He might have played in the inaugural Test match of India in 1932 had he not dropped out in protest because Mahatma Gandhi and many other freedom fighters were languishing in jail. He
He might have played in the inaugural Test match of India in 1932 had he not dropped out in protest because Mahatma Gandhi and many other freedom fighters were languishing in jail. He

The first great batsman of India, Vijay Merchant played just 10 Tests across 18 long years and finished with a decent 859 runs at 47.72. It was, however, in First-Class cricket that he became Bradmanesque, rising to stratospheric levels only The Don could aspire to. His overall average stands at 71.64 for his 13,470 runs, putting him right next to the Australian’s 95.14. His figures for Bombay in Ranji Trophy would have made even the great man proud — 3,639 runs at a staggering 98.35. He was born on October 12, 1911.

There was another striking similarity. Like Bradman, Merchant played his entire Test cricket in two countries — at home and in England. In fact, Merchant’s career was even more lopsided — all his Tests were played against England.

He might have played in the inaugural Test match of India in 1932 had he not dropped out in protest because Mahatma Gandhi and many other freedom fighters were languishing in jail. He ultimately made his debut against Douglas Jardine’s men in 1933-34 as a middle-order batsman. By the time he toured England in 1936, Merchant was acknowledged as one of the best batsmen of the country. By the end of the trip he was hailed as one of the best of the world.

His technique had been perfected — his footwork was exceptional, his drives crisp, his late cuts and leg-glances delicate, and his hook superlative. Due to lack of alternatives, he was pushed to open the innings where he stayed for the rest of his career. His exploits during the tour led CB Fry to exclaim, “Let us paint him white and take him with us to Australia as an opener.”

Read more about India’s Bradman here. Although he managed to play just 10 Test matches in his career, Vijay Merchant, born October 12, 1911, still stands as one of the greatest batsmen produced by India. Arunabha Sengupta remembers the legendary opener on his birthday.

Here are 22 alluring facts to know about the Bradman of India. Also Read: Vijay Merchant: Life and times