There comes a time in all of our lives when we have to choose between things close to your heart. You can’t enjoy everything always; you have to make a choice. And that’s exactly the situation former India cricketer MJ Gopalan had to face! The choice for him was to either represent India in the Olympics or play cricket for the country, and he decided to choose Cricket.
Who is MJ Gopalan?
Born in the then province of Madras, Gopalan was a cricketer and an extremely talented centre-forward in field-hockey. He was a cricket aficionado since childhood and used to play as fast bowler.
Gopalan was well known in the local cricketing circle for his tremendous skills with the ball. In a match between Vizianagram XI and Madras in the 1930-31, Gopalan who was playing for Madras was up against the Englishmen Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe. It was a time when Sir Don Bradman was just starting out as a cricketer and so, Jack Hobbs was undoubtedly the world had ever seen till that point. Up against the greatest in the history, Gopalan showed no nerves as he dismissed Hobbs twice in the same match. This probably explains the skills he possessed.
Gopalan though played a single Test match for India which came during the 1933-44 season against England in Kolkata and finished with the figures 1/39. Besides, Gopalan also holds the distinction of being the first ever player to bowl in Ranji Trophy during the inaugural match of India’s premier domestic tournament in the year 1934. In his 78 match first class career, Gopalan scored 2,916 runs at 24.92 with a solitary hundred. He also took 194 wickets at 24.20 with 9 five-fors and 3 ten-fors.
It is said that Gopalan’s hockey talent was first spotted by the first ever sports journalist of The Hindu, Murugessa Mudaliar. Mudaliar helped Gopalan with proper hockey outfit and further encouraged him to play.Such was Gopalan’s love for both the games that he used to practice cricket in the mornings, work during day and practice hockey in the evenings.
Gopalan even travelled with an Indian hockey team on their tour of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Australia and New Zealand. In a total of 48 matches that India played during these tours, Gopalan registered his name in the score sheet in a total of 39 matches.
Cricket or Olympics?
Though, Gopalan managed playing cricket and hockey simultaneously quite well. There soon came a time when he had to choose one of them.
Gopalan was picked for Indian cricket team’s tour of England in the year 1936. Around the same time he was picked for the national hockey camp for the 1936 Berlin Olympics as well. He had to make a choice!
Despite knowing the fact that he might not get many chances to play in the tour due to the presence of much superior bowlers like Mohammad Nissar and Amar Singh,
Gopalan chose cricket.
His choice turned out to be fatal as not only did he get a chance in the starting XI during the tour, but India lost the series quite convincingly as well.
On the other hand, the Indian hockey team dominated the Berlin Olympics and returned home with their third consecutive gold in the quadrennial event.
To add to his woes, Gopalan was never picked to play for India ever again and he retired having played just one Test match.