It’s Gabba, Brisbane in the year 2016.
Mohinder ‘Jimmy’ Amarnath was the son of his maverick dad, Lala Amarnath, who hailed from Lahore, then known as the cricket and hockey capital of undivided India.
It is said that the young, handsome and talented Lala was so popular in Lahore that he could probably have won an election there.
The senior Amarnath was also a martinet – a strict disciplinarian who never compromised with his principles. He prevented his sons from playing any sports other than cricket. For him, attack was the best method of defence, teaching his kids to hook a bouncer rather than leave it alone.
Mohinder inherited his father’s traits – he would resist wearing a helmet for way too long, in spite of being hit on his head multiple times while attempting hooking from speedsters, from Jeff Thomson to Malcolm Marshall.
As a coach of the nascent Bangladesh team, he would make the team go through rigorous fitness drills, just as his father did to him and his brothers.
Jimmy made his debut as a teenager in 1969, but was in and out of the side over the years to come. A formidable player of fast bowling, he made his comeback by scoring a century and a 90 on the fast, bouncy track of Perth in 1977, facing the fiery Thomson at his fastest.
He was back in the Bombay Test of 1979 against Kim Hughes’ touring Aussies, wearing a sola topee (hat). No sooner he was at the crease, than he was out trying to hook and fell on the wicket – declared out hit wicket, losing his place in the team yet again.
His penchant for getting out in an unusual manner resurfaced in early 1986, during a World Series game against Australia, as he got out handling the ball. An apparently embarrassed Jimmy later admitted his act of stopping the ball rolling on towards the stumps was a pure reflex action.
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After his collapse on the wicket in 1979, many thought they saw the last of Jimmy, but after three years in wilderness, he came back with a bang.
A new, renovated, refurbished Jimmy with an unusual, angled-feet-side-on stance scored the highest in the Ranji Trophy final in 1982, leading Delhi to victory. But it wasn’t enough for him to get aboard on the tour to England that summer.
A few months, later Amarnath was back in the Indian team touring Pakistan. He proved his mettle by standing up to Imran Khan, whose reverse swing was causing havoc, but Jimmy stood like a wall as India’s batsmen collapsed like pack of cards, scoring three centuries and a fifty. He also stood firm against the famed Caribbean battery of fast bowlers in the tour that followed.
A couple of months later, his man of the match performances in both the semi-final and the final of 1983 World Cup enabled India, 40-1 outsiders, to snatch an improbable win against the fancied Windies and take cricket’s coveted cup.
Clive Lloyd and Imran proclaimed Amarnath as the best player against fast bowling, a huge compliment from two great players and skippers.
Jimmy played a big role in India’s win in the limited overs World Championship, held in Australia in early 1985. In 1988, he stood like a rock to script India’s victory against arch-rivals Pakistan in the Asia Cup at Dhaka, at a time when India losing to its western neighbour was a rule rather than the exception.
Then he made the mistake of calling the mercurial and dictatorial BCCI selectors “a bunch of jokers”, seeing him promptly and unceremoniously dropped.
At 38, the curtains came down on Jimmy’s career when he was fit and performing, with at least couple of years of cricket left in him.
Less than a year later, there were rumours of Amarnath being offered millions by the Apartheid-led regime of South Africa to lead a rebel tour against the Proteas. It didn’t work out. When later queried about it, the straight-talking Jimmy used his typical smirk to neither confirm nor deny that incident.