M.L. Jaisimha! Memory Re-Play From Family Pitch!by Aparajita Krishna May 17 2022, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 13 mins, 42 secs
Aparajita Krishna recollects memories of the cricket great M. L. Jaisimha through his family and friends and presents the legend here for you.
I salute my daring for having attempted this one. I cannot claim even a pass-mark knowledge of cricket-ology, but then in India even an illiterate is somewhat informed about two things: cinema, cricket. And this is Memory-Re-Play from the Family-Pitch.
My childhood and adolescent years of the 1960s, 1970s, spent in hinterland and hill-station India, had heard and read about Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, M. L. Jaisimha and their generation of cricketers. They were physically as starry and far away as the stars in the galaxy above. One has over the years heard a lot about M. L. Jaisimha’s persona: his languid cool, upturned collar, an easy charm. Even film stars indulged him. Before page 3 was born in newspapers, leave alone as a lexicon in everyday life’s walk and talk, before PR agencies and brands hijacked cricketers and promoted them, before cricketers modelled every product, before the 24x7 *365 days of cricket got telecast on TV and on your smart-phone etc, our cricket history has it that here was a handsome, debonaire, original cricketer who carried in his repute a charm and halo that made fans swoon, gush and adore him like a movie star.
Despite today’s hyperventilating cricketing times with an overkill of media coverage, multi-type-cricket and the hydra-headed communication tools, Jaisimha-Pataudi, to name just two of that generation of cricketers who reigned during the modest coverage era, continue to shadow if not overshadow the present. Doubt if today’s cricketers will have such a spell of recall, longevity.
There are websites and a lot of information, serious and statistical, available on him as a cricketer. M. L. Jaisimha (Motganhalli Laxminarsu Jaisimha) was born in 1939 in Secunderabad, Hyderabad Estate, in British India. He was the son of a real estate construction magnate. In domestic cricket he had led Hyderabad with distinction for many years. It was in 1959 that he made his test debut opposite England. He was 20 years old. He embodied a batting and bowling style that was quintessential ML J!
Stories about M L Jaisimha’s generosity towards young cricketers are many. Gavaskar wrote, “Jaisimha nursed me on my first tour with the Indian team to the West Indies in 1970. So little wonder that I should name my son ‘Rohan Jaivishwa.” Jaisimha wrote the foreword for Gavaskar’s book and Gavaskar reciprocated in contributing to Jaisimha’s biography. Gavaskar wrote while recalling his own teenage years, “It was clear as soon as we arrived in Hyderabad, that he (Jai) was everybody’s hero. The youngsters were all trying to walk and even bat like him. When he came for practice, everybody dropped everything and watched him.”
Sunil Kalia, a hotel industry professional, recalls in the present, “He was undoubtedly my most admired cricketer of that period. He was stylish, a crowd-puller and a very attractive stroke-player. I remember that during the Australian series in the 1960s he was not included in the Indian XI, but was called as a replacement during the tour of Australia. When he played the next match, he scored a century in Australia. He was a very stylish right-hand batsman with super cover-drives. When Jaisimha would get out after scoring 50 or even 100, hamara sab ka mood kharab ho jata tha. He had captivated me and I had modelled my batting style (in school cricket) after him. I also recall collecting his pictures. At that time collecting pictures was a big marketing gimmick. If I am not mistaken, it was initiated by oil companies, or you could get them at the petrol stations. He was our idol. Like Kohli is of today’s generation. When he batted he had his collars up. One can attribute this style to him. We would also try and emulate him. He was a very big trendsetter even in sports-fashion as it were.”
The two notable books on him are, My Way (biography on the man penned by A. Joseph Antony with Jayanthi Jaisimha) and I Adore Jai (a compilation of the personal memories and perceptions of sportspersons, family and friends of M.L. Jaisimha. It is brought out by M.L.Jaisimha Sports Foundation at Secunderabad). ‘M.L. Jaisimha Sports Foundation’ website keeps one posted of the work undertaken in memory of the cricketer.
Herein I am focusing on the family man Jaisimha and how he lives in the memory of those who have nurtured his legacy. By a wonderful sport of circumstances, I feel elated to have a familial-connect with the Jaisimhas. My niece, Ritika Malhotra Jaisimha, daughter of my dear paternal cousin sister, is married to Vidyuth Jaisimha, the younger son of M. L. Jaisimha and Jayanthi Jaisimha. M. L. Jaisimha and Jayanthi Jaisimha (lovingly called Junie) have two sons: older son is Vivek Jaisimha and the younger one is Vidyuth Jaisimha. Vivek is married to Mondira Jaisimha.
M.L Jaisimha’s wife Jayanthi Jaisimha answers my curiosity in a fascinating summary. She sure has a way with words.
Junie, do tell us about your insider’s view. How do you explain that charisma?
MLJ was probably playing cricket and tennis and badminton and golf while cooking in his mummy’s tummy which would have made her uncomfortable many times. He was a Mummy’s boy and very attached to his mother. His father played football and was a contractor of building works. He encouraged his son to play all sports. Jai was a born sportsman. He talked in his sleep of batting and bowling and hitting sixes. He would have reached the top in the four games mentioned above, but was influenced by former Hyderabad Ranji and Test cricketer-off-spin bowler Ghulam Ahmed. Both Abbas Ali Baig and Jaisimha were twinning in their cricket careers. Indian Cricket in the 1960s just started to settle down from the time before that as Sport was played in the country under the aegis of the maharajas in the old days. West and North and South and East started to assert themselves thereafter. MLJ’s idols were Gary Sobers and Rohan Kanhai, the Caribbean Cavaliers. Regarding the family man Jaisimha, whatever adulation he enjoyed and indulged in, wherever he was, from college cricket to Test Cricket, his umbilical cord was firmly tied to his wife and two sons. He had a charismatic, attractive personality which appealed to all those he met with. He had a wonderful voice and loved jazz and Rock and loved Satchmo and Sinatra and Elvis. The sons were lucky they enjoyed the same love of sport which kept them firmly attached to their father. Like all families we had our ups and downs and my husband had this habit of never confronting his boys directly as he loved them too much and used me as a sounding board in their hearing. Such a clever ploy. I made sure our personal fights were out of our boys’ hearing when they were growing up and behind locked doors especially when he was ‘spirited’. That is all you will be told Appy. That’s enough for now and you can spend time reading the book My Way which was also his favourite song and I Adore Jai to know him better. Have fun sorting out this khichidi. Luv Junie.
Younger son Vidyuth Jaisimha addresses my questions with trademark expertise. He is the owner/managing partner at M. L. Jaisimha Cricket 365 Academy in Secunderabad. In The Economic Times article, dated Nov 13 2017, he is quoted saying, “It was a revelation (that) Nadella rated dad higher than Tendulkar.” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella had revealed that his hero was not Sachin Tendulkar, but Hyderabad great M. L. Jaisimha. “I’m a Hyderabadi and a romantic at heart, so ML Jaisimha.”
Doubt if today’s cricketers will have such a spell of recall longevity. Vidyuth, what have you to say?
As there was hardly any coverage of sports other than in the papers, people went to the grounds to watch their favourite cricketers like Jaisimha and Pataudi play. The only other way the spectators could follow the game was through radio commentary. They continue to stay in the news even now because of their cricket greatness, style, charisma and the way they handled themselves after they stopped playing the game.
It is a great record or say our cricket’s fortune that MAK Pataudi played for Hyderabad under Jaisimha as the captain while Jaisimha played under Pataudi for India. Obviously, a great friendship on and off-field followed. Do reminisce.
There is a famous saying in India that the only reason Jaisimha did not lead India was because he allowed Pataudi to come and play for Hyderabad after Pataudi had a major misunderstanding with the cricket authorities of his state Delhi. Many of Jaisimha’s well-wishers cautioned him, but he refused to listen as Tiger was one of his closest friends. He also felt that having the Indian captain playing for Hyderabad under him would benefit the Hyderabad cricketers in a big way.
Was India’s domestic cricket then well set or coming of age?
There was no money in the game then. Every cricketer who played for the country then played for the love of the game. Compared to now, cricket was pretty disorganised. The cricket administrators ran the game and the cricketers had hardly any say in things then.
M.L. Jaisimha’s test career spanned 12 years, 1959-1971. In his very second test he set a world record for batting on all the five days (20 not out and 74) and earning to a draw for India against formidable Australia in 1960. Even in his last test innings his obdurate 23 in an 81-run stand with Sunil Gavaskar (220) was vital in India’s series win (1-0) over the West Indies. He held on taking a series of bouncers to enable the match to draw. His finest cricketing moment came in 1968 against Australia. He almost single-handedly took India to the verge of an improbable win scoring 74 and 101. He had walked into the game as a mid-tour replacement for an injured B S Chandrashekhar. These few recalls tell one of the team-spirit he embodied. Tell us more.
As Sunil Gavaskar said in his foreword of MLJs book, My Way, that when they came to Hyderabad to play matches, everything would come to a standstill when Jaisimha arrived in the ground. All the cricketers were trying to copy Jaisimha and walk like him. This is the type of respect he had and he ensured that every cricketer in his team was looked after. They all loved him and would do anything for him on the cricket field.
He was an audacious batsman who also played to the needs of the team and if required, held on at the other end. ‘Elegant Player’, ‘Beautiful timing’ are other epithets ascribed to him. One of the first Indian players of his generation to start playing lofted shots. Also known to play the reverse sweep. Do authenticate.
Yes, they say he was one of the first cricketers who would loft the pace bowlers over their head for boundaries. Not sure about the reverse sweep.
Sunil Gavaskar in his biography, Sunny Days, describes M. L. Jaisimha as ‘one of the shrewdest cricketing brains in the country.’ Abbas Ai Baig called him a born leader.
When the captain of the country plays under you in the Ranji Trophy, that’s proof of his captaincy and leadership qualities. The fact that his team would do anything for their captain on the cricket field proves that he was a complete team man.
In his time, he was also a junior tennis finalist. Right?
Yes, he had to make a choice between cricket and tennis as a career.
Vidyuth, you have a marked resemblance to your father. Was there ever a kind of pressure on you and Vivek to follow in your father’s footsteps? You both were first-class cricketers. Do inform about your present professional occupation. I guess it would be with the academy?
There was no real pressure on us at home. The only issue was everyone would try to compare us to him, which was unfair. I am a professional BCCI certified Level-2 coach and have coached two countries, Thailand and Maldives. I have been the head coach of all women’s cricket in Hyderabad since 2019.
Your Foundation, M.L. Jaisimha Sports Foundation, has on its website the tag line, ‘It’s all in the game’. Good one. A trust formed by the family and friends of M.L. Jaisimha made his dream of providing opportunities to young talented sportsmen and women. Do give your insiders input of how easy or difficult it was to set it up? Which year was it started? It was the first indoor cricket academy in India?
The Indoor cricket Academy was the first of its type when we started it in 2005. We shut it down in 2021 and made it into a charitable Trust called Jaisimha Sports Foundation. The aim of this foundation is to enable all sports men and women to get an opportunity to play whichever sport they choose. We are also looking to support talented kids, especially kids who can’t afford it. The academy was opened by Bishen Singh Bedi and Harsha Bhogle in 2015.
Are the grandchildren gravitating towards cricket?
None of the grandkids have taken a great interest in cricket. My son Jai is mad about basketball.
Elder daughter-in-law Mondira Jaisimha recalls, “I have known M. L. Jaisimha from when I was a small baby. Not as a superstar cricketer, but as my parents’ friend. Eventually, I married his son, Vivek, and he went from being Uncle Jai to Dad! Dad was a huge charmer, extremely stylish and very loving. One of my favourite anecdotes about him was soon after Vivek and I got married. The Jaisimha family are not very outwardly affectionate. But I came from a family that was. So, I missed that from my parents and complained to Dad. Thereafter every evening, after Dad got ready, he would sit down on his chair and call me over to sit on his lap! I loved that so much. He always made me feel so wanted. I miss him.”
Younger daughter-in-law Ritika Malhotra Jaisimha updates us on the legacy. “Dad passed away on 7th July 1999 and Vidyuth and I got married on the 16th of September 1999. The Jaisimha’s’ have started a Foundation called M.L. Jaisimha Sports Foundation. I am the Managing Partner along with my sister-in-law, Mondira Jaisimha, of Cura Servitium. She is the CEO and I am the COO and CFO of Cura Servitium. Together we make a great team. It is a franchise of Elder Aid, Bangalore. Elder Aid is a holistic Elder Care company that has a simple motto: enabling elders to live life fully. We provide healthcare, concierge support and wellness programs. It’s been a difficult two years due to the pandemic, and many families have been separated from one another. As the proxy child, Elder Aid will care for your parents and support them like you would. So, you can rest easy knowing that they will be there 24/7. Vivek and Mondira’s sons are Anirudh and Dhruv and both have pursued corporate life. Vidyuth and I have a daughter and a son. Vidhika is pursuing Psychology and Jai, in Grade IX, is a Basketball enthusiast. Jai is the only one who is a basketball enthusiast. None of the children are interested in pursuing cricket.”
A quote on the website of M.L.Jaisimha Sports Foundation reads, “Sports is not just what is played on the field, more often it is what goes on in the life of a sportsman and what defines him up to the moment that he steps up onto the field.” M. L. Jaisimha’s legendary reputation does not just live in the tales, but on ground as an Academy and a Foundation.