Vijay Hazare Biography
Vijay Hazare took some time to stamp his name in the international arena, but when he did so it was with a seal of permanence.
There were whispers that went around the Indian cricketing circles that regardless of veritable mountains of runs in the Pentangular and Ranji Trophy, Hazare batsman was not quite suited for Test cricket. This was despite his epic 309 in the Pentangular — scored out of a total of 387.
That was until the Adelaide Test, 1947-48, when Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller, Ernie Toshack, Colin McCool and Ian Johnson sent down the best they could and the Indian maestro serenely batted his way to 116 and 145 in two extraordinary innings — the only instance of a batsman scoring Test hundreds on consecutive days till now. The feat has gone down in the folklore of Indian cricket.
Perhaps less frequently recalled is that of the four times the Indians got Don Bradman’s wicket during the Test series, Hazare dismissed him twice. Apart from being one of the greatest ever Indian batsmen, Hazare was also a useful medium-pacer who could be quite devastating on occasions in First-Class cricket.
From 1947 to 1952, in every Test series, official or unofficial, Hazare either scored the highest number of runs for India or, failing that, finished with the best batting average. During these five years, he scored 3,186 runs at 69 per innings, 1875 of them in 22 Test matches at 60.48, and 1,311 in the spate of unofficial ‘Tests’ at 87.40.
From his favoured position of number four, he revelled at his undertaking as the post-disaster reconstruction man. Often one saw him face as much of the bowling as possible, from both ends — a course of action dictated by security measures rather than selfish hogging of the strike. Hazare was often burdened with the plight of many an Indian batting great — that of being the only consistent man in the line-up, the foundation who was also expected to develop the structure of the innings.
John Arlott, an ardent admirer, wrote about him during that 1946 tour: “Hazare is never satisfied with his score and is incapable of throwing away his wicket. The century mark, the double-century mark, are only milestones in an unvarying pace of scoring… he is concerned with scores and is developing into a capable machine for making them.” He also recalled him as a recluse.
Coached by Clarrie Grimmett, Hazare’s stance at the wicket was far from pleasing. Neither was his grip orthodox; nor was the technique copybook. He seldom moved writers to poetic eulogies — the flowery tributes came much later, wrapped in the gold dust of time, through a combination of the unseen innings and rosy retrospection. He was not known for grace and artistry. His value to Indian cricket was far more unique, in the currency of actual runs and consistency. He made lots and lots of runs. And led India to their maiden Test victory.
Fred Trueman remarked that he was ‘as good a player of fast bowling as there was in the world at that time. He was a lean, resolute man who stood as erect as a Grecian pillar.' More memorably, Trueman vouched that Hazare was a perfect ‘gentleman.’
According to Arlott again, “Hazare has the finest temperament for a cricketer, not a man with ‘no nerves at all’ but a man with nerves which key him to the peak of his powers when the situation most demands it… He captures runs and wickets, but not the imagination — a fact which, I am sure, does not disturb him a scrap.”