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Vol. XXXI No. 23, March 16-31, 2022

C.D. Gopinath – the second oldest living Indian Cricketer

by Partab Ramchand

He is the second oldest living Indian Test cricketer after Dattajirao Gaekwad of Baroda, who is 93. Chengalpattu Doraikannu Gopinath who turned 92 on March 1 played eight Tests from 1951-52 to 1959-60 with moderate success in a fragmented career but he was the champion batsman for Madras in the fifties. With a record of 2,349 runs at an average of just over 51 with six hundreds and a highest score of 234 in the Ranji Trophy he would be an automatic selection for an all time Tamil Nadu XI as a middle order batsman.

Born in Madras Gopinath made his first class debut in 1949-50 (he got a pair in his first Ranji Trophy game against Mysore) and in a comparatively short career that ended with the 1962-63 season because of business interests he scored 4,259 runs at an average of 42 with nine hundreds. But more than the impressive figures it was his elegant batsmanship that caught the eye. A cultivated stylist Gopinath was an elegant right-hander who charmed the ball away from the fielders. He played pace and spin with equal felicity and old timers recalled with a glint in their eyes his majestic 175 made for South Zone against the New Zealanders on their 1955-56 visit.

Shrugging off that inauspicious start to his first class career Gopinath showed that he had everything – talent, technique and temperament and the selectors showed infinite wisdom in rushing him on to the international stage. Within a year of his first class debut he was playing for India in the fifth unofficial Test against the strong second Commonwealth team at Kanpur. He straightaway showed his class and skill scoring an unbeaten 66 in a losing cause. Mushtaq Ali who shared a century partnership with him during the innings recalled in his autobiography “So far I had been a junior partner to Vijay Merchant but now I had to take full responsibility not the least that of keeping Gopinath away from the bowling. But I need not have worried about the youngster. From the moment he came in he batted with all the aplomb of a veteran. There was no trace of immaturity and nervousness of a newcomer at all. In 75 minutes we rattled up a hundred runs.” Gopinath in his maiden Test appearance remained unbeaten with 66, a truly glorious performance. He seemed capable of getting the 77 runs which stood between victory and defeat.’’ India set to get 440 for victory were all out for 362.

A year later Gopinath made his Test debut against England at Bombay and performed commendably in two very different shades. In the first innings he came in at 397 for six and remained unbeaten on 50 when Vijay Hazare declared the innings at 485 for nine. In the second innings it was a very different role he had to play. England, 29 runs behind on the first innings hit back to take six wickets for 77 early on the final morning. It was at this ticklish situation that Gopinath entered. A seventh wicket fell at 88 and the crisis was severe. However not at all overawed by the quick fall of wickets Gopinath played in a calm manner. Batting with the assurance of a seasoned campaigner, he steered India out of troubled waters sharing an eighth wicket partnership of 71 runs with S.W. Sohoni. By the time Gopinath was out for the top score of 42 India had virtually saved the match. In the final Test of the same series in his hometown, Gopinath proved his worth by scoring 35 and helping Polly Umrigar in a partnership of 93 runs for the seventh wicket which went a long way in culminating in a historic triumph. It was Gopinath who took the final catch to dismiss Brian Statham off Vinoo Mankad that heralded India’s maiden Test victory.

Against this background Gopinath’s final Test record of 242 runs at an average of 22 must be termed disappointing. He could not command a regular place in the crowded middle order though he toured England in 1952 and Pakistan in 1954-55. He played his last Test against Australia at Calcutta in 1959-60 scoring a stroke filled 39 (top score) and a duck. Gopinath’s first class career started with a duck and his Test career ended with a duck but what joys he provided in between! He was one of the main architects of Madras’ maiden Ranji Trophy triumph in 1954-55 and captained the state team for several seasons.

After his playing career was over Gopinath kept in close touch with the game. First he had nine straight terms from 1968-69 to 1976-77 on the selection committee, the last five of them as chairman. In 1979 he managed the Indian team to England. As an elder statesman, Gopinath has remained graciously affable and polished in his behavior while spending much time on the tennis courts and the golf course.

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  1. Joseph Britto says:

    C D Gopinath was indeed a gentleman cricketer.Those days opportunities to play for the country were indeed few. Wosh CD Sab good health.

  2. K.Venkataraman says:

    Having been at Madras Christian College during 1947 to 1952 I remember you playing for the college team. The others I remember were Kannayram, R.M.Perumal and some others. Also, one Wilson a devot Christian, because of his belief in observing sabath refused opertunities to play on Sundays. If I remember correctly, you had some relatives at Tambaram East post office where the post master was a friend of mine. Good old remembers !

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