When Swami Vivekananda took 7 wickets in a cricket match at Eden Gardens

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A boy then little known by the name of Narendranath Datta, with the throbbing blood of his adolescence running through his veins, had taken the British colonizers by surprise when he traveled to the verdant fields of Eden Gardens to take seven wickets against European opponents. This boy would soon become famous, but not as a sportsman but as a Hindu philosopher and monk and figurehead for youth and would remain an undying inspiration to many.

This boy is none other than Swami Vivekananda who singularly spread the word of humanism while encouraging young people to be more active in physical activities and targeting them to be the agents of change of tomorrow.

Before devoting his life to spirituality and working for the revival of Hinduism in colonial India, Narendranath Datta was an avid sportsman and youth leader par excellence, transmitting thought and raising his voice whenever the occasion wished. Popularly known for his photographic memory abilities and his ability to quickly quote exact sections from various books, there is another side to Vivekananda’s prolific personality that is little known.

With an admirable figure and imposing stature, one could hardly ignore the seriousness that Narendranath Datta, a student of the General Assembly Institution (now, Scottish Church College) possessed. Always an avid reader of Eastern and Western philosophies, Datta also devoted a great deal of time to sports. A frequent visitor to the akharas of Ambu Charan Guha, the spirited young man would spend hours there doing bodybuilding and wrestling.

Vivekananda’s expertise was not just limited to akharas as he also possessed skills in football and fencing. (Image source: Google / vedantasociety.net)

Narendranath’s expertise was not just limited to akharas as he also had skills in football and fencing and on one occasion had also emerged as a boxing champion during a show in Calcutta which was then the capital of the British colony. Additionally, the sporting culture was booming and rich in the mid-1880s, with the British colonizers spending their time in the chaotic city indulging in the ‘National Timepass’ sport which they considered cricket.

The birth of cricket took place in Calcutta during this phase of the second half of the 19th century with the opening of several well-known cricket clubs in various pockets of the city. The Calcutta Cricket Club and the Town Club have nurtured the north and south cricket poles of the former Indian capital. Founded in 1792 by the British, the Calcutta Cricket Club (CCC) is the oldest cricket club outside Britain. It was a powerful symbol of British rulers and was represented by them. The Town Club was a later establishment and was founded by a prominent Bengali professor of mathematics, Saradaranjan Ray, in 1884, to give fierce competition to the British CCC.

It was during this time that Narendranath Datta’s physique and agility came into the eyes of Hema Chandra Ghosh, a leader of the nationalist movement. In a casual chat, Ghosh asked if young Narendranath would like to try his hand at bat and ball. Unfazed by the prospect, the future Hindu monk was rather delighted with the opportunity and said he would like to try for the cricket team and explore his talent there.

Always an avid reader of Eastern and Western philosophies, Vivekananda has also devoted much time to sports. (Image source: Google / vedantasociety.net)

Guided by the guidance of Hema Chandra Ghosh, the young Swamiji took on the role of a bowler and represented the Town Club team in a tense match against the Calcutta Cricketing Club team at Eden Gardens. At the time, the gardens were only 20 years old and home to the clashes of Indo-British cricket action. It was a historic match that was played and it was extremely special for Vivekananda who exuded immense confidence and followed Ghosh’s wise words to stay focused while bowling and the results would be automatic. Soon, Vivekananda’s bowling attacked the batsmen at the crease and he knocked down one wicket after another, collecting seven admirable wickets while only 20 runs were up on the board.

Until this date, Swami Vivekananda remains an inspiration to many. The perfect word to sum up Swamiji’s caliber would be his rather ‘all-round’ status as a human being. With his love and dedication to sports, Vivekananda’s vested interests ranged from spirituality to the politics of the nation as he always carves out a figure of importance with his moving works and his cry to young people to act as pioneers of tomorrow.



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