Cottari Kanakaiya Naidu or Colonel CK Naidu, as he was more commonly known, was the first ever cricketer to have captained India. He was born on October 31, 1895 at Nagpur and passed away on November 14, 1967 at Indore. In domestic cricket he represented several teams – Andhra, Holkar, Central India, Hyderabad (India), Central Provinces and Berar, Rajputana, Hindus and United Province. His first test came against the then colonial masters, England. The match was played from June 25-28, 1932 at the Lord’s. He played his last test match against the same opposition four years later at the Oval from August 15-18. However he had a first class career spanning more than 45 years – it started from 1916 and ended in 1964.
CK Nayudu played 7 tests in all, which is a surprisingly low number for a player of his quality. In these matches he scored 350 runs in all with an average of 25 and a highest score of 81. He also picked up 9 wickets with his off-spinners at an average of 42.88 and a best bowling figure of 3 for 40. In his first test match Naidu injured his hand while fielding but still managed to top score for his team with a 40. He led the Indian batting averages for that tour with 6 centuries. His highest score on that tour was 162 against Warwickshire – he had an average of 37.59 from these first class matches.
Nayudu took 79 wickets on that tour as well. He played 3 more tests against England during the 1933-34 season and 3 again when India toured England in 1936. On that tour he got 1000 runs in the first class matches and also picked up 51 wickets. Nayudu had always been destined to don the cap of captain as is evident from the fact that he captained his school team – Hislop Collegiate High School – and club team – Modi – when he started his cricketing career.
He came to notice during the 1926-27 season when in match organized at Bombay against an MCC team led by AEC Gilligan he hammered a devastating 153 that was studded with 13 boundaries and 11 hits over it. This innings for the Hindus was played in just over an hour and 40 minutes and remains one of the best innings played by an Indian. When a strong MCC team led by Douglas Jardine toured India in the 1933-34 season he helped Vizianagram become the only team to have defeated the visitors with a 14 run loss. He scored 21 in the second innings and followed that up with 4 wickets.
The significance of Nayudu lies in the fact that he was able to inspire others of his ilk with his focus on discipline and played a major role in developing the careers of the next generation of Indian greats like Syed Mushtaq Ali.