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Test Match Special: Dr Abhay Bajpai

Updated: Aug 16

Dr Abhay Bajpai, Arrhythmia Specialist

Epsom General Hospital


Picture: Holkar Cricket Stadium, Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India / Credit: Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association


The Hub opens a new Test Match Special series of cricket stories with an interview with cricket fan Dr Abhay Bajpai, Consultant Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist and Head of Arrhythmia Services at Epsom NHS Trust, with special guest Personal Travel Consultant, Paul Movel.


One sunny Friday evening in a lively marquee at The Jolly Coopers pub in Epsom, The Hub finally managed to put a microphone in front of his friend Abhay and ask him about his favourite past time. Abhay reported good humour after a week "full of cricket" during the summer Tour season.


A Princely State


Picture: Rajwada Palace, Indore, Madyha Pradesh, India: "A relic of the long and judicious rule of the Holkars in Indore." / Credit: www.indiaheritagewalsk.org


Dr Abhay Bajpai's family hails from near Nepal but migrated south to Indore in central India several decades before Abhay was born. The largest city in Madhya Pradesh state, Indore is known for its 7-story Rajwada Palace and the Lal Baag Palace, dating from the 19th-century Holkar dynasty.


The Holkar rulers are honoured by a cluster of tombs and cenotaphs at Chhatri Baag. The night market Sarafa Bazar sells street food. East is the Indo-Gothic Gandhi Hall and clock tower. The Jain temple Kanch Mandir has a mirrored mosaic interior. During The Raj (the period of British rule from 1858 to 1947) Indore was a princely state under the protectorate of British India.


Indore is close to Bhopal, the site of the tragic 1984 Bhopal disaster, a gas leak at the Union Carbide pesticide plant resulting in one of the world's worst industrial disasters.


Schooled in the Oval Game


Picture: Indore's Mushtaq Ali the first Indian batsman to score an overseas Test hundred / Credit: © Getty Images


Post-independence significant British influence remained in Indore, for example in education and the popularity of cricket. Abhay proudly relates Indore has produced some historic cricketers, notably, two prominent batsmen from his father's era. "Captain" Mushtaq Ali, was "a dazzling, flamboyant cricketer who essayed India's first Test century".


Picture: C. K. Nayudu, C. S. Nayudu and C. L. Nayudu in Indore c. 1934. All three brothers played competitive cricket / Credit: Public Domain


CK Nayadu, was the first captain of the Indian cricket Test team. In Empire of Cricket - India, a BBC documentary, at the 7.00 minute mark Colonel CK Nayadu is revealed as "the first star of Indian cricket and was employed by cricket patron, the Maharajah of Holkar". BBC journalist Mihir Bose comments Nayadu's prowess with the bat against Europeans showed the Indian to be the equal of the Englishman, at least with bat in hand, if not at the time in political representation.


Bose is the host of an episode of Insight Guides: The Travel Podcast on cricket one of his great loves, Playing Cricket in India, the story of "how one sport changed India's position in world politics".


YouTube video: Empire of Cricket - India Part 1 of 6


Both cricketers played for what "in British times" was called Central Province (now Madyha Pradesh) as well as the Indian national team. These prominent players made cricket "ultra popular" in Indore, making the city a fixture venue when international sides toured India.


Abhay's own cricketing heroes were inspired by attending Indore's Daly College and the access that gave him to some of the leading international cricketers of the 80s. British Indian Army officer, Sir Henry Daly, agent to the Governor General of India, founded Residency College in 1870 to provide a public school education to the Princes of the states of the Central Region.


After Daly's death in 1895, the Chiefs of the Central India States proposed a commemoration to his services to the region. In 1906, Daly College (or DC as Indoreans call it - the link has a full version of the BBC Empire of Cricket film on loop) opened with a magnificent white marble main building in the Indo-Sara scenic style, constructed by the Public Works Department in the centre of a 118-acre campus on land presented by the Holkar State.


Picture: Daly College, Indore a secondary school named after soldier, colonial administrator and school founder Sir Henry Daly / Credit: Aishhwariya Subramanian


This is the sporty school "with lovely grounds" Abhay describes as being "surrounded by cricket, football and hockey grounds". Abhay admits to feeling privileged by Daly College's focus on sports. "Half our day was spent on sports of one kind, although of course we studied. As well!" In a school day from 7am to 5pm, 2pm onwards was dedicated to sports.


Abhay adds: "My privilege was every year the school would book an entire quarter of the Holkar Cricket Stadium for the students for the big matches." Abhay's cricketing education began with scoring cards in hand learning basic foundations like 'an over', 'the fielders', etc. Old-style pocket transistor radios delivered the commentary to the students colouring their section of the stadium in school blue. This was how Abhay's passion for cricket developed.


YouTube video: Sunil Gavaskar 166* vs Australia 1st Test 1985/86 Adelaide


All the important Indian and international players of the day were recorded on those score cards. From England, Ian Botham "Fantastic, I was a big fan!". From India, batsman Sunil Gavaskar. Despite being just over 5 feet 4 inches, Gavaskar can boast 8 Phenomenal Records in Test cricket.


Abhay adds Gavaskar was the first batsman to overcome Geoffrey Boycott's record of 22 Test centuries, finishing on a career high of 35, later topped by Sachin Tendulkar in 2005.

Gavaskar's feats were achieved in an era of fearsome deliveries, from West Indian fast bowlers in particular, as this Wisden account of Gavaskar recovering from a blow from Malcom Marshall attests.


In Abhay's Year 7, in the early 80s, the school invited Vivian Richards and Sunil Gavaskar as guests of honour at the annual school prize giving ceremony. Both accepted! Abhay had the additional privilege of seeing Richards and Gavaskar at his school at their peak.


Movel on Cricket


Picture: Cricket fan and Travel Counsellor Paul Movel


Listening attentively to the conversation was our friend and special guest, independent travel consultant Paul Movel. While we received a round of drinks, Paul described being intrigued listening to Abhay's cricketing heritage.


Paul's cricketing heritage was quite different. He was the first person in his family to pick up a cricket bat. Paul's family lived in Kuwait when he was a young child where he became a strong swimmer, as: "There was nothing else to do!"


When Paul moved back to the UK in the 80s and started playing school cricket he found his shoulder strength from swimming useful for bowling. "The ball came out quite quick." He soon developed a liking for the game.


YouTube video: The King of Cool - Viv Richards 189* vs England 1984


"There is something about the game people respond passionately towards. There is a positivity to it, a history people either love or hate. It also connects you with people around the world."


Having just fallen in love with the game he started to watch touring sides coming to England, with players like Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Malcolm Marshall from the West Indies. "I remember thinking, now I am even more in love with the game." Paul turned to Abhay, "For you to have actually met him (Viv Richards)... I am very jealous!"


If you would like a personal travel consultant with a passion for international travel, and a love of cricket, to book your next journey of a lifetime you can contact Paul Movel Travel Counsellors.


Australia v India 2020-21 Test Series


YouTube video: India claim stunning series win, end Australia's Gabba streak | Vodafone Test Series 2020-21


The conversation turned to the India touring team's victory in the 2020-21 Test series against Australia. To spice the chat, The Hub chucked in the question: "Was the series the most compelling since the 2005 Ashes contest, described by some as the greatest of all time?"


"A hard question!" agreed Abhay and Paul. Abhay said he watched the 2005 Ashes series and still has the video recordings, "an amazing series!". The India v Australia 2020-21 Test series was "also absolutely amazing".


But Abhay said the two are not comparable as they were different events. Paul concurred: "What I like about cricket is each match writes its own story. You can't compare the two. There can be moments where 5 days of a Test can hinge on just an hour of incredible performances."


"So, what was the story of the Australia v India Test series?" asked The Hub.


Picture: "A Proud Husband and Father" - Virat Kohli, changed his Twitter bio after his wife Anushka Sharma gave birth to their first child, a baby girl, in January 2021

/ Credit: @imVkohli


"India had a lot of injuries," suggested Paul. Abhay said, "India was the touring side so had the lesser advantage. Touring sides are typically not used to the pace (of the wickets), they are not used to the conditions. The first Test India lost and then won the second and third Tests."


Abhay explained this series is so talked about because many of the big players were missing. Captain Virat Kohli, one of the world's finest batsmen, stayed home with his expectant wife. Household names were replaced by younger players from the IPL, the Indian Premier League.


For Abhay, this series showed the impact of the IPL on Test cricket especially on the later Tests, as some players were making their debuts in the Test format.


Picture: Test debutant Washington Sundar adding vital runs for India in the final batting partnership with Rishabh Pant in the decisive fourth Test against Australia / Credit: AP Photo


Paul voiced the commonly held belief of the negative effect of the IPL on the Test game. Echoing this 2016 article by a cricket panel, including Michael "Hurricane" Holding, fearing the short game would kill Test cricket within 10 years.


"When (Test) players first started playing IPL everyone thought this would be the death knell of Test cricket. But here the IPL's freedom to score runs, or lack of discipline, has brought a new dimension to Test cricket. Before, we were used to seeing 200, 250 runs in a day. But now we had 400 runs in a day."


Paul and Abhay agree the Australians were surprised by the Indian debutants' batting. Abhay says: "You also have to think of the psychology. Expectations were lowered for the Indian team of newbies, so they were under less pressure. Giving India greater freedom."


Listen to the Podcast


Daly College alumni Dr Abhay Bajpai and daughter Sonal, a biochemistry PhD student, on a pre-Covid appearance on The Hub at Epsom Hospital Radio studios / Credit: The Hub


You can listen to The Hub speaking to Dr Abhay Bajpai and Paul Movel about their mutual love of cricket by clicking on the link below. The discussion on the surprisingly positive impact of the IPL on Test cricket flows on past the text account.



A Cricket Playlist


Interestingly, three cricket lovers have been interviewed on The Hub: John Tilston, Paul Movel and Dr Abhay Bajpai. Although delightful interviewees, none have offered much cricket related music. So it falls to a non-cricket fan, cricket is a cultural blind spot to The Hub's generation in Ireland, to fill the void. With a little help from Wisden.


You can listen to The Hub's Test Match Special playlist by clicking on the link below. If The Hub has a cricketing hero then Australian spin bowler Shane Warne in his pomp would probably qualify. For his chutzpah, hence the cover image. Howat?!



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