Indian cricket is replete with sagas of player-related controversies but the ignominy faced by Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul — being sent back from an overseas tour — is only the second such instance in 82 years. Way back in 1936, the legendary Lala Amarnath was sent back from India’s tour of England by the erstwhile captain Maharaja of Vijianagaram or ‘Vizzy’ for alleged insubordination during a first-class game.
While there had been disciplinary issues on a lot of tours but in the history of Indian cricket, this is the first time that the Board has taken action and called back errant players.
Lalaji’s (as the fraternity called him affectionately) tiff with Vizzy was more to do with team politics, and the general belief was that the ruler of a princely state under British India got captaincy because of entitlement and not ability.
According to an article ‘Right Royal Indian Mess’ written by Martin Williamson in ESPN Cricinfo on July 28, 2007, Amarnath was a victim of petty politics, unlike the entitled duo of Pandya and Rahul, who paid the price for their loose talk about women.
“Amarnath had been carrying a back injury for a few games but had not been allowed to rest. At Lord’s he was asked to pad up and then forced by Vizzy to sit as a succession of other batsmen were sent in ahead of him.
“He (Amarnath) eventually got his turn minutes before the close, and clearly angry, when he returned to the changing room he made clear his anger, throwing his kit into his bag and muttering, in Punjabi, ‘I know what is transpiring’.” According to the book, Lala Amarnath: Life and Times, written by his youngest son Rajinder Amarnath, his father was a victim of canard.
“Many of the squad, including Vizzy and Major Jack Brittain-Jones, the manager, did not speak Punjabi, but versions of the story spread. Amarnath was sent for and handed a letter signed by several team-mates demanding action. Jones told him he was being sent home.” There has been another incident of an Indian player coming back midway but unlike this time, Navjot Sidhu left the 1996 tour of England on his own after a heated exchange with skipper Mohammed Azharuddin.
He left without informing anyone, paving the way for Sidhu’s roommate to make his Test debut. That roommate was Sourav Ganguly and the venue was Lord’s, where he scored a debut hundred, and the rest, as they say, is history.
While Ganguly seized the opportunity, Siddhu did come back and played two more years for India.