Shri Ranjitsinhji (born in India, Sept. 10, 1872) | Daily News

Shri Ranjitsinhji (born in India, Sept. 10, 1872)

Now that the Indian cricket team has smothered us and we are licking our wounds it would be nice to dig deep and fish out a story about one of the oldest Indian cricketers by the name of Shri Ranjitsinhji (Ranji).

In W.G. Grace’s book Cricketing Reminiscences & Personal Recollections he stated that without doubt “Ranji was one of the most interesting figures in the cricket field then. His popularity has two sources - his extraordinary skill as a batsman and his nationality. How a man of his slender physique and apparently delicate constitution has so completely mastered the art of batting as to score with outstanding rapidity and ease of all manner of bowling upon every variety of wicket was simply wonderful.” Ranji laid the foundation of his cricket career in India, but he perfected himself in England. It was at Rajkumar College at Kathiawar that he learned the rudiments of the game, but it was on Parker’s piece at Cambridge that he acquired the different strokes, unerring judgment which had made him famous. It is a little curious to recall that it was as a substitute that he made his first appearance in Trinity College team at Cambridge, and it is even more remarkable that the authorities at Cambridge did not think that the Indian Prince worthy of his blue until 1893. Then he qualified to play for Sussex and in his first year in county cricket played thirty three innings with an average of 41. It has been said that Sussex made “Ranji” and “Ranji” in return made Sussex. Someone has waggishly suggested that “Ranji” qualified for Sussex so as to make sure of playing ten innings a year, on the Hove ground, for which like most batsmen he has a partiality on account of the facility it gives to batting. Grace further adds that in Ranji’s second year in county cricket, he met with remarkable success, heading the first class averages with an aggregate of 2780 runs (which surpassed Grace’s aggregate by 34 runs). Ten times he exceeded the century, and when playing against Sussex vs Yorkshire he made over a hundred in each innings of one match. In Australia with Stoddart’s team Ranji maintained his brilliant form scoring 1372 runs in all matches, with an average of 54.88. Returning via India he made a long stay in his native land and so missed the cricket season of 1898, much to the regret of English spectators, with whom he is deservedly popular, notes Grace. Ranji is unique as a batsman. Most batsmen have one or two favourite strokes of which they are masters. Ranji has half a dozen strokes, which he plays with perfect ease and almost with mechanical precision. Some of them are what one may call “unorthodox.” I am afraid that when he gets older his habit of stepping in front of his wicket to play straight balls to leg will cost him his wicket, adds Grace.

Even with his wonderful hawklike, eye sight he frequently gets out leg before the wicket (if one reminisce Tillakaratne Dilshan is a classic example) trying to play to leg which keeps lower than he expected. He plays allround with extraordinary skill, but is seen at his best in a leg glance, which with him is an exceedingly pretty stroke. This was his favourite hit and delighted his onlookers. At hitting a high long hop to leg is almost infallible. Grace also stated that Ranji could drive well, as he has been showing lately but he prefers to score behind, or square with the wicket and by his genius for timing often scores to leg, or behind the wicket, off balls other batsmen would have to drive. He was comfortable with any bowling and seems to treat all bowlers with the same unconcern.

The stories about Ranji are numerous notes Grace. His puzzling name has made him the victim of every wit in the cricket field. It has been said that the newspaper compositers struck against setting his name in type, and appealed for his patronymic to be changed to Smith. But one of the best stories of the Indian Prince is vouched for by Cambridge journalist who collaborated with Ranji in writing his “Jubilee Book of Cricket.” When Ranji was at Cambridge he went on a tour with the Cassandra Cricket Club. A member of an opposing side inquired “if that dark chap could speak English?” They speedily foreseeing possibilities replied seriously that he knew a few words such as ‘Yes” and “No” and “How’s that?” When the unconscious Ranji went to the wicket to his great astonishment he heard some lively criticism of his batting. He made characteristically huge score, and every now and then someone will ejaculate, (this is the very word pl. publish). “Here isn’t it time this fellow went out?” Once when the ball struck Ranji in the chest and doubled him up, the fielding captain audibly hoped that it would “knock some of the steam of the bugger”! At the subsequent luncheon, when Ranjitsinhji rose to toast genially the home side, several faces were seen to change colour.

Among cricketers Ranji was exceedingly popular, his open heart generosity and geniality having captured all their hearts, concluded W.G. Grace.

This was the way white Sahibs treated the WOGS (Western Orientated Gents) in my time in England and some local yokels without firsthand experience “still bum suck them”.


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