Hands raised for applaud when the young 20 year old Abbas Ali Baig walked back to the pavilion, and why won’t the the debutant had just scored a century, youngest for any Indian till then. He had not only helped India cross 300 runs but had also given them a hope of chasing the impossible 576 playing against England at their home turn of Old Trafford, saving the subcontinent team from a whitewash in the 4th game. With the century at Old Trafford, Baig also became the first ever batsman to score a 4th innings century in a debut test.
Though, India went on to lose the game and was completely decimated 4 to none, a star had sparkled. Baig, who began his first class career at the age of just 15, had been a regular for the Oxford University where he played a total of 15 matches. Against Free Foresters, the prodigy from India scored 221 not out and 87, breaking the record for most runs in a first-class match. It was when India was getting plummeted and their top batsman Vijay Manjrekar received injury that Baig got the chance to play.
In the next year, when the home series against Australia was well poised with both India and the travelers having one win in their kitty.
Against a top notch bowling line-up of Alan Davidson, Richie Benaud, Ray Lindwall, Baig played a crucial part in seeing his side to a draw. Scores of 50 and 58 meant that India Vs Australia encounter at the Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai ends in a stalemate.
Before Baig and Kenny’ resistance assured the draw, in a famous incident, while they were on their way at tea-break, a girl ran out of the North Stand. “I was returning to the pavilion at tea when this girl jumped the fence and kissed me”, Baig had said. This incident was even mentioned 35 years later in a Salman Rushdie’s novel, The Moor’s Last Sigh, published in 1995, with reference to a painting.
“The painting, dating from 1960, was called The Kissing of Abbas Ali Baig, and was based on an actual incident that occurred during the third Test against Australia at Bombay’s Brabourne Stadium,” recounts Salman Rushdie’s Moraes Zogoiby, in The Moor’s Last Sigh.
Following year, Baig had a sorry outing against Pakistan, where he managed a mare 34 runs in 4 innings. He was dropped from the side, but only to make a comeback 5 years later after scoring big runs in the domestic cricket tournaments. But the cricketer failed to make it big again. When India toured England in 1971, it turned out to be his last cricketing selection at the top level, a series in which he couldn’t make it to the playing XI.