By Samiran Mishra
In 1961, the Orissa Olympic Association (OOA) decided to make separate, independent bodies for cricket, football, hockey, tennis and badminton. Elections were held on the 19th of March in the same year to decide the new office bearers of the newly formed associations.
Harekrushna Mahatab, who had completed his tenure as the Chief Minister of Odisha, was elected as the President of both the Odisha Cricket Association (OCA) and Football Association of Odisha (FAO). Bhairab Mahanti became the Secretary of the OCA.
On a side note, Biju Patnaik’s brother Dr. George Patnaik was elected as the first President of the Odisha Tennis Association with BC Singh Deo serving as the Secretary.
The OCA wanted to host a big event and make a mark on India’s national cricket map. A big opportunity presented itself in December, 1961 when the Marleybone Cricket Club were scheduled to play a three-day Test against an East Zone XI at the Barabati.
The MCC had arrived in India in November, 1961, during England’s five-Test series against the host nation. The oldest (active) cricket club in the world played many matches in between England’s games against India including 3-day Tests against Bombay & Rajasthan, among others.
East Zone and the MCC took to the Barabati pitch on 22nd December.
East Zone XI: Pankaj Roy, Prakash Bhandari, Ramnath Kenny, Madhurya Barua, Sudhir Das, Gour Ghosh, Sushil Kapoor, Soumendranath Kundu, Prakash Poddar, Rajen Sanyal, Shantanu Satpathy.
MCC XI: Ken Barrington, Peter Richardson, Mike Smith, Geoff Pullar, David Allen, John Murray, Alan Brown, Eric Russell, Butch White, Geoff Millman, Peter Parfitt.
Cuttack’s sports fanatics were euphoric. It is said that the Barabati Stadium was packed to the brim to witness history. However, the OCA were not well prepared to manage an event of such magnitude despite the Barabati or OOA hosting the National Games in 1958.
In fact, refreshments as in drinks, fruits and cakes had to be arranged from Calcutta because no single caterer in Cuttack or Odisha could provide the required quantity.
MCC batted first and put on a 1st innings score of 261/4 in 67 overs before declaring. Richardson scored 59 while Barrington remained not out for a commendable 80.
Former Odisha bowler Shantanu Satpathy picked up a wicket by clean bowling Russell.
East Zone scored 263/8 in 107.4 overs and decided to declare. Barua and Kenny with 66 and 70 respectively were EZ’s shining lights. The MCC batted on till the end of Day 3’s play in their 2nd innings and put 277/5 in 63 overs. Satpathy picked up two wickets.
The match ended in a draw.
This was the first ever international match in the history of Odisha sports. Many years passed before the Barabati hosted a full fledged international. But that is a story for another day.