Vijay Hazare: India's first great middle-order batsman

Vijay Hazare: India's first great middle-order batsman

Vijay Hazare was India's first world-class middle order batsman. He led India to their first Test win. He scored two hundreds in an Adelaide Test against the furious pace of Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller, and his skills and craftsmanship marvelled the likes of Don Bradman and Len Hutton.

Updated: March 10, 2016 11:59 AM IST | Edited By: Arunabha Sengupta

However, his indomitable spirit did not really move his teammates to similar feats. In the end, Wisden noted, With all due respects to Hazare, a thorough gentleman and a great cricketer, he was far from the ideal captain. His shy, retiring disposition did not lend itself to forceful authority. According to Merchant, Hazare was always a disciplined soldier, never a commander. Captaincy affected his otherwise unflagging concentration and he was never the same batsman again.

End of Test career

Relieved of captaincy, Hazare s bat continued to notch up huge scores when Pakistan visited. He underlined his class by scoring 76 at Delhi and 146* at his favourite Brabourne Stadium on a difficult wicket. According to the retrofitted ICC batsman rankings, in November 1952 Hazare was number two in the world after Len Hutton.

With Amarnath leaving the Test scene at the end of the series, the captaincy was handed back to Hazare for the series in West Indies in 1952-53.

It hastened a rather sad end to his career. Although the team performed creditably enough, losing only one of the five Tests, Hazare failed miserably with the bat, crossing 50 only once in 10 innings.

Returning to India, he announced his retirement from Test cricket. He continued in the First-Class scene for long, the appearances getting more and more sporadic with years till he finally called it a day in 1967 at the age of 52. By that time, he had already served as a selector and the chairman of the selection committee. He had also been awarded the Padma Shri in 1960.

Hazare appeared in 30 Tests for India, leading the side in 14 of the matches. He scored 2192 runs in all, at a very impressive average of 47.65, with seven hundreds. In First-Class cricket, his amount of runs stands at 18,740, at a staggering 58.38 with 60 centuries.

His efforts with the ball brought him scant success in Tests, with only 20 wickets at an expensive 61 apiece. However, at the First-Class level he could often be quite a handful, scalping 595 wickets at 24.61 with three ten-wicket hauls and a hat-trick.

In 1997, Hazare was diagnosed with intestinal cancer. He was operated upon, but a recurrence set in 2004. BCCI insisted upon paying all his medical expenses, but the treatment was not successful. He passed away a much loved and respected man in December 2004.

The national one-day cricket championship in India has been renamed the Vijay Hazare Trophy in his honour.

(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