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Indrajitsinhji: A blue-blooded cricketer who was born at the wrong time

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KS Indrajitsinhji… followed in the steps of his great-uncle Ranji and uncle Duleep into the Test arena. Photo courtesy: Indrajisinhji family

KS Indrajitsinhji, born June 15, 1937, was a long-serving wicket-keeper batsman in domestic cricket who played four Test matches for India.  A nephew of the great Duleepsinhji, Indrajitsinhji and Chandu Borde combined in a memorable ninth wicket partnership in the 1964-65 Bombay Test against Australia to clinch one of the most memorable match victories in the history of Indian cricket. Arunabha Sengupta recalls the career of the blue-blooded cricketer.

Jamnagar of the present day, formerly known as Nawanagar, houses the world’s biggest oil refinery — belonging to Reliance Industries. However, historically, the city was the seat of the Jadejas. It had been substantially renovated by Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji during the 1920s. Saying adieu to cricket, the Jamsahib, the erstwhile oriental magician with the willow, had turned his attention to his state and building Jamnagar had been one of his major initiatives.

Four years after Ranji’s death in 1933, and five years after his brilliant nephew KS Dupleepsinhji had to give up cricket to preserve his health, a new scion of the family saw the light of the day in this very city.

From his lineage and family tree, Kumar Shri Madhavsinhji Jadeja Indrajitsinhji was perhaps expected to set the cricket grounds on fire with deeds to match the length and expanse of his name. In the end, his number of Test matches ended one short of the number of initials of his name.

Yet he did have his moments and his career did leave some interesting marks.

Having chosen keeping wickets as his day job, he was disadvantaged by time. He was born in the same era as Budhi Kunderan and Farokh Engineer. Impressive behind the stumps and dependable in front, Indrajitsinhji was not quite of the same standard as his illustrious contemporaries. He kept with a lot of distinction for Saurashtra and Delhi, and sometimes made it to the Zonal level, playing tournaments named after great-uncle Ranji and uncle Duleep respectively. Yet, for most of his career the Test arena remained out of bounds.

On Indian tracks he excelled, especially when keeping to spinners. He kept ably to the likes of Subhash Gupte and Bapu Nadkarni. With the bat he was considered good enough to open the innings on occasions. Unfortunately, so were the other two gentlemen — with distinctly more skill.

Opportunity came his way finally in 1964-65 when Bobby Simpson’s men visited India. Both the frontline ’keepers were dropped from the team for reasons unclear. Indrajitsinhji pouched behind the wicket for the first time after 10 years spent in the domestic circuit. With Bill Lawry and Bobby Simpson’s celebrated collaboration at the top, no snicks came his way for long. However, after almost an hour’s play Simpson went forward to Salim Durani, was beaten by the turn, and the bails were whipped off by alert hands. Indrajitsinhji had finally registered on the international scoreboard. He went on to take three catches in the match as well.

He opened the innings on his Test debut — sent in with ML Jaisimha more as a stop-gap arrangement than with confidence and vision. The results were dismal. Neil Hawke got him to snick to the wicketkeeper for four in the first innings and got past his defence to hit the stumps for a duck in the second. Hanumant Singh, Indrajit’s cousin, fought hard with 94, but Australia won by 139 runs.

The second Test at Brabourne Stadium, Bombay, was the highlight of his career. He did a decent job behind the wickets, and stumped Brian Booth at an important juncture in the second innings. Having been relegated to lowly No 10 from the elevated status of an opening batsman, he put his head down to make a sensible 23. It was in the second innings that he became part of history. Chasing 254 to win, India slumped to 122 for six, before being revived by a 93-run partnership between captain Nawab of Pataudi Junior and Vijay Manjrekar. When both were dismissed within a space of nine runs, Indrajitsinhji walked in at 224 for eight, still 30 runs away from victory. He batted for 41 nerve-racking minutes, scoring just three, but in the process helped Chandu Borde put on 32 to clinch a narrow victory. It was quite an achievement against Graham McKenzie, Alan Connolly and Tom Veivers. As the victorious duo made their way back to the pavilion, Borde’s bat was snatched away by an enthusiastic fan.

Indrajitsinhji did precious little in the third Test in Calcutta, aside from stumping McKenzie off Rusi Surti and being stumped by Barry Jarman himself. His performances were not enough to cement his place in the side, and after the series both Engineer and Kunderan were back.

It was an injury to Engineer which gave him another opportunity in 1969-70, when Graham Dowling’s New Zealanders were in India. In the third Test at Hyderabad, Indrajitsinhji kept to Bishan Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna and Srinivas Venkataraghavan. His contribution was limited to one catch, and dismal scores of seven and 12 as the opener. The match was marred by ugly riots, which held up the proceedings for a considerable while. With India looking down the barrel of the gun in the second innings, the score reading 76 for seven, the match was saved by a heavy splash of rain followed by some deliberately tardy efforts at mopping up the water from the ground. Indrajitsinhji, who had let through a few byes in the second innings, never played for India again.

The 51 runs, three stumpings and six catches were all that he accomplished in the four Tests. However, he continued to play First-Class cricket for three more seasons, and appeared in as many as 90 matches. While 3694 runs at 26.76 with five hundreds mark him out as a useful batsman, the incredible feature in his career was the ratio between catches and stumpings. He held 133 catches and effected 80 stumpings during in First-Class cricket, a remarkably high proportion of stumpings – one of the highest —in the post Second World War era.

Indrajitsinhji remained in touch with the game by helping several Saurashtra players emerge as stars of Bombay. One such cricketer who went on to serve India with distinction was Karsan Ghavri. Renowned for an astute cricketing brain, he was also reputed to have a finely developed sense of the history of the game.

Indrajitsinhji passed away in 2011 after a battle with cancer.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)

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