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Probir Sen, the first Bengali cricketer

Probir Sen, Khokon Sen, Madras, Cricket

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Probir Sen, the first Bengali cricketer

In early 1952, Probir Sen became a part of Indian cricket history, as he was a member of the Indian XI that recorded their first ever test victory. And he made vital contribution in this success with his role behind the stumps. He had 5 stumpings in this match, which at that time was a test record. All his stumpings came off Mankad’s bowling. Obviously, he had wonderful understandings with the great all-rounder Mankad. Writes Rafiqul Ameer

Probir Sen, also known as Khokon Sen, was born on 31st May 1926 at Comilla. However, his schooling was in Calcutta, and he was still a school boy when he made his 1st class debut for Bengal in 1943 as a wicket –keeper batsman.  At MCG, on the New Year’s morning of 1948, he made his debut in test cricket; thus, becoming the 1st Bengali test cricketer. Overall, he represented India in 14 tests and had 20 catches and 11 stumpings.

Before discussing the major achievements of Sen’s career, I would like to mention that his name appears as Khokon Sen in many scorecards. The story is that when he made his 1st class debut as a teenager, some senior members of the Bengal team called him ‘Khoka’ or ‘Khokon’. And that name remained quite popular.

He was the youngest member of the touring Indian to Aus in 1947-48 season. He was picked as the reserve wicketkeeper behind Jenni Irani; but Sen’s impressive glove-works in the tour matches meant that he got his chance in the 3rd test at Melbourne. And he continued on with his excellent works behind the stumps; and received rich plaudits from the experts. The only disappointment was his batting; he managed only 29 runs in the 3 tests. In fact, he never showed his best as a batsman in the test arena.

Two of his most memorable events in test cricket came at the famous Chepauk ground of Madras. The first was against the WI in Jan 1949; the Windies inflicted a humiliating innings defeat on their rivals here. Sen’s main contribution was his part in the run out of Sir Everton Weekes, to deny the great WI batsman his 6th successive hundred in test cricket. Weekes was in terrific form having scored 100s in his previous five innings. Here, he was batting on 90 when he gently cut a delivery from left arm spinner Vinoo Mankad. Weekes called for a quick single, but his partner Gerry Gomez-watching the debutant Nirode Chowdhury react quickly in the gully region-sent Weekes back; but it was too late. WK Sen took the bails off and Weekes was adjudged to be run out on 90. Weekes wasn’t happy about the decision, but there were no video referrals in those days.

In early 1952, Probir Sen became a part of Indian cricket history, as he was a member of the Indian XI that recorded their first ever test victory. And he made vital contribution in this success with his role behind the stumps. He had 5 stumpings in this match, which at that time was a test record. All his stumpings came off Mankad’s bowling. Obviously, he had wonderful understandings with the great all-rounder Mankad.

This successful Indian team at Madras had another member from Bengal; opener Pankaj Roy scored a fine hundred. Pankaj represented India in 43 tests, captaining them once. His nephew Ambar, and son Pranab also played for India. Interestingly, the Roy’s of cricket also had their background in East Bengal (current Bangladesh). They were the Zaminders of Bhagyakul, Munshiganj.

Back to Probir, he played his last test in Dec, 1952 at Calcutta. There was fierce completion for the Keeper position, and his critics always pointed fingers towards his failures as a batsman. But his keeping was always top class. Interestingly, for all his impressive test displays, he always considered his stumping off Sir Don Bradman in the tour match against South Australia during the 1947-48 tour as the biggest achievement of his life. Again, Vinoo was the bowler.

Probir continued playing first cricket till 1958. And in a Ranji Trophy match against Orissa in 1953l he scored a hundred and then took a hat-trick with the ball. He was playing mainly as a batsman here; Gopal Chakraborty was making his debut as a wicket keeper. I must add here that the Orissa team at the time was a very weak one.

Probir Sen died at Calcutta, at the age of 43, from a heart attack. The P. Sen Memorial Trophy is a big event in Calcutta Club cricket arena.

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