Mohinder Amarnath Bhardwaj is a former Indian cricketer and was a right-handed batsman and medium pace bowler. The words grit, guts and gumption personified his roller-coaster career which began in 1969 and spanned two eventful decades. He was cricket's Frank Sinatra - the master of the comeback. He started his career as suspect against short-pitched fast bowling, and finished it as one of the finest and bravest players of pace. Commonly known as "Jimmy" he was the Man of the Series when India won its first World Cup Cricket tournament in England in 1983.
Mohinder Amarnath was born on 24th September 1950 and came from a rich cricketing background. His father was Lala Amarnath, the first post-independence captain of India. His brother Surinder Amarnath was a Test player. Another brother Rajinder Amarnath is a former first class cricket and current cricket coach.
Right from his debut in 1969, Mohinder Amarnath has seen the ups and downs of cricket. He made his debut against Australia at Chennai in December 1969, as a quick-bowling all-rounder. At his peak he was a class top order batsman who mainly played at No. 3 for India. He was also handy with the ball, swinging and cutting the ball with great skill and control. He had a unique run-up where he slowed down as he reached the bowling crease.
After his unsuccessful debut he had to wait a couple of years before making his first comeback. In 1976, in a series against the West Indies, India’s second innings closed on 97 with five batsmen absent hurt. But Amarnath made an unbelievable 60 with seven fours and three sixes on a terrifying Sabina Park strip. The series was a good indication of Amarnath’s fearlessness.
The 1982-83 season turned out to be the brightest purple patch in his career, scoring well over 1100 runs in two away Test series against the mighty Windies and arch rivals Pakistan. He made his first test century at Perth at the WACA (the fastest and bounciest wicket in the world) batting against Jeff Thomson at his fastest.
To counter his inadequacy against the short ball he adopted a ‘two-eyed’ stance that saw him facing the bowler more square-on and enabled him to get into position more quickly for his beloved hook shot.
The new approach reaped immediate dividends. In six Tests against Pakistan in 1982 he amassed 584 runs at 73, with three hundreds and three half-centuries, though India lost the series 3-0. This series saw Imran Khan at his lethal best, supported by the canny Sarfraz Nawaz. In match after match India crumbled against the fiery pace of Pakistan. It was then on to the West Indies to face the lion in its den.
Batting at number three, he made 29 and 40 at Sabina Park, and saw his side go down to an unexpected and heart-breaking defeat in the last over of the match. The second Test at the Queen’s Park Oval was drawn and Amarnath’s 58 and 117 were top-scores in either innings, earning him the man-of-the-match award.
In the third test West Indies won easily on the Caribbean’s quickest surface at the Kensington Oval, Barbados. But the hosts had to contend with a pugnacious Mohinder Amarnath. He made a blistering 91 out of India’s 209 in the first innings, striking six fours and three sixes. Always willing to hook, he was never slow to drive off the front foot whenever the bowlers pitched up.
There was drama aplenty in India’s second innings. Amarnath had to retire hurt on 18 after being struck a fearful blow on the chin by Marshall. The score was then 1/91 and the batsman had to be transported to hospital, where he received six stitches. He then returned to the dressing room, washed the bloodstains from his shirt, and re-joined the action at the fall of the fifth wicket with the score on 135.Greeted immediately with a bouncer from Holding, he hooked it almost off the tip of his nose for six. He went on to make 80, and was hooking until the end.
The teams then travelled to the Antigua Recreation Ground where he gave another sterling display, making 54 in the first innings and signing off with a majestic 116. He left the Caribbean with 594 runs at 66.44 with two hundreds and four half-centuries.
Mohinder Amarnath is best known for his legendary performance in the 1983 Cricket World Cup. He was awarded "Man of the Match" in the finals and semi-finals, playing a star role in leading India to their first ever One Day International title and first World Cup win. As a result of his splendid performance in the World Cup, he was awarded the "Man of the series" award as well.
In the semi-finals against England his accurate seam bowling fetched him the top-order wickets of David Gower and Mike Gatting. He gave away only 27 runs in his 12 overs, for an average of a miserly 2.25 an over, the lowest among all Indian bowlers. Returning to bat, he scored 46 runs to give India a solid foundation.
In the finals, India batted first against the West Indies which arguably boasted the world's best bowling attack comprising Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts and Joel Garner. India did not fare well, with the entire team being dismissed for a paltry score of 183 in 54.4 overs, well short of the allotted 60 overs. Amarnath's calm and composed batting against West Indian fast bowling gave the Indian innings some much needed stability. He occupied the crease for the longest period (80 balls) and scored 26 runs, allowing other batsmen to score quickly without pressure. After the poor batting performance India's chances were deemed almost non-existent. However, the Indian bowling exploited the weather and pitch conditions, conducive for swing bowling, perfectly to bowl out the West Indies for just 140. Amarnath and Madan Lal were the joint highest wicket takers with 3 wickets each. As he had been in the semi-finals, Amarnath was once again the most economical bowler, conceding only 12 runs in his 7 overs for an average of 1.71 per over. Again, just like the semi-finals, Amarnath was declared the Man of the Match. Amarnath also had the distinction of bagging the match winning wicket.
Except for the period 1982-83, Mohinder never held a steady place in the Indian Test side and frequently got dropped. Amarnath played his final series in 1987-88, against the same old West Indian foes but could not emulate his past performances.
Mohinder Amarnath had some unique dismissals. He is the one and only Indian who has been dismissed on handling the ball. He was dismissed on 9 February 1986 making him the first one to be dismissed for handling the ball in One-Day Internationals. He is also the only Indian to be dismissed for obstructing the field in One-Day Internationals. He has also been dismissed 'hit wicket'. He displayed the unique superstition of carrying a red handkerchief visibly in his trouser pocket while batting.
After retiring, Amarnath guided a fledgling Bangladesh side in the mid-90s but was dumped after they failed to qualify for the 1996 World Cup. He then had a short stint coaching Rajasthan in the Indian domestic competitions as well as a coaching assignment with the Moroccan cricket team. Now he mainly does cricket commentary and is a cricket analyst.