Swami Vivekananda achieved a lot in his short life. He not only set the foundation for the creation of Indian Institute of Science in his meeting with Jamsetji Tata, but also inspired John Rockefeller to start the first business charity in the US!
However, there is a chapter of his life, that many do not know. That he could bowl as well. And had represented one of the biggest cricket club in India in his time against a British club and given them a bloody nose. His club, The Town Club, is also the one where Mohammad Shami, the current Indian fast bowler has fine-tuned his game at in Kolkata.
Bengal’s Club Culture
Calcutta Cricket Club that was founded by Britishers back in 1792. “The Town Club” was founded by Saradaranjan Ray, who was a mathematician back in 1884. Saradaranjan Ray was Upendrakishore Ray’s elder brother, who was film maestro Satyajit Ray’s grandfather! These were the two main clubs. By 1920, 50 such clubs – just simple groups with basic infrastructure in local maidans, were functioning.
Calcutta Cricket Club (CCC), Calcutta Rangers, Dalhousie AC belonged to the British, while Town Club, Aryan Club, Kumartuli Institute, Sporting Union and Bengal Gymkhana were started by Bengalis. The legendary Mohun Bagan (established in 1889) and East Bengal (1920) were also started around the same time.
Early Test players from Bengal came from these clubs.
“On a serious note, the urge to prove that we are as good as the British in sports was very strong. Mohun Bagan’s 1911 IFA Shield victory by beating an English side in the final was a big impetus, but not the first one. In the 1890s, Sovabazar Club had defeated an English football team. There was a surge in physical activities like bodybuilding, gymnastics and wrestling. Cricket saw a tendency to bowl fast. Early heroes of Bengal cricket were those who did that,”Raju Mukherjee (source)
Naren, later Swami Vivekananda, shines at Eden Gardens
It was in this atmosphere, that Hema Chandra Ghosh, a freedom fighter, was impressed by Narendranath, a young lad with good physique and ability in sports. He suggested to him to play cricket. Narendranath played from Town Club against Calcutta Cricket Club (CCC) in a cricket match at the Eden Gardens.
Naren was a bowler and wanted to take wickets. Ghosh counseled Naren to focus on the line and results would follow. At the end of the match, Naren had toppled seven wickets for mere 20 runs (source)!
Interestingly, India’s current star fast bowler Mohammad Shami also played for Town Club after he moved to Kolkatta from Uttar Pradesh.
The tradition, it seems, continues. From Swami Vivekananda to Mohammad Shami.