Professor DB Deodhar. Caricature: Austin Gerard Coutinho
Professor DB Deodhar. Caricature: Austin Gerard Coutinho

On December 9 and December 11, 1944, 52-year old Professor DB Deodhar scored hundreds in each innings for Maharashtra in their Ranji Trophy match against Nawanagar. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the immortal feat of the Grand Old Man of Indian cricket.

Professor Dinkar Balwant Deodhar never played Test cricket. He was no doubt one of the premier batsmen of India in his days which spanned a whopping 34 First-Class seasons. But by the time India qualified as a Test-playing nation he was 40 and the selectors considered him past his prime.

However, Professor Deodhar had other ideas. He batted on, leaving lesser men to be washed away by the relentless flow of time.When not playing cricket, he taught Sanskrit at Pune s SP College, and the ancient language perhaps lent him a different perspective about age.

In 1937-38, he scored a hundred for Maharashtra against Lord Tennyson s MCC.

Before the 1939-40 Ranji season, Maharashtra had never won a single match in the competition. Deodhar led them to win the Trophy for successive seasons 1939-40 and 1940-41.

At the Poona Club Ground against Vijay Merchant s Bombay in November 1940, two months short of his 49th birthday, Deodhar amassed 246 in Maharashtra s 675. It was on the same ground, more than a dozen years after the selectors had cited age to ignore him for the inaugural Test tour, that Deodhar achieved another miraculous feat.

Century in each innings at the age of 52

Maharashtra was playing their first Ranji Trophy match of 1944-45, and found the Nawanagar medium-pacer Mubarak Ali difficult to handle. Fifty-two-year-old Deodhar walked into a crisis situation with his side on 34 for 3. Soon, it became 46 for 5.

However, in wicketkeeper Yeshwant Gokhale, Deodhar found an able ally, and he launched into a courageous display of controlled aggression. His batting was always based on orthodoxy, particularly strong on the off side. His strokes were wristy and combined with perfect timing, generating all the necessary speed to beat the fielders. That December day, he timed the ball delightfully as he combined in a 135-run sixth wicket stand. Crossing 4,000 First-Class runs when on 91, he brought up his hundred in just 150 minutes.

By the time Man Singh trapped him leg-before for 105, the Nawanagar attack had lost its sting, and all-rounders Madhusudan Rege and Krishnarao Jadhav pummelled the bowling to take the hosts to 372.

The Nawanagar batsmen were all at sea against the leg-breaks and googlies of Sadu Shinde and managed only 131 in response. Deodhar decided not to enforce follow-on and allowed his batsmen to make merry, dropping himself down the order.

He found himself walking out to bat again on the third morning with Madhav Paranjape at the other end, the score reading 147 for 6.The match was as good as in the bag, and Maharashtra were looking for some quick runs for a declaration. Deodhar decided to attack right from the start, piercing the field again and again with a burst of energy that would have been remarkable in a man half his age. Paranjape was more of a spectator as the venerable man raced to his fifty in just 65 minutes and then shifted a couple of gears to get to his hundred a mere 32 minutes after that.

His second century of the match contained 16 hits to the fence. After the landmark, he batted another 23 minutes mauling the hapless Nawanagar bowlers for six fours and a six. When he was stumped off Mubarak Ali after a whirlwind 141 made in exactly two hours, Maharashtra were 363 for 7. Deodhar had added 216 with Paranjape in 120 minutes.

Deodhar declared the innings immediately, and Nawanagar folded for 115 in the second innings. At the age of 52, Deodhar had scored a century in each innings.

The Grand Old Man of Indian cricket played till the 1946-47 season. The Kent all-rounder Bill Ashdown is the only other cricketer to have played First-Class cricket before the First World War as well as after the Second.

Professor DB Deodhar managed a century in the long innings of his life as well, reaching 101 before passing away in 1993.

Brief scores:

Maharashtra 372 (DB Deodhar 105, Yeshwant Gokhale 58, Madhusudan Rege 52, Krishnarao Jadhav 84; Mubarak Ali 6 for 96) and 363 for 7 decl. (Ebbu Ghazali 46, DB Deodhar 141, Madhav Paranjpe 65; Mubarak ali 3 for 102) beat Nawanagar 131 (RK Yadavendrasinhji 42; Sadu Shinde 5 for 17) and 115 (Sadu Shinde 4 for 29) by 489 runs.

(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)