'On the ground, Jai would never swipe or slog or do anything ugly with a cricket bat.'
A Joseph Antony salutes the memory of M L Jaisimha, one of the most stylish batsmen to play cricket for India.
With M L Jaisimha, the style was the man.
The trademark upturned collar and rakish cravat, the swagger with a sweater thrown over the left shoulder in the manner of his idol Keith Miller all went to make the Jaisimha persona.
It personified the cricket of the times.
It was a game, not battle; a game played with the plumes in place.
It was also a game, not a caper.
On the ground, Jai would never swipe or slog or do anything ugly with a cricket bat.
That was sacrilege.
As a batsman, he was very straight and very orthodox.
His attitude to the game matched Miller's.
Both did not play the game for personal glorification.
But while he was at it, it was an engagement to be elegantly essayed.
His whites just had to be perfectly tailored just right for him.
The 'tights' he wore had the acid-tongued A F S Talyarkhan figuratively taking the flannels off Jai.
It made little difference to Jai who felt properly tailored tights enabled him to stoop to pick up and throw the ball with ease.
Given such exactitude, Jai's life-long tailor, Mazhar of Marcell, had his work cut out for him.
The task was made vastly easier by the fact that Jai's waistline remained constant for well over 40 years !
Style was something Jai demanded of himself.
But he never expected to be served the appurtenances for his vanity.
He thought little of having to live in shabby digs while on tours, travelling second class and eating what was available.
Once, for a Rohington Baria trophy match for Osmania University against Mysore at Madras, the 15-man squad was crammed into one room with one toilet.
Bed was the floor.
Jai would never let that spoil his good cheer.
In a Madras hotel, Jai yelled, "Hey Johners" on spotting Brian Johnston.
Seeing no signs of recognition from the BBC Test Match Special commentator, Jai promptly introduced himself.
"I'm M L Jaisimha. I've played 39 Tests and made my debut at Lord's."
When he'd sobered down, Jai felt sheepish at having thrust himself on Johnston.
Going to breakfast the next morning, who should he bump into but Johnston himself.
Before he could gather his wits, the much admired broadcaster clenched Jai's fist, saying, "You are M L Jaisimha. You played 39 Tests and made your debut at Lord's."
The World War II grenadier then wheeled around and fled!
Excerpted from My Way, The Biography of M L Jaisimha, by A Joseph Antony, with the author's kind permission, available on Amazon (Rs 199).