test win a few months earlier against the same opponents, but had no answer to Fred Trueman and Alec Bedser on unfamiliar wickets.

On his début at Headingley against Len Hutton's powerful side, Ramchand recorded a pair, though at least he picked up a couple of late-order wickets in between those ducks. He was not the only one to fail, as India, famously, were four down without a run on the board in their second innings.

He played in the inaugural Test match against Pakistan (1952/53), and toured the West Indies later that winter, but failed to take his chance batting up the order at No 3. There was a gap of nearly two years before India's next Test, which was a shame as Ramchand showed his finest form against a Commonwealth side in 1953/54 scoring 410 runs at an average of 58.57.

The next year, during a dull drawn series against Pakistan, he almost broke the deadlock as he recorded his best bowling figures, six for 49 from 28 overs in the fifth Test, back in the city of his birth. In 1955/56, he scored a fine not-out hundred against New Zealand in the fourth Test of the series at Eden Gardens, Calcutta, to ensure a draw after India had conceded a first innings deficit of 204. Probably his finest innings came the following winter against Australia, as he made 109 to rescue his side from 74 for 4 and eventually claim a creditable draw on his home ground.

Again India had to wait two years for their next series, against the West Indies, and he marked it with 48 and 67 not out, back at his favourite Brabourne Stadium, in Bombay.

Later in the series, he took over the captaincy during the fourth Test, when "Vinoo" Mankod was taken ill, and the selectors had him pencilled in to lead the side in the final Test at Delhi, but he had already returned home. He missed the tour to England in 1959 and after an unsettled period in Indian cricket - four captains were tried in the previous home series - Ramchand got his chance to lead his country officially.

Although his personal contributions fell away with bat and ball, he eked out one of India's finest performances as his side beat Australia for the first time after seven defeats in nine matches, by 109 runs at Kanpur. The off-spinner Jasu Patel took 14 wickets in the match on a newly laid turf pitch and the defeated captain, Richie Benaud, gave Ramchand his Australian blazer after the game in appreciation of the home side's efforts.

Ramchand retired from Test cricket after that series, but continued to play with great success for Bombay, scoring a hundred in four consecutive Ranji Trophy finals from 1960-63. He finished with 10 centuries in the competition and an average of over 75.

His best bowling performance came in 1959-60 when he took eight wickets in an innings for just 12 runs against Saurashtra. He was employed by Air India after playing his final first-class game in 1967/68 and went on to manage India on a number of occasions, including during the 1975 World Cup.

Adam Licudi