Tellicherry's Rise to Prominence in Indian Cricket History

In the early 1800s, Colonel Wellesley, enshrined in history  as the “Hero of Waterloo” for his victory over Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo,  established Thalassery, then called Tellicherry, as his base. The East India Company had appointed him as the commander of Malabar, South Canara and Mysore to counter the fierce anti-English warrior princes in the region.

It is believed that Wellesley introduced cricket to Kerala: he and his colleagues played cricket on the town’s maidan, often attracting onlookers who would join the officers whenever they needed more players. By then cricket was already being played by the British in places such as Cambay, Seringapatnam and Calcutta; it was very much an elite sport, reserved for the upper class. However, in Tellicherry it took on a different character, with fishermen, labourers, officers, and businessmen all participating in the game.

From the 1800’s to the 21st Century: Constructed in 1802, Tellicherry Municipal Stadium’s Timeless Charm

By the time the Tellicherry Cricket Club (TCC) was founded in 1830, Thalassery had become a prominent cricket centre, drawing many teams to the town for matches. The earliest documented cricket match in Thalassery dates back to a report in Malayala Manorama in 1890.

Nostalgia in a Frame: Tellicherry Cricket Team, 1940-41. Standing (L-R) Front Row 4th PM Narayanan (Sixer Nanu)

Cricketing Legends Unite To Celebrate 200 Years of Cricket in the year 2002

Varun Girilal’s Spectacular Catchof Sri Lankan Legendary batsman Aravinda Se Silva off the bowling of Former India Test cricketer Sunil Joshi

From Aristocracy to the Common Ground: Lord Wellesley’s Historic Cricket Endeavor in India

The Great Cricketing Encounter of 1934: Tellicherry vs. Ceylon Tamil Union. Sitting (L-R) 4th Thamburankandy Anandan, 5th Saravanamuthu. Standing (L-R) 2nd Hassu Bhai 3rd AD Moidu, 6th Kayath Madhavan. Last row (L-R) 6th Mambally Narayanan.

A Match for the Ages: Europeans vs. Indians in Tellicherry, 1937. Sitting (L-R) 1st EA Cowdry, father of Former England Captain Collin Cowdrey. Sitting (L-R) 3rd HP Ward. Sitting 1st row (L-R), 5th PM Raghavan, former Kerala Captain.

Kerala's Cricketing Torchbearers: The Mambally Family Saga

Beyond their pioneering ventures in the bakery business, the Mambally family also nurtured a deep love for cricket, serving as trailblazers who propagated the game’s appeal across Kerala. Six members of the family (almost seven, but that’s another story), spanning several generations, have represented the state in the prestigious Ranji Trophy, India’s domestic first-class cricket championship.

The saga of cricket within the Mambally lineage commenced with Gopalan, Mambally Bapu’s nephew. His journeys with his uncle to numerous cricket fields kindled a genuine enthusiasm for the sport. Extended conversations with Britishers (both the players and aficionados) who made it a ritual to savour the delectable cakes, biscuits and breads from Bapu and Gopalan’s bakery on the main road, further ignited this fascination.

It was in 1902 that young Gopalan, all of 18, donned pads for the first time. His passion ignited a legacy of its own, and his sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons went on to achieve acclaim for their cricketing prowess. By the time Gopalan passed away in 1960 at the age of 76, the family had solidified its reputation both in the bakery trade and the cricketing arena.

His eldest son MP Madhavan, who later founded Modern Bakery in Calicut, spearheaded the Tellicherry Town Cricket Club, making significant contributions both as a wicketkeeper and a batsman for the Tellicherry Brennen College team. Demonstrating his versatility, Mambally Madhavan also excelled in hockey.

Generations united: The Mambally Family’s 1944 Portrait. Mambally Gopalan with his wife Kunimadha, 8 sons, 3 daughters, spouses of four of them and 2 grandchildren. Standing(L-R): Nanu Master, Raghavan, Damodaran, Anandan, Krishnan, Narayanan, Madhavan, Murkoth Sreenivasan. Seated(L-R): Ambujakshi, Seetha, Gopalan (with little Haridas), Kunhimadha(with little Nirmala), Kausalya, Leela. Squatting (L-R): Lakshmanan, Meenakshi, Vijayan

A Historic Moment: Kerala’s Debut in Ranji Trophy, 1953. Lead by Captain Mambally Raghavan (Sitting 3rd from left). PM Anandan in the centre in second row.

PM Raghavan, the second son, managed Bestotel and a chain of bakeries named Best Bakery in Kottayam. He honed his skills under the guidance of Kumar Shri Duleepsinhji, gaining prominence within the Mangalore Government College and Tellicherry Excelsior team. Raghavan would eventually serve as the first captain of the state’s Ranji team, leading it for six years. He co-founded and later became the Vice President of Kerala Cricket Association as well as selector for The Kerala Ranji Team and The South Zone India team.

Raghavan’s younger brother Anandan, who served as the Vice Captain of the Ranji team, was an attacking fast bowler, revered for his exceptional ability to seam and swing the ball under diverse conditions. His remarkable feat of claiming 5 Hyderabad wickets in the first innings where Kerala beat the powerful Hyderabad team led by India Captain Ghulam Ahmed in 1953, solidified his status as a cricketing luminary.

Raghavan and Anandan’s steadfast contributions were pivotal in elevating Kerala’s standing in the cricketing arena. Their efforts prompted a shift from a string of defeats to a more competitive phase for the Kerala cricket team. Their legacy, coupled with the achievements of Balan Pandit and KNN Menon, etched a defining chapter in the annals of cricket history.

Kerala Cricket’s Founding Figures: Lt. Col. Godavarma Raja, P.M. Raghavan and P.M. Anandan, Early 1950s Seated (L-R) 5th Lt. Col. Godavarma Raja, the first President of the Kerala Cricket Association. 7th P.M. Raghavan, First Captain of Kerala Raji Trophy Team. (Standing L-R) 10th P.M.Anandan (One of Kerala’s fastest bowlers)

Remembering the Masters: Hyderabad vs. Kerala, 1970s Ranji Trophy (L-R)- Abbas Ali Baig, Naushir Mehta, Nawab of Pataudi, ML Jaisimha, SP Mallick, JK Mahendra, APM Gopalakrishnan, A Satyendran, Suri Gopalakrishnan

The cricketing prowess within the Mambally family extended beyond Raghavan and Anandan. PM Krishnan, Gopalan’s third son, established Santha Bakery alongside his cricket pitch in Trivandrum, excelling as a skilled batsman and pace bowler. Krishnan’s role extended to founding the Kerala Cricket Association alongside his brother Raghavan and Lt. Col. P. R. Godavarma Raja. Apart from being the founding Treasurer of Kerala Cricket Association( then known as Travancore- Cochin Cricket Association), he also held significant positions in various sporting associations such as the President of the Kalaripayattu Association of Kerala. Along with Lt. Col. P. R. Godavarma Raja, founder President of the Kerala State Sports Council as well as Kerala Cricket Association, he also set up the Kerala Olympic Association and the Amateur Athletic Association.

Furthering this exceptional legacy was PM Narayanan, the fourth son. A gifted sportsman, he gained recognition and earned the nickname ‘Sixer Nanu,’ after hitting consecutive sixes against a visiting Ceylon team in 1934. His prowess was evident in his time with Tellicherry Town Cricket Club and being a founder of Excelsior Cricket Club. An iconic figure, Narayanan’s impact resonated across cricket and even football through his involvement with the Gymkhana Club. Mambally’s Royal Biscuit Factory in Tellicherry was under his management.

Damodaran, the fifth son, exemplified athleticism during his time at St Joseph’s High School and excelled as an all-rounder at Tellicherry Brennen College. The family’s bakery endeavours expanded under his stewardship at Mambally’s Best Bakery in Thiruvalla in 1966 and, later on, under his brother Mambally Lakshmanan, it continued to thrive as a leading bakery. Mambally Lakshman who also played for Tellicherry’s St Joseph’s School, represented the school in cricket, hockey and football. Later, he did the same at Brennan College. He is credited with introducing and developing cricket in that region. The then generation were only used to watching football matches. They felt that cricket was not their cup of tea. In 1970, a cricket club was established in Thiruvalla. It was Lakshmanan who steered events like Mambally Gopalan Memorial Tournament, Ghulam Ahmed Trophy and Ranji Trophy at Thiruvalla Public Stadium.. He also founded the women’s cricket association of Pathanamthitta. He became an excellent coach for the students of Mar Thoma College. He took the role of a sports writer in later years and earned the nickname ‘Fingleton Dechan’.

PM Vijayan the youngest of the third generation of Mambally brothers captained the St Joseph’s School cricket team in Tellicherry. Vijayan was later selected to play for Madras Presidency Schools, a rare and remarkable feat for that time. Unfortunately, although Vijayan was selected for the Ranji trophy, he was unable to play due to family commitments (and that’s why the tally stands at six Ranji players from the family instead of seven).

From the next generation, PMK Raghunath, PMK Mohandas and APM Gopalakrishnan, perpetuated the family’s cricketing legacy.

1978 Ranji Trophy Squad: Kerala’s Cricketing Heroes. Standing ( L-R), PT Godwin, Left Arm spinner P Suresh, Krishna Kumar, 4th Former Kerala Captain S Ramesh,, K Jayaram, Soman, Raghunath, 6th Sushil Haridas, Balachandram. Seated (L-R) Sathyendran, Ramesh Sampath, OK Ramdas, SK Nair then President of KCA, T Sivadas the Former Captain of Kerala, S Godwin, Md. Ibrahim

A Historic Clash: Mambally 11 vs. Tellicherry 11, 1975.Standing (L-R): Murkoth Sreenivasan, Latha Girilal, Latha Bala, PM Raghavan, Tellicherry Cricket official, MM Pradeep, PM Anandan, MM Gopal, PM Lakshmanan, MM Prasad, 11-15th Unknown, 16th Sadiq Squatting (L-R): Hafeez, Unknown, APM Gopalakrishnan, MM Hemanth Kumar, Rollo Varkey, 6>11 Unknown

APM Gopalakrishnan, PM Raghavan’s son, emerged as an all-rounder in Kerala’s Ranji team, and even dismissed two of the finest Indian batsmen of their time – the great GR Vishwanath and the stylish ML Jaisimha in Ranji matches. He also served as the Chairman of the Ranji Trophy Selection Committee 1996-97 when Kerala emerged Champions in the tough South Zone League for the first time in their cricketing history.

PMK Mohandas and PMK Raghunath, the sons of PM Krishnan, distinguished themselves as fast bowlers in the Kerala Ranji team. PMK Mohandas, renowned for his gentlemanly demeanour, was particularly feared for his exceptional pace and skillful bowling and is considered as one of the fastest bowlers Kerala has ever produced. He spearheaded the Kerala pace attack in the Ranji Trophy during the mid-70s; his scalps include the likes of the Nawab of Pataudi, Abbas Ali Baig and P Krishnamurthy.

Mohandas’s younger brother Reghunath was a right-arm medium-pace bowler and right-handed batsman who served as the opening bowler for the Kerala Ranji team.  He made his Ranji Trophy debut for Kerala in November 1973, finishing the 1973-74 season as the state’s leading wicket taker, with memorable performances such as his 3/72 against Andhra and 3/66 against Tamil Nadu; his scalps included a quirky ‘hit wicket’ dismissal of Karnataka legend, B Vijaykrishna. Raghunath continued to represent the state till 1978.

At the Home of Cricket: PMK Mohandas, one of Kerala’s fastest bowlers at Lord’s with Kerala Cricket Veterans, 2004. Standing ( L-R) 4th PMK Mohandas

Pace and Precision: (L-R)PMK Raghunath, Former Kerala Fast bowler with Legendary Aussie Fast Bowler Dennis Lillee and Former Kerala Ranji Trophy Captain Jayram (extreme right), 1997

Guardians of the Game: APM Gopalakrishnan, Former Ranji Trophy Player & Selector, as BCCI Match Referee with Captain Sachin Tendulkar during the Mumbai vs. Orissa Ranji Trophy Match, 2000

MM Pradeep, an immensely talented all-rounder of the family’s fourth generation, showcased his prowess as a cricketer and athlete. He had a stellar school cricket career, captaining Kerala Schools, and representing South Zone India Schools while also playing for Kerala against Sri Lanka. Pradeep’s achievements included being Kerala Schools hockey team player, 100 metres and 200 metres runner in athletics, and district level champion. Despite his potential to represent the Indian national cricket team, he assumed the mantle of the family business after the untimely passing of his father, PM Narayanan.

The family’s legacy continued with Varun Girilal, representing the fifth generation. He rose to prominence when he smashed 154 against Karnataka in an under 25 game in Bangalore in 2000, which earned him the place of opening batsman in the Kerala Ranji Trophy team for three seasons. He also scored a century in the Under 16 Vijay Merchant Trophy. Varun captained the Kerala State Under 16, Under 19 and Under 22 teams. He was also a member of the state senior team which participated in the Karnataka Cricket Association Jubilee Tournament.

The Mambally family’s cricketing journey traverses generations, leaving an indomitable legacy that not only shaped Kerala’s cricketing landscape but also exemplified the spirit of dedication, talent, and passion that cricket embodies.

MM Pradeep: The All-Rounder Extraordinaire of Kerala Schools Team, 1971-72 (Seated, 5th from Left)