Remembering a legend: ML Jaisimha's legacy is still alive

HYDERABAD: On Tuesday (March 3), legendary Indian hitter Motganhalli Laxminarsu (ML) Jaisimha would have celebrated his 81st birthday. Although more than two decades have passed since his life was truncated by lung cancer (July 6, 1999), Jai's legacy, as they all affectionately called him, is still alive.

The stylist of Hyderabadi was born in 1939 literally with a silver spoon in his mouth, since his father MG Lakshminarsu was a relative of Mokshagundam Vishweshwaraya and had built the Begumpet airport, the Tungabhadra dam and had commissioned a 5000 KW thermal power plant on the shores of Hussain Sagar. .

The city's most beloved sports son grew up in the luxury lap at Lakshmi Vihar de Marredpally, a 10-room mansion (which would later become the SBI Staff Training College) with a fleet of eight cars adorning its entrance .

But it was his exploits in the cricket field that earned him a name that has lived beyond his life. Known for his style, it was the way Jai did things that caught his attention: Indian Cricket called him a 'cult stylist'. His wrist punch game found worthy successors in the former Indian captain Mohd Azharuddin & VVS Laxman . The former had even adopted Jai's upturned neck style.

' My Way: ML Jaisimha's biography 'which was written by A Joseph Antony in 2008 is among the 30 best-selling cricket of all time. The book, written by Jai's wife, Jayanthi Jaisimha, offers an incredible insight into Jai's life.

Jai made his First Class debut at the tender age of 15 & scored 90 & took three wickets for 51 runs against Andhra in the 1954-55 season. However, it took him two seasons & centuries against Madras & Mysore to earn him a place in the Indian team.

The debut of the test at Lord's didn't have much to talk about, but he made peace in the next two games. However, the Final Test against Australia in 1959-60 enshrined his name in the history books when he became the first cricketer to hit in the five days of a Test against Richie benaud The men of Calcutta.

A year later, against Pakistan in Kanpur, he hit all day for only 54 races. His tickets lasted a whopping 505 minutes for just 99 runs. Ironically, it fell when he tried a simple single to complete his century.

Jai is also remembered for his exploits in Brisbane, Australia, in the 1967-68 series. Excluded from the original team that toured Down Under, he was summoned for injuries to Chandu Edge & BS Chandrasekhar & as the Indian batting had floundered in the series.

Despite hopping several flights & arriving at 'The Gabba' on the Test's eve, he brought India tantalisingly close to its first overseas victory with knocks of 74 & 101. The visitors fell agonizingly short by just 39 runs.

Jai's last international series was the historic tour to the West Indies in 1970-71, which saw the rise of another batting genius, Sunil Gavaskar. Captain Ajit Wadekar later wrote that he found Jai's counsel invaluable. In his last innings at Port of Spain, Jai batted for an hour & scored 23 but in the process helped Gavaskar save the match.

Gavaskar became a life-long fan of Jai & also included the word 'Jai' in his son's name as a tribute to the legendary batsman.

Jai led Hyderabad for 16 seasons & turned up for 245 First Class games. The all-rounder scored 13,516 runs & took 431 wickets. But more than the runs & wickets, it was his charming persona that has lived on & on.