Home > Features > Moments in history >

When Raja Maharaj Singh, Governor of Bombay, made his First-Class debut at 72

A debut at the age of 72

Bombay Governor’s XI captain Maharaj Singh walked out for the toss at the Brabourne Stadium (top) with Commonwealth XI skipper Les Ames © Getty Images

In a match between the Commonwealth XI and Bombay Governor’s XI that came to an end exactly 62 years ago, a venerable man in his seventies made his debut in First-Class cricket. Arunabha Sengupta recounts the curious tale of the oldest First-Class cricketer in the history of the game.

Raja Maharaj Singh hailed from the Kapurthala royal family. Born in 1878, he was 70 by the time he became the first Indian Governor of Bombay.

Educated at Harrow and Balliol College, Oxford, he was called to Bar by the Middle Temple in 1902. Knighted in 1933, his career was a glittering journey as a top brass in the government, including a short term as the Prime Minister of Kashmir. The honour of being appointed the first Governor of Bombay post independence might have been the final feather in his royal cap.

However, he achieved something even more remarkable after that.

Perhaps he was influenced by his British education – which may have made him aware that he was stepping into illustrious shoes. The famous Britons who had acted as Governor Generals of the Presidency of Bombay included Lord Harris, the second ever captain of the English Test cricket team, and Lord Willingdon, an excellent cricketer who turned out several times for Sussex.

So, when the strong Commonwealth XI toured India and Ceylon in 1950-51, Maharaj Singh accepted the role of the captain of the Bombay Governor’s XI in late November, 1950.

Captained by Les Ames, the Commonwealth XI comprised of players of the quality of Eddie Paynter, Jim Laker, Derek Shackleton, George Emmett, George Tribe, Jack Ikin, Dick Spooner and Sonny Ramadhin.

The Bombay Governor’s XI also contained several current and future Test stars in Rusi Modi, Madhusudan Rege, Commandur Rangachari, Chandrasekhar Gadkari, Vijay Rajindernath, Ghulam Ahmed and the Yuvraj (by then Maharaja) of Patiala.

And at the age of 72, debutant Maharaj Singh walked out to toss with Ames at the Brabourne Stadium.

Bombay Governor’s XI batted first, and on the first afternoon, with the score on 162 for seven, Maharaj walked out to bat for the first time in First-Class cricket. He was by far the oldest player to play at this level, and by even more substantial distance the oldest debutant ever.

The venerable batsman got off the mark by edging Jim Laker for three. He managed another single before he was caught by Emmett at slip off Laker. The 44-year difference between the ages of the batsman and bowler involved in a dismissal is perhaps another unbreakable record set by the brave man on that day.

Maharaj took no further part in the game. The Maharaja of Patiala led the side while the scoreboard showed absent ill against the name of the Governor in the second innings. Commonwealth XI won by an innings and 173 runs.

During Mahraj Singh’s tenure as the Governor of Bombay till 1952, Rusi Modi served as his aide-de-camp.

Eight and a half years after his First-class debut, Maharaj Singh passed away in Lucknow. He was eighty.

(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)

World T20 League 2014

Oct 2, 2014 (16:00 IST)   at Hyderabad

World T20 League 2014

Oct 2, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Hyderabad

West Indies tour of India 2014, Practice match

Oct 3, 2014 (09:00 IST)   at Mumbai

Matador BBQs One-Day Cup, 2014

Oct 4, 2014 (05:00 IST)   at Woolloongabba, Brisbane

Matador BBQs One-Day Cup, 2014

Oct 4, 2014 (05:00 IST)   at Brisbane

More

World T20 League 2014

Sep 30, 2014  at Bengaluru

Barbados won by 6 wkts (D/L method)

World T20 League 2014

Sep 30, 2014  at Bengaluru

Perth Scorchers won by 3 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 29, 2014  at Hyderabad

Kolkata Knight Riders won by 36 runs

World T20 League 2014

Sep 28, 2014  at Mohali

Kings XI Punjab won by 7 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 28, 2014  at Mohali

Hobart Hurricanes won by 6 wkts

Photos

Cricket on Mt. Kilimanjaro

Videos

Brian Lara speaks on the art of batting

Mitchell Marsh helps Perth Scorchers clinch 3-wicket victory against Lahore Lions in CLT20 2014

Live Cricket Score Barbados Tridents vs Northern Knights CLT20 2014 Match 20: Barbados Tridents win by 6 wickets

Gautam Gambhir becomes second player after MS Dhoni to captain in 100 T20 matches

Consecutive century opening partnerships in ODIs for each team

Have Manish Pandey’s T20 performances eclipsed his impressive First-Class record?

Asian Games Asian Games 2014 Cape Cobras Champions League T20 2014 Chennai Super Kings CLT20 CLT20 2014 Dolphins India at Asian Games 2014 Kings XI Punjab Lahore Lions Perth Scorchers

Barbados Tridents vs Northern Knights, Match 20, CLT20 2014: Barbados register 6-wicket win in final group match

Barbados Tridents vs Northern Knights CLT20 2014 Match 20: Tridents have their maiden win in CLT20 0214

Barbados Tridents vs Northern Knights CLT20 2014 Match 20: After decent start by Tridents, Knights make comeback with late wickets

Bangladesh Cricket Board: Nadir Shah ban still on

Barbados Tridents vs Northern Knights CLT20 2014 Match 20: Knights set target of 138 (D/L) in 19 overs

Top score by a batsman whose teammates scored less than 10 each in a T20

Gautam Gambhir becomes second player after MS Dhoni to captain in 100 T20 matches

Lahore Lions vs Perth Scorchers Match 19 CLT20 2014: Lahore likely XI

CLT20 2014: Lahore Lions vs Perth Scorchers Match 19 — Key Battles

Consecutive century opening partnerships in ODIs for each team

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

671 Posts | 6 Fans

Kolkata Knight Riders vs Kings XI Punjab- Final Match Highlights from IPL 2014

Health Minister says UHAM to be world’s largest public health insurance programme

Bigg Boss 8 Day 9 recap: Gautam Gulati faces punishment for his antics

NGOs pursue education for all

Bigg Boss 8 highlights: Payback time for Deepshikha Nagpal’s team with reverse Hijack, RJ Preetam’s team blames him for their defeat

Microsoft’s Windows 10 unveiled

Pankaj Kapur saw son Shahid Kapoor’s Haider and said “It’s Okay”

Barbados Tridents vs Northern Knights, Match 20, CLT20 2014: Barbados register 6-wicket win in final group match

Sex after pregnancy — how to get her in the mood

Ello might be ad-free, but it is far from claiming Facebook’s throne

International programme in Animal Husbandry

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here