Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji Duleepsinhji Cricketer Nawanagar Jamnagar History Gujarat India

Unlike today, in early decades of 1900s English were ruling the cricket. But it had two cricketers from India who got recognition and appreciation. They were none other than members of royal family from Nawanagar - Late Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji of Nawanagar (now Jamnagar City) and his newphew late Duleepsinhji.

Though both the gentlemen, Ranjitsinhji in particular, played in England their charisma inspired many Indians. Ranjitsinji began his cricket career with Cambridge and went on to play first class for Sussex and England. A top batsman renowned for his elegant and innovative stroke play, Ranjisinhji scored 24,692 first class runs at an average of 56.37 between 1886 and 1920.

In 15 Tests for England, between 1896 and 1902, he scored 985 runs at an average of 44.95. He hit over 3,000 runs in successive English seasons 1899-1900. Ranjisinhji played occasionally after 1907 when he was crowned as the Maharaja of Nawanagar.

After taking over as Jam Saheb he did play in 1908 and 1912 and then tried his luck again in 1920 at age of 48. But his body didn't permit him.

Ranjitsinhji's dexterity, grace and style were unrivalled. "When he batted a strange light was seen for the first time on English fields," wrote Neville Cardus. He is said to be the pioneer of the 'leg glance', a shot he made his own. As at that time people could not even contemplate playing across the line. His cutting and driving were equally majestic.

A useful change bowler and a safe hand in the slips, Ranjitsinhji was a complete cricketer. The great cricketer who rescued his teams - England and Sussex - from the jaws of defeats on many occasions was a batsman of immense concentration.

Recalling some of the moments associated Ranjitsinhji, nephew of Duleepsinhji and former captain of Saurashtra, MV Jadeja, in an exclusive interview last year said, "Despite hitting three centuries in as many innings, Ranjitsinhji was looking tense and focusing hard while sitting in pavilion. One of his close friends CB Fry asked him to relax a bit as he had three tons backing him. But Ranjitsinhji remarked, "It is past. This is new innings and I will ensure I don't get out cheaply," Jadeja had said.

Ranji Trophy began in 1935 and while the sport has seen colossal change, the tournament continues to be a nursery for Test players. The trophy was donated by Bhupendra Singh Mahinder Bahadur, Maharaja of Patiala in the memory of Ranjitsinhji.

Ranjisinhji was thorough gentleman and arguably most popular Indian across the globe during his era. According to historian John Lord, Ranjitsinhji was 'the first Indian of any kind to become universally known and popular'.

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