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regular-article-logo Monday, 15 April 2024

India's oldest Test cricketer Dattajirao Gaekwad, man with silken drive, dies at 95

The right-hander Gaekwad made his debut against England at Leeds in 1952 and his final international game was against Pakistan in Madras in 1961

The Telegraph Published 14.02.24, 06:21 AM
Dattajirao Gaekwad

Dattajirao Gaekwad Sourced by the Telegraph

An accidental Indian captain who matched the peerless Vijay Hazare stroke for stroke with a cover drive to die for, Dattajirao Gaekwad should have played more than 11 Tests, given the talent this player from Baroda possessed.

On Tuesday, Gaekwad died in his hometown Baroda at the age of 95. Statistically, he was the oldest living Indian Test cricketer since the death of Deepak Shodhan in 2016.

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A nightmare for the Bombay teams of the 1950s, those cover drives, unfortunately, never really came off when he played at the highest level from 1952 to 1961.

His son Aunshuman, who played 40 Tests from the 1970s to the 80s, was more successful with a tight defensive technique compared to his father.

But in those first two and half decades post-Independence, not every cricketer could always be judged through the prism of statistics. A Test average of less than 20 spread ac­ross nine years came at a time when the national team was losing more than winning.

He also led India in four of the five Tests during their disastrous tour of England in 1959. For the naysayers, his elevation smacked of nepotism as he was perceived to be close to Fatehsinh Gaekwad, the erstwhile Maharaja of Baroda, who was the manager of the national team.

Wisden wasn’t exactly ch­aritable about his leadership, documenting that his captaincy “lacked verve and personality” while summing up the series. The solace was that none other than the best British cri­cket writer of that generation, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, termed his cover drives “delightfully crisp”.

The right-hander made his debut against England at Leeds in 1952 and his final international game was against Pakistan in Madras in 1961.

As an Indian captain, he will enjoy his little piece of history and no one can take that away from him.

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