The Parsis were the first Indian community to embrace the British game of cricket. In the years to come, they defeated the masters in their own game and produced many great cricketers. Nari Contractor, who celebrates his birthday today, is also a part of this lineage.
Nari Contractor born on 7th March 1934, played in 31 Tests for India, scoring 1611 runs in them at an average of 31.58, with one Test century and 11 half-centuries. His Test career was shortened due to a fatal blow that he received in one of the tour matches in West Indies. His first-class record contains 8611 runs in 138 matches at an average 40.
Although he was born in Gujrat, Contractor was a Bombay resident. In 1952, the 18-year old middle-order batsman, Nari Contractor, was playing trial matches to get selected into the most prestigious first-class team in India – Mumbai. He did well in the trial matches and was hopeful about the selection.
When Mumbai eventually turned Contractor away, he found an admirer who had seen him batting in those trial matches. He was the captain of the Gujrat team, Phiroz Khambatta. He offered Contractor to play for Gujrat, Contractor obliged and that became the pivotal moment in his career.
Playing in his first first-class match, Nari Contractor scored 152 in the first innings and 102 not out in the second against Baroda, thus becoming only the second man in cricket history to have twin hundreds on first-class debut.
Soon enough, Contractor made his Test debut for India against New Zealand at the Brabourne Stadium in December 1955. In his second Test, he was sent to open the innings after batting at number seven in the first Test.
Contractor showed his mental strength and rose to challenge as he scored two half-centuries while opening in the first two Tests. His bravest knock came at Lord’s in England in 1959 when opening against the likes of Fred Trueman and Brian Statham, Contractor scored 81 runs with two broken ribs.
Rising through the ranks, Contractor became India’s Test captain in 1960-61. He led India to a 2-0 series win over England in India in 1961-62. He was the captain of the Indian team in West Indies where the deadly incident occurred.
India was trailing by 2-0 in the West Indies after the first two Tests. Next was a tour match against Barbados who had a fast bowler in their ranks named ‘Charlie Griffith’, who had a suspect bowling action.
One moment in that match was enough to end the Test Career of Nari Contractor. A short ball from Griffith impacted directly on the back of the skull of Contractor. The blow was so severe that he was unconscious for the next six days.
Nari Contractor braved out the most difficult situation in his life and survived the vicious blow. His Test career came to an end with the serious injury but he soon got back on his feet and played in domestic cricket for few years.
He received the CK Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 from BCCI. Currently living and coaching in Mumbai, Nari Contractor is proud of the way he played his cricket.
*Photo credits to cricketcountry