Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Reading about the remarkable Ranji

I've reached the year 1896 in RAMACHANDRA GUHA'S comprehensive history of cricket in India, "A CORNER OF A FOREIGN FIELD," and the action has shifted to England.
That's because 1896 marks the debut of the first Indian cricket to play Test cricket -- for ENGLAND.
Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji, better known as RANJI, was an Indian prince who traveled to England in 1891 to attend Jesus College, Cambridge.
It was at the university that he displayed his batting prowess, and he parlayed this success into a spot in the Sussex county cricket team.
By the time AUSTRALIA came to England for their 1896 tour, there were growing calls to include Ranji in the England team.
These were rejected by MCC President Lord Harris before the Test match at Lord's Cricket Ground, but were finally heeded before the second Test at Old Trafford.
Good decision.
A contemporary sportswriter described Ranji as "a wizard of the bat, an artist in run-getting, a general in resource."
In England's first innings, Ranji scored 62 runs and the hosts were made to follow-on by the Australians.
It was in England's second innings that the Indian prince announced his arrival on the world cricket scene.
Ranji made 154 runs not out, becoming only the second batsman to make a century on his England Test debut. He was also the first to score 100 before lunch in a Test match, at one point scoring 113 runs in a mere 130 minutes.
Australia (412 & 125-7) defeated England (231 & 305) by three wickets, but the hosts had found a new star. Ranji played 14 more Test matches for England before returning to INDIA. He scored 989 runs in his Test career.
Writing in 1904, Patrick Geddes said Ranji:
"Has done us no end of good; he has raised the popular esteem and respect for India in the man in the street more than a new Buddha would have done."


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