To my mind, the best cricket team that India has ever sent abroad is the 1946 team under the captainship of the senior Nawab of Pataudi that went to England. It did not win (in those days for India to win a Test against England was out of the question), but it played honourably and well and was in immensely popular team in England.
There were only three Tests, of three days' duration each; the first at Lord's we lost, the other two we drew, one by the skin of our teeth, the last pair in and playing out time, the other when we were actually on top and rain stooped play. But there were a whole lot of other matches, with counties, and India did very well there.
England was having its first real cricket season after the war and India was the first touring team to play there. Naturally, there was great enthusiasm for cricket and even a mediocre Indian team would have been popular. But as it happended, this was a good team.
The tour began with a controversy over the selection of the captain, as has always happended. Out of a hat very pulled out and resurrected the senior Pataudi, and elderly amd rather sickly gentleman, well past his prime minister crickeing days, and who had mostly played in England and for England. His selection meant that Vijay Merchant was denied his right to lead the countr. Some say that Merchant never forgot that and took it out Pataudi's son by taking the captaincy away from his and giving his casting vote to Wadekar. I do not believe this.
There were other giants in the team, Lala Amarnath, Vijay Hazare and Vinoo Mankad, men who could have walked into any world XI at any time. And among the younger lot there were Rusi Modi, as stylish and prolific a player as you can ever find, and Abdul Hafeez Kardar, who was later to become Pakistan's first captain.
D.D. Hindlekar was the wicketkeeper. John Arlott has written a whole chapter on this charming man and one of the original characters of cricket. I think it is one of the best pieces that Arlott has written. In fact, his first book was on this team and its tour. He called it Indian Summer. I had it with me for years, then somebody borrowed it and lost it. As a rule, I do not keep books, I believe they are to be read and passed on. But this is one book that I regret having passed on.
Shute Bannerjee was the pace bowler, all speed and flannels, and generally Amarnath used to open along with him, a red handkerchief tied round his neck.
Among the spinners were C.S. Nayudu, Chandu Sarwate and S.G. Shinde. Not many people know that our Chief Minister Sharad Pawar is Shide's son-in-law. That is why I have always favoured him (Pawar).