It was 1911, an ALL-INDIAN cricket team for the first time left for England.
One Bowler who had already crossed 36 years shocked the white skinned Brits by taking 114 wickets at an average of 18.84 with a best haul of 8/103 against Cambridge.
That Legend Was #PalwankarBaloo.
Remembering a Kannadiga, a proud Hindu, a finest cricketer Bharat produced who is erased from public including Harijan's memory as he doesn't fit the Dalit Champions agenda.
Palwankar Baloo was born into a Chambhar caste family in Dharwad on 19th March 1876, his father was a
sepoy in British army.
Baloo and his younger brother Shivaram learnt to play cricket with the kits discarded by army officers in Pune. Baloo’s first job was at a cricket club run by Parsis at a monthly salary of 3 rupees. Later, he took job with European-only Poona Club at a
monthly salary of 4 rupees. His duty here, as in the Parsi club earlier, was sweeping and rolling the pitch, erecting the nets, and occasionally bowling to member batsmen.
The plague in Poona and attraction for big cricket at Bombay made Baloo move there.

Baloo's true potential
was discovered here..The local White's Team who never tasted defeat started loosing matches to Local Natives Team.
Even the pro-British Bombay Gazette commented that the European cricketers had found foemen worthy of their steel, possessing not only the instincts of cricketers,
but of true sportsmen also.
And in the next 2 years, Englishmen were defeated in almost all games wherever Baloo was involved..
The Mahratta sarcastically commented “the sportsmanly instincts of the Englishmen who have these two years allowed the Hindus to stand on the same
level with their rulers and sometimes to defeat [them], if nowhere else, at least on the cricket grounds.”

Baloo was the earliest sporting icon in India. He initially faced a lot of discrimination for belonging to low Chamar/Chambhar caste. He was served lunch off a separate
plate, and on a separate table. At tea intervals, Baloo was served snacks outside, in a disposable clay pot, while his colleagues drank in quality porcelain cups inside the pavilion. If he wished to wash his hands and face, an Untouchable servant was assigned to pour water from
a separate kettle in the corner of the field. However, slowly there grew reformist voices speaking against it.
After Baloo returned to India after his stupendous success in England tour in 1911, the welcome address, for Baloo was written and presented by Babasaheb Ambedkar, then
in college, in his first-ever public appearance. Baloo was an early hero of Ambedkar and other Harijans. He had fought discriminations of his times and came out smiling.
As Baloo the cricketer, is largely forgotten today, so is Baloo the politician too. In 1930s when Muslims
had increased their demand for separate electorate, Babasaheb Ambedkar, a tall leader of Dalits, demanded the same for Harijans. The separate electorate for Harijans would have created another fissure within the Indian society by taking Harijans outside the fold of Hinduism.
Baloo could foresee these British-Muslim designs. Therefore, Baloo, during the Round Table Conference, cabled the British Prime Minister his opposition to separate electorates.
Meanwhile, Gandhi began his ‘fast unto capacity’ against the unyielding approach of Ambedkar.
Eventually, Babasaheb had to yield, and Baloo (along with another Harijan leader M C Rajah) was asked to negotiate on his behalf. As a result, a pact was reached whereby Untouchables were allotted more assembly seats in exchange for doing away with their demand for a separate
Soon, Baloo would contest for a seat in the Bombay Municipality on the ticket of the Hindu Mahasabha. During his election canvassing, Baloo said he would “ever strive for solidarity among the Hindus by advocating the necessity of Joint Electorates for the Hindus
irrespective of caste and creed… I have always worked and have been working with a Nationalist point of view and I am working for the uplift of my Harijan brothers in a way which would not break them away from the great Hindu society.”

In mid-1930s, when Ambedkar announced
his decision to covert to another religion, Palwankar Baloo termed it as suicidal. He said, “…conditions had changed considerably and there was a real feeling of goodwill on the part of the majority of caste Hindus at the lot of the Harijans”. He appealed to the Harijans to
wait patiently and give a chance to the reformers.
Later, Baloo even fought election against Babasaheb Ambedkar on a Bombay reserved SC seat. It resulted in Baloo’s defeat with Baloo getting 11,225 votes as against Ambedkar’s 13,245. The Bombay Chronicle reasoned that Baloo’s
defeat was due to a ‘spoiler’, the labour leader Joglekar who, as an independent polled 10,000 votes. If the Congress had prevailed upon Joglekar to resign, suggested the paper, then Dr Ambedkar would have been positively defeated.
All the 4 Palwankar brothers had immensely
advanced the cause of social justice—not in theory, but very substantially—by their deeds and examples which sometimes even went to a boycott of the sports in case of perceived discrimination.
The heroics of other Palwankar brothers were aplenty, yet space here doesn’t allow me
to fully cover them.
Palwankar Baloo joined Ishwar's feet on 04th July 1955.
Ending post with these words from Col. C K Naidu, the first captain of Indian Test cricket…
“Baloo’s deceptive flight and ability to vary his pace was magnificent and he could perhaps be ranked with
the greatest left-arm spinners of the world”.


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