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The man who ran out Sir Everton Weekes

During the highly eventful centenary Test match at the MCG in 1977, David Hookes – the South Australian left hander – scored a fine 56 from 69 deliveries.

At one stage on the third day, he smashed five boundaries from one Tony Greig over.

“I made Tony Greig famous,” Hookes once famously quipped.

A few years before that, Sir Gary Sobers made Malcolm Nash – the Glamorgan bowler – famous. And going further back, in 1948, Sir Don Bradman ensured a permanent position for Eric Hollies in Test history.

And thanks to Sir Everton Weekes, Nirode Chowdhury – a little known Indian cricketer from Bihar and Bengal – often gets small mentions in different cricket articles.

The fourth Test of the India-West Indies series in 1948-49 started with the series locked at 0-0. But the West Indies produced a fine all-round effort to thrash India here. They were given the initiative by a fine double century stand by the openers Allan Rae and Jeff Stollmeyer, both men scoring fine hundreds.

The Windies finished the first day at 1-315. But the early dismissal of Stollmeyer on the second morning brought the in-form Weekes to the wicket. He had scored hundreds in both innings in the previous Test at the Eden Gardens, taking his tally of consecutive Test hundreds to five.

Here, he saw the departure of wicketkeeper Sir Clyde Walcott immediately after coming to the wicket. The Indians saw a chance of fighting back in the match.

But the West Indies’ middle order rallied around Weekes to wrest back the initiative.

Everton Weekes

(Photo by William Vanderson/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Weekes looked set for yet another hundred before he was unfortunately denied by a dubious run-out decision. With the West Indies on 5-472 and with his individual score on 90, Weekes cut a delivery from Indian left-arm spinner Vinoo Mankad and immediately set off for a run.

Gerry Gomez, the non-striker, rightly sent him back, but it was too late. Debutant Nirode Chowdhury, fielding in the gully region, had reacted much quicker than expected. He sent a fine return to the keeper Probir Sen and Weekes was adjudged to be run out.

Weekes wasn’t happy about the decision, and he always maintained that he was back to the crease in time. But in those days there wasn’t any video referral available.

Though his run out was a combined effort of the Chowdhury-Sen duo with a bit of help from the leg umpire, Nirode Chowdhury is generally given credit for the run out. It was his alacrity that denied the great Bajan yet another consecutive century.

Nirode Ranjan Chowdhury was born in Jamshedpur – the steel city of northern India – in May 1923. Also known as ‘Putu’ Chowdhury, he made his first-class debut for Bihar in the early 1940s. And he immediately impressed with his right-arm medium pacers. The off cutter was his favoured weapon.

He moved to Bengal in 1944 and with his debut in Chennai he became the first Bihar-born player to play for India. He played only two Tests for India. He averaged three with the bat and 205 with the ball. The Stollmeyer wicket early on the second day of the Chennai Test was his only one in Test cricket – Stollmeyer was caught behind for 160.

He held the record for the worst bowling average among Indian cricketers (for those who have taken at least one Test wicket) for more than three decades before Sunil Gavaskar ‘improved’ it. The ‘Little Master’ averages 206 with the cherry; Zaheer Abbas in Faisalabad in 1978 is his only Test victim.

Nirode Chowdhury died in Durgapur, West Bengal, in December 1979.

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