Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXVII No. 14, November 1-15, 2017
Meeting up with many Anglo-Indians during a recent screening of a Harry MacLure documentary on the community, The Anglo-Indians of Madras, my mind went back to the number of Anglo-Indian sportsmen I had seen in action and interacted with during my 35 years as a sports journalist. The first sport that is associated with the community is hockey and many Anglo-Indians have represented the country at the Olympics and other international meets.
As a sports reporter, I have spent many happy hours at the Egmore stadium watching young and not so young Anglo-Indians excelling at the sport. They were speedy, skilful and resourceful and above all team men. The one whose memory I shall cherish most is that of Jimmy Carr. The enterprising play-maker from Southern Railway was always a joy to watch. His skill with the stick was awesome and his exuberance was infectious as he goaded his team mates to play above their potential. Off the field, I had many an enjoyable moment with Jimmy whether it was discussing hoc-key, the weather or taking a trip down memory lane where Wes-tern music was concerned.
Carr represented Madras and Railways in the Ranga-swamy Cup but somehow the fondest memories I have are of the matches he played for Sou-thern Railway at the Egmore Stadium during the TNHA senior division league. As inside right, he formed a formidable combination with Carlton Cleur who played outside right and the delectable dribbling and the accurate passing between the two frequently brought the spectators to their feet while bewildering the opponents.
Another Anglo-Indian hoc-key player I remember quite well and whose flamboyant goal-keep-ing I enjoyed was Charlie Huggins. He represented ICF, Tamil Nadu and Railways through the 1960s and ’70s and there was no game in which he did not leave his mark. Two hallmarks were his courage and anticipation. He was not overawed by the reputation of the forwards who challenged him and would rush to the top of the D to thwart them. He was also remarkably agile in parrying away the ball from the net at the last moment. I well remember one of the headlines we carried in the newspaper I worked for – ‘Huggins plays Horatio for ICF’ – a headline that summed up his courageous and devil-may-care approach.
Of course as far as my hockey memories are concerned, pride of place will have to go to my interactions with Leslie Clau-dius. His is the first name that comes to mind whenever the Anglo-Indians’ association with hockey is recalled. Years after his death he continues to enjoy an exalted status. Claudius has been hailed as a legend and a giant of Indian hockey and for once this is not hyperbole. After all, he represented the country in four Olympics from 1948 to 1960 and won three gold medals and one silver medal. I have had the privilege of meeting him more than once in Calcutta and Madras and these constitute among the most cherished memories of a long journalistic career.
Very few Anglo-Indians have made it big in cricket though Roger Binny is well-known as one of the heroes of the unexpected World Cup triumph in 1983. His son Stuart has also played for the country in recent times. But one Anglo-Indian cricketer with whom I enjoyed a very good personal relationship was Alfred Burrows. He was a typical member of the community – fun-loving, helpful and having a kind word for everyone. He could very well talk about his frustrations about being ignored in Madras cricket, but with his sunny disposition and ever present smile he preferred to concentrate on the more positive and happier aspects of life. Fortunately, Burrows worked for Southern Railway and so was able to represent Railways in the Ranji Trophy. A fairly burly opening or top order batsman he believed in belting the ball hard, high and handsomely as far as he could. This buccaneering approach endeared him to the spectators who longed to see Burrows’ big hits and he did not disappoint them. With all this there was a certain flair that marked his batting.
The Madras-born Burrows enjoyed a fairly successful first class career from the late 1970s to the mid-’80s. In 20 matches he scored 1269 runs with four hundreds and five half centuries and a highly respectable average of 37. His career had a rather peculiar ending. He scored 193, his highest score in first class cricket for Railways against Vidarbha in 1985-86, and that proved to be the final game of his career. Burrows was good enough to represent Central Zone against the all-conquering West Indian tourists led by Clive Lloyd in 1983-84. Against an attack that included Michael Holding, Wayne Daniel and Winston Davis, Burrows got 31 (second top score) in his only innings. A few years ago he migrated to Perth where he died last year at the age of 63.
One healthy feature I have noticed about Anglo-Indian sportsmen and women is that they never lose their love for the game and would like to be associated with it in some capacity or the other after their playing careers were over and this in the days when there was no money in sport. It was genuine love for the game that prompted this move. Numerous hockey players I know went into umpiring or took up administration. Even Burrows, for that matter, took up umpiring once he stopped playing. This is a very healthy, positive and far-sighted attitude to possess and underlines the fact that for Anglo-Indians their love for sports can never die.