Vijay Merchant (centre) was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year 1936 © Getty Images
Vijay Merchant (centre) was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year 1936 © Getty Images

 

By CricketCountry Staff

 

Vijay Merchant was considered India’s finest opening batsman of his era. World War II meant he only played 10 Tests for India. But he dominated domestic cricket in India, averaging 71.64 – second highest first-class average in history, second only to Sir Don Bradman.

 

Merchant is regarded as the founder of the Bombay school of batsmanship, that placed greater importance on right technique, steely temperament and conservative approach rather than free flow of the bat.

 

His penchant for scoring big prompted England great CB Fry to remark, “Let us paint him white and take him with us to Australia as an opener.”

 

Merchant wore many hats. Apart from being a prolific cricketer, he was a writer, administrator, a cricket broadcaster, a fantastic public speaker and chairman of national selectors. He was also an industrialist and a philanthropist who employed handicapped persons in his textile mills Hindoostan Spinning & Weaving Mills.

 

On his 100th birth centenary, let us look at some of his career achievements:

 

# He represented Bombay in Ranji Trophy between 1933 and 1952. In 47 Ranji Trophy innings he scored 16 centuries, amassed 3639 runs at the astounding average of 98.75.

 

# Overall, he amassed 13470 runs in first-class at a high average of 71.64, with 45 hundreds and 52 fifties.

 

# His first class average of 71.64, is the second highest in history, with only Don Bradman ahead of him.

 

# Of his 45 first-class centuries, 11 of them were in excess of 200, which included a monumental 359 against Maharashtra at Bombay in 1943-44.

 

# He scored six centuries in seven consecutive Ranji innings between 1938-39 and 1941-42.

 

# He was also an occasional right-arm medium pace bowler and scalped 65 wickets at little over 30 per wicket.

 

# He represented India in 10 Tests and averaged 47.72. World War II prevented him from playing more Tests.

 

# All his Test appearance came against England. He toured England twice and scored more than 4,000 runs.

 

# On the tour of England in 1936, he accumulated 1745 runs at 51.32, which included a century in the Manchester Test. He also carryed his bat in both the innings against Lancashire.

 

# He was named as Wisden Cricketer of the Year 1936.

 

# On the 1946 tour of England, Merchant, at 35 years, scored 2385 runs at 74.50 including seven centuries. Wisden commented on his performance, “No praise is too high for Merchant who, on any reckoning should be counted one of the world’s greatest batsmen.”

 

# Merchant was appointed captain for India’s historic tour of Australia in 1947-48, but a groin injury forced him to withdraw from the squad.

 

# The series had already created excitement with Merchant clashing with run-machine Bradman. On Merchant missing on the tour, Bradman had to say this, “We were denied the sight of Vijay Merchant, who must surely have claims to be the greatest of all Indian players.” He also missed the home series against West Indies again due to poor health.

 

# Merchant’s last Test was against England at Delhi, where he signed off with a career best 154