Pankaj Roy Biography
Hailing from a zamindar family of Bhagyakul (his ancestors were so rich that they granted a loan to Indian Bank), the bespectacled Pankaj Roy is the greatest opener to emerge from Bengal. With his infallible concentration and rock-solid technique, Roy was a regular feature at the top of the order for India in the 1950s, opening batting with 12 different partners.
Remembered most for the 413-run world record opening stand with Vinoo Mankad that stood half a century, Roy’s career average of 32.56 has a lot to do with his terrible record in England, where he managed an abysmal 13.70 from 9 Tests. Almost as compensation, he mastered West Indies at their den in the 1952-53 series, with 383 runs at 47.87.
Roy started off as a prodigous dual-sportsperson before quitting football. He scored 112 not out on First-Class debut. Drafted into Test cricket, Roy scored a masterful 140 against England in his second Test, and outdid himself three Tests later against the same opposition at Madras, when his 111 and Polly Umrigar’s 130 helped India pull off their first Test victory. Four months later he scored four consecutive ducks in England.
The selectors kept faith in him, and he paid them back with a match-saving 150 at Sabina Park. However, his greatest moment came in 1958-59 after he scored hundreds in four consecutive First-Class innings. He batted 444 minutes at Bombay to save the Test against Roy Gilchrist, Wes Hall, Garry Sobers, and Sonny Ramadhin after India were set to bat almost 10 hours. The following year he led India for the only time.
He met his old mate Gilchrist in the Ranji Trophy quarter-final of 1962-63 again: Gilchrist had vowed to put at least six Bengal batsmen to the hospital, but Roy, staying up all night nursing a bed-ridden relative, held fort with 112 and 118, eliminating Hyderabad single-handedly.
Roy was awarded Padma Shri in 1975, and was appointed Sheriff of Bengal in 2000 — a year before he passed away. His nephew Ambar and son Pranab also played Tests, while his brother Nemailal played for Bengal.