The Holkars, those magnificent bunch of attacking cricketers who dominated Indian cricket in their time, lend Indore cricketing history and context.
Between 1941 and 52, the marauding Holkars won four Ranji Trophy titles and reached the final on six occasions.
Reminiscing about the Holkars, Madhya Pradesh off-spinning all-rounder of yesteryear and former National selector Sanjay Jagdale said, “The only way they knew to play was to attack.”
Men like C.K. Nayudu, an imposing cricketer, the aggressive Mushtaq Ahmed, the attractive Khandu Rangnekar and Chandu Sarwate with his all-round ability, were all part of Indore’s great Holkar team.
In fact, Sanjay Jagdale’s father M.M. Jagdale, a fine all-rounder, was a member of the Holkar’s Invincibles. “I used to go with my father to watch Holkar’s matches. I was thrilled to see that fearless brand of cricket,” he remembered.
Jagdale recalled Mushtaq Ali’s thrill-a-minute batsmanship. “What hand-eye coordination, what footwork! I would say he was India’s first Twenty20 player. The strokes Suryakumar Yadav is playing now, he used to play them then.”
Jagdale said he spoke to and formed bonds with a number of Holkar cricketers but never summoned the courage to walk up to C.K. Nayudu since he was a formidable personality.
Jagdale said, “C.K. Nayudu hit sixes with such ease even when past his prime. He was a gifted cricketer.”
The genial Jagdale travelled back to a match at Mhow against an Army team on a “very bad matting wicket”. “The manner in which Mushtaq Ali batted on that track was sensational,” he said.
During a time when several Kings made it to the Indian team more on clout than merit, Jagdale revealed Holkar’s ruler Yashwant Rao would come in an all-white attire and quietly watch the Holkars play and leave. “And he gave a free hand to C.K. Nayudu. Never interfered,” said Jagdale.
Along his cricketing journey, apart from his father, Sawate guided Jagdale.
The glory days of the all-conquering Holkars lend Indore a burnished cricketing lustre.