Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXIX No. 16, December 1-15, 2019

Madras Men in India’s first English cricket tour – 2

by Karthik A. Bhatt

Four years senior to Seshachari, Jayaram was born in April 1872 in Bangalore. He took a keen interest in sports at an early age, learning both cricket and tennis. Though nothing is known about his family, he presumably hailed from a wealthy background, for in his piece ‘Memories of Mysore Cricket’ in the Mysore Supplement of The Hindu he mentions that he was also an avid rider, making good use of the Gulf Arab ponies kept by his father. Despite his early success in tennis (he played the sport well enough to win several matches for his college), he did not pursue the sport as his real interest lay in cricket. He was a regular visitor to the Bangalore Gymkhana to witness cricket matches played every Thursday (being a military holiday) and soon the style of play of several European cricketers began to grow on him.

He soon began to establish a reputation as an excellent batsman playing for his alma mater, the Central College in Bangalore as well as the Gymkhana. He played several match winning knocks against a variety of Indian and European teams, with his first century coming against the Yorkshire Regiment in 1891. He captained his college to four titles between 1889 and 1895 in the provincial inter collegiate trophy instituted by Justice Brandt and Sir Philips Hutchins. His exploits earned him several admirers across the Presidency, most notably his junior in the Central College, C. Rajagopalachari.

On graduating from the Central College, Jayaram joined the Mysore Geological Department in 1895 as one of seven apprentices under Dr. W.F. Smeeth, considered to be the Department’s Chief Architect. In 1903, Dr. Smeeth sent Jayaram to England to study petrography at the Royal College of Science. Word of Jayaram’s cricketing exploits had already spread, for in 1902 he was one of the two Indians who were part of the Mysore State team that played the visiting Oxford Authentics Cricket Club. Remarkably, he had also turned out for the Madras Presidency against the same team two days later. The legendary Dr. W.G. Grace wasted no time in inviting Jayaram to play for his club, the London County. Jayaram did not disappoint, promptly scoring a century on his first innings in English soil. It was however to be the only high point in his stint, for his form faltered as the season progressed, with the alien weather conditions presumably playing an important part. Glimpses of his talent were even then fully visible, as a chronicler recorded that he once played a cut which ‘ought to have been put in a glass case’. He had one more stint with the club the following year.

Back in India, Jayaram seems to have rediscovered his touch instantly, for in his first match he scored 127 against the Essex Regiment, playing for the Bangalore Gymkhana and following it up with 133 against Madras. His exploits were not restricted to his appearances for the Bangalore Gymkhana, for he also regularly turned out for the Madras United Club, whose skipper B. Subramaniam called him ‘easily the most versatile player that the Presidency had produced’. Describing his batting as one of tremendous power, Subramaniam recalls that Jayaram’s biggest hit was at the Chepauk ground, where he hit the ball to the middle of the Old Engineering College ground next door (where today the Tennis courts of the MCC stand, a good 150 yards away from the pitch).

By the time the selectors met to finalise the squad to tour England in 1911, Jayaram was past his prime, having played little cricket in the preceding few years. He was however selected on account of his experience of the English playing conditions, with the Bombay Gazette expressing its hope that he was ‘still a reliable bat and should make useful contributions to the scores of his side’. This hope remained largely unfulfilled, as Jayaram finished 6th in the list of leading run scorers for the side, with a highest score of 81.

Pushing 40 years of age, Jayaram retired from cricket soon after his return from England. He however had a distinguished stint on the official front, being appointed the Director of the Mysore State Geological Department in 1916. He retired in 1927 and spent the last few years of his life at his residence in Bangalore, the quaint Mashie Lodge on Lalbagh Road (which seems to have been in existence till the 1970s). He passed away on December 4, 1936 at the Bowring Institute.

Acknowledgements:

Cricket Country by Prashant Kidambi, Oxford University Press, 2019.

Cricket, A Weekly Record of the Game, March 1898

(B. Jayaram) and June 1906 (K. Seshachari).

The Spirit of Chepauk, The MCC Story by S. Muthiah, Eastwest Books, 1998.

(Concluded)

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