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Indian Cricket History with Arun Lal

Javed Miandad, Dennis Lillee, Sourav Ganguly and Steve Waugh. What’s common among these names? All three are - belligerent, resilient and relentless.

They can surely be bracketed as characters. While they left an indelible imprint at the highest level, some lesser cricketers replicated the same act at the first class level. India’s Former opening batsman Arun Lal belongs to the lesser group.

With a modest career stat showing only 16 test matches, Arun Lal was better remembered at the highest level as one of Sunil Gavaskar’s opening partner.

Now you search Arun Lal’s first class stat. Woops – it’s staggering. Playing for Bengal, a first class team with absolutely nothing to show for in the history of Ranji trophy, Arun’s gallant effort brought Bengal the coveted Ranji trophy in 1989-90 seasons, only the second in its history. To put it simply, Arun Lal was a towering figure in India’s domestic cricket.

Having said that, Arun opened India’s innings with Gavaskar when Imran Khan and Sarfaraz Nawaj was unleashing banana in swings in 1983, tampering the red cherry, which in fact, is today’s reverse swing. Arun privately told me how a deadly Imran Khan would overstep, given the license to do so by the biased Pakistani umpires Shakur Rana and Khizar Hayat which made unplayable. Time and again he suffered cruel fate.

His two innings of 70 and 88 at Calcutta in 1987 against Imran Khan and company was followed by being dropped in the next test match in Jaipur. The reason? He played the Kolkata test since Gavaskar withdrew himself for personal reasons. Arun’s last series was in West Indies where Ian Bishop, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh were firing on all cylinders.

Arun Lal carried the undaunted, unrelenting ‘fight till the end’ attitude in his life. When he was sailing smoothly as a commentator, an excruciating pain in the jaw kept bothering him for years. The eventual diagnosis was horrific. He had adenoid cancer. In a hospital in Kolkata Arun underwent a thirteen hours long surgery by a team of nine doctors. The entire right jaw was removed and bones taken from leg were grafted there. Arun says, “The pain was four fold greater than an Ian Bishop ball thudding on the head. There the pain would be transient. Here it was persistent and even the pain killing drugs couldn’t dissipate it.”

Arun soldiered on. Post surgery tests revealed he had conquered the menace. Initially he was far from the free flowing cricket commentator. He struggled talking. With time the man turned it around. He was always a symbol of fitness. He got back to training and the smooth speaker returned. Arun then switched into a new avatar. He became the coach of the Bengal Ranji team. Confronting Imran Khan to conquering cancer, he has crossed sword with some of the dreaded enemies. Arun, the supreme motivator transformed the Bengal Ranji team.

The struggling first class team reached the final last year and just missed the trophy. Even in his mid sixties, the man in deep love with plants and animals, is game for many unexplored sides of life.