Campaign trail Older still

By Raju Mukherji
  • Published 14.03.05

We Indians are remarkably indifferent to our history. We have little interest in the feats of our forefathers. Even so, it is indeed strange that an institution in Calcutta does not even realize that this year marks its 225th birth anniversary.

By 1765, the East India Company was firmly established in Bengal and Britons of various kinds ? military men, priests, business people, administrators ? descended on Calcutta. Wherever the Britons went they carried with them their bat and ball. India was no exception. Thus a cricket club came into being in British Calcutta.

The exact date of birth of the Calcutta Cricket Club has for a long time not been fixed. Some have mentioned 1825, while others have pointed to 1792. Both the groups have produced documents to substantiate their claims.

Finally, 1792 came to be regarded as the most authentic because the Wisden Cricketers? Almanack, acknowledged to be the authority on all cricketing matters, accepted the version on the basis of the score-card of a match played between Calcutta, on the one hand, and Dum Dum and Barrackpore, on the other, as reported by the Madras Courier. Of all the evidence available, this was certainly the most convincing.

Campaign trail

Now, more convincing evidence has surfaced to show that the cricket club existed in Calcutta even earlier, in 1780. Thus the Calcutta Cricket Club has every right to consider 2005 to be its 225th birth anniversary. This evidence consists of a newspaper article from 1780. The 48th issue of Hicky?s Bengal Gazette, dated ?from Saturday December 16th to Saturday December 23rd, 1780? reported that the ?Gentlemen of the Calcutta Cricket Club are getting themselves into Wind, and preparing to take the Field, for a very active Campaign?? (sic).

Despite the use of cricketing terms, the front-page report, headlined ?News Extraordinary from the Cricket Club?, was not about cricket at all but a humourous write-up on the gastronomic encounters of the members of the Calcutta Cricket Club.

But whatever the ?campaign? was about, there is no denying that a cricket club did exist in Calcutta in 1780. This is as authentic a proof as any historian can hope to find. A simple, ?open and shut? case. No taint of exaggeration or of parochial prejudice or colour bias can be called upon to cast aspersions on it.

Older still

Thus, all that we knew previously about the year of birth of the CCC needs to be revised and the conclusive new evidence accepted. To retain its credibility and its authenticity, the Wisden Cricketers? Almanack would do well to accept the recently discovered year of birth of the Calcutta Cricket Club.

With the year of birth advancing from 1792 to 1780, the Calcutta Cricket Club becomes senior to the Marylebone Cricket Club, which was established in 1787, by a clear margin of seven years. The London-based MCC, which was till a few years ago the parent body of cricket, still holds an eminent position in the world of cricket.

The acceptance of the new-found year of origin, 1780, would surely be a feather in the cap of Calcutta Cricket Club, which is today known as the Calcutta Cricket and Football Club after its mergers with the Calcutta Football Club and the Ballygunge Cricket Club. The CCFC would do well to highlight the issue and force the cricketing world to acknowledge this fact.

If the CCFC does not act right now, a very important date in cricket history will be lost yet again. And the club, the city and the country would lose a glorious heritage.