Ranjitsinhji is better know for inventing the leg glance © Getty Images
Ranjitsinhji is better know for inventing the leg glance © Getty Images


By Faisal Caesar


In 1889, an Indian teenager was sent to Cambridge where he learnt cricket and became a popular amateur batsman. He practiced in the Cambridge nets where he was first noticed by FS Jackson, the captain of Cambridge. Jackson noticed the youngster taking on a relay of bowlers almost right through the day and asked him why he was tiring himself out.


The young lad replied: “I must practice endurance. I find it difficult to go on after 30 minutes.”


Jackson was unimpressed and his opinion remained unaltered.


Once while walking across the Parker Piece ground, Jackson found a huge crowd had gathered to watch a match. On enquiring, he found out it was the same Indian youngster who caught the attention of the crowd. Jackson stopped by for a few minutes to watch the lad in action. He then said, “Dangerous cricket, with so many unorthodox strokes.” He was fascinated by the lad going down on his knees to pull a ball to leg!


That boy was none other than Ranjitsinhji – Maharaja Jam Sahib of Nawanagar.


Of course, Ranjitsinhji – or Ranji as he was popularly known – is better known for inventing the leg glance. While practicing at the nets against the fast bowlers, Ranji’s right leg used to move well across to expose his stumps. Dan Hayward, the great English paceman, was unable to persuade him to keep his foot on the ground and play a defensive stroke.


Defensive cricket was not Ranji’s cup of tea. He did not believe in dull batting and it was this approach that saw the birth of one of the greatest scoring strokes in cricket – the leg glance, a shot that Ranji played by moving across, twisting his body, flicking his wrists and smashing the ball round his legs. The bowler, Hayward, was amazed.


The British called it an unconventional stroke. The said it was not cricket.


But Ranji made it a part of cricketing coaching manual as it was a productive stroke. The British were tradition bound and were rigid in their orthodoxy beliefs. However, Ranji brought a revolution with the “leg glance” and freely admitted that it was evolved through the necessity of defending himself.


His late cut which was executed with so much authority that time just stopped to watch his art and talent. But it was his leg glance that was truly mindboggling.


Ranji’s batsmanship was dashing and artistic. It has a blend of the aesthetics with savagery. If his cover drive was poetry in motion, then his pulls were ferocious.


Ranji was the one who introduced the flavour of the subcontinent to the West. In this era we are amazed by various unorthodox strokes executed by Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, but these cricketing legends are just carrying the legacy of Ranji, who gave the British a taste of Indian art.


Ranji was fitting described as a “prince of a small state but the king of a great game.”


(Faisal Caesar is a doctor by profession whose dream of becoming a cricketer remained a dream. But his passion is very much alive and he translates that passion in writing about the game)