An unintended Indian captain who matched the peerless Vijay Hazare stroke for stroke with a canopy drive to die for, Dattajirao Gaekwad ought to have performed greater than 11 Checks, given the expertise this outstanding participant from Baroda possessed. On Tuesday, Gaekwad died in his hometown Baroda on the age of 95. Statistically, he was the oldest residing Indian Check cricketer because the demise of Deepak Shodhan in 2016. A nightmare for the Bombay (Mumbai) groups of the Fifties, these cowl drives, sadly, by no means actually got here off when he performed on the highest stage from 1952 to 1961.
His son Anshuman, who performed 40 Checks from the Seventies to the 80s, was extra profitable with a good defensive approach in comparison with his father.
However in these first two and half many years publish independence, not each cricketer might all the time be judged by the prism of statistics.
A Check common of lower than 20 unfold throughout 9 years got here at a time when the nationwide workforce was shedding greater than successful.
He additionally led India in 4 of the 5 Checks throughout their disastrous tour of England in 1959.
For the naysayers, his elevation smacked of nepotism as he was perceived to be near Fatehsinh Gaekwad, the erstwhile Maharaja of Vadodara, who was the supervisor of the nationwide workforce and in addition his patron since he was 11 years previous.
Wisden, nonetheless thought-about the holy grail of cricket, wasn’t precisely charitable about his management, documenting that his captaincy “lacked verve and character” whereas summing up the sequence.
In an interview, he had as soon as recalled that his first call-up to the nationwide workforce appeared too good to be true, and he would all the time put on the cap and blazer in his room.
These had been the times when the touring groups, other than 4 or 5 Checks, would additionally play a minimum of 25 to 30 firstclass video games, and Dattaji did pretty properly in opposition to the county sides.
Nonetheless, when it got here to dealing with the legendary Freddie Trueman’s tempo on uncovered damp pitches, or Alec Bedser’s swing, it turned a bit an excessive amount of for him.
The solace was that none aside from one of the best British cricket author of that era, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, termed his cowl drives “delightfully crisp”.
Nearer dwelling, when he performed for Baroda, he was in a league of his personal. He was one of many greatest architects of his aspect’s maiden Ranji Trophy title in 1957-58 with 100 in opposition to Providers, which had India pacer Surendranath within the ranks.
However then Dattaji, regardless of a few of his fabulous home performances, would all the time be overshadowed by Hazare, maybe one of the best Indian batter within the 50s.
If Dattaji scored 100 in that Ranji closing, Hazare received a double hundred. Within the semi-final in opposition to Holkar, Dattaji scored a match-winning 145.
He was a nightmare for the Bombay groups within the 50s and as soon as smashed a double hundred but it surely was Hazare’s 126 that was remembered extra by previous timers.
The correct-hander made his debut in opposition to England at Leeds in 1952 and his closing worldwide recreation was in opposition to Pakistan in Chennai in 1961.
Within the Ranji Trophy, Gaekwad represented Baroda from 1947 to 1961. He scored 3139 runs at a median of 47.56, together with 14 a whole bunch.
His highest was a 249 not out in opposition to Maharashtra within the 1959-60 season.
He turned India’s oldest residing Check cricketer in 2016 after the demise of former batter Shodhan on the age of 87 in Ahmedabad.
Being the everlasting bridesmaid was Dattaji’s future. The 1958 Ranji season did see him get a recall for the fifth and closing Check in opposition to the West Indies at Feroz Shah Kotla, the place he loved his best hour for India with a career-best rating of 52 in opposition to the lethal duo of Wes Corridor and Roy Gilchrist.
However, as luck would have it, an uber-stylist Chandu Borde struck 109 and 96 in that recreation together with higher knocks from Nari Contractor, Polly Umrigar and Pankaj Roy. So, individuals hardly bear in mind Dattaji’s effort.
However one can by no means overlook the truth that Dattaji gave it his all regardless of his moderately quiet profession as a global cricketer.
As an Indian captain, he’ll take pleasure in his little piece of historical past and nobody can take that away from him.
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