The Indian bowler who took American cricket by storm in the 1900s
Southern California discovered cricket in the late 19th century, two centuries after the sport reached American shores, but the region lost little time in taking to the game with enthusiasm.
The cricketing season began every summer in May. Several counties—including Los Angeles, Santa Monica, San Diego, and San Francisco (in mid-California)—had their own leagues. Practice matches between league teams would kick off the season and near its end, a combined Los Angeles team would take on Santa Monica 11—comprising the best players from that region—for the Dudley Cup.
Year after year, the cricketing season unfolded without spectacular surprises, until the arrival of an Indian and his virtually unplayable spin bowling in the summer of 1907.
Maneckji Jamshedji Bhumgara, a Parsi from Surat, became a bowling sensation for his Los Angeles league team. The “East Indian,” as he was described in the local papers, was lauded for his “twirling abilities” that left the opposition batsmen flummoxed. His recurring five-wicket hauls made him a match-winner, and he was, on occasion, handy with the bat as well.
Bhumgara, who moved to Los Angeles around 1905, turned out for the Wanderers, one of the three league teams in Los Angeles, in his first season. In a crucial league match on July 8, 1907, when his team played the Marylebone Club, Bhumgara scored 16, as his team made 59—one of only three players who reached double figures. He took five wickets and Wanderers won the Test (comprising only an innings each) by six runs.
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