Vizzy: 15 things to know about the controversial Indian captain

Maharajkumar of Vizianagram, aka Vizzy, born on December 28, 1905 is one of the most controversial cricketers to have played for India. A cricketer of mediocre abilities, he used his power and clout to become the captain of India during the 1936 tour to England, which remains one of the most forgettable sojourns in the country’s cricketing history.

Nishad Pai Vaidya picks 15 things you should know about Vizzy.

1. Royal heritage

Vizzy was born into the princely state of Vizianagram, which is in modern day Andhra Pradesh. However, since he was the younger son, he could not ascend to the throne and had to relocate to Varanasi, United Provinces, which is Uttar Pradesh today.

2. Naming

Vizzy’s real name is Vijay Ananda Gajapathi Raju. He was given the nickname of “Vizzy” during his cricketing days.

3. Opposition to the Ranji Trophy

Vizzy was opposed to the idea of having the Ranji Trophy, on the ground that the great man had played for England and had termed himself an “English cricketer.” Instead, he got a Willingdon Trophy made, in honour of the then Viceroy of India. However, that move did not bear fruit.

4. Getting the best in service

When Vizzy made his own team in 1930, called the Maharajkumar of Vizianagram’s XI, he employed the services of the best in business. Herbert Sutcliffe and Jack Hobbs opened the batting for them. Colonel CK Nayudu and S Mushtaq Ali were some of the other eminent Indian players who were a part of the side. Learie Constantine also played for his side during one of the Moin-ud-Dowlah tournaments in Hyderabad.

5. Captaincy ambitions

Vizzy always wanted to play for India at the highest level and even lead them. During India’s maiden Test tour to England in 1932, he was the designated deputy vice captain, but could not go. Four years down the line, he played numerous games and worked his way to become the captain of the Indian team on their second official tour to England.

6. Miserable performances

Vizzy was no good player by any means as the statistics suggest. In three Tests, on that tour, he scored only 33 runs at an average of 8.25. He did not bowl. His overall First-Class average during that tour was 16.25, which was better but not at its best. Needless to say, he never played for India again.

7. Feuds with fellow players

The 1936 tour to England was perhaps one of the most acrimonious in the history of Indian cricket. Vizzy’s cricketing acumen was much inferior to the likes of Lala Amarnath and CK Nayudu. He had Amarnath sent back for disciplinary reasons and also had a feud with Nayudu. In fact, Baqa Jilani won a Test cap only because he insulted Nayudu at breakfast once. He had also famously asked Mushtaq Ali to run-out Vijay Merchant during the second Test in Manchester, but they went on to have a 203-run stand.

8. Dismissal from Indian captaincy

The Beaumont Committee was put in place when the Amarnath sacking scandal hit Indian cricket. Initially, they had asked for Amarnath to return to England to resume the tour but Vizzy managed to wade it away. However, when the final report was out a year later, Vizzy was taken off captaincy.

9. Spot fixing?

Was Vizzy the first spot-fixer in history? During the 1936 tour to England, he famously asked the opposition to bowl full-tosses and easy deliveries to him. As a reward, he would present gold-watches etc. What would that act be called in modern days?

10. Kanpur

Vizzy did some good work off the field though. It was due to his efforts that Green Park, Kanpur became a Test venue in India.

11. BCCI President

Vizzy also served as an administrator as he was the President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for three years, i.e. from 1954 to 1957. It was quite surprising that he was instrumental in getting Amarnath back in the team, that too as captain. For Uttar Pradesh, he could get the services of Nayudu, to play for them at the age of 61. So much for the bitterness of 1936!

12. Commentary

Vizzy turned to commentary in later life and was a part of the BBC panel during the 1959 tour to England. However, he was very boring. Once, when he was boasting about killing a tiger, Rohan Kanhai famously said, “Really? I thought you just left a transistor radio on when you were commentating and bored them to death.” During one of the Test matches, he had almost celebrated a wicket close to end of day’s play, so much so that All India Radio ended his broadcast and turned their attention to the studio.

13. Knighted during playing days and other honours

Despite those embarrassing numbers, Vizzy remains the only Test cricketer to be knighted during his playing days. He was given the knighthood during the tour to England in 1936. He was also the second Indian cricketer to be awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1958.

14. Feud with journalist leads to diplomatic incident

EM Wellings, a well-known journalist, had travelled to India for the Test series in 1961-62. During the Delhi Test, he sat in the seats that were reserved for Vizzy. When Vizzy’s valet came there, Wellings refused to get up and that did not go well with the prince. Such was the seriousness of the issue that the British High Commissioner had to come in and resolve the issue. Wellings agreed to give Vizzy his seat.

15. Son also a First-Class cricketer

Vizzy’s son AV Venkatesh Singh played three First-Class matches in the 1960s. He represented Uttar Pradesh and Andhra. He went wicketless and scored only 18 runs in his six innings.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)