April 6, 1954 marks the birthday of one of India’s finest batsmen of all time the backbone of its batting in the middle order, Dilip Vengsarkar. Nicknamed Colonel, Vengsarkar went on to play 116 Tests and 129 ODIs, scoring almost 10000 international runs for India, was the first No. 1 batsman in the world. When the rankings system was introduced in 1987, Vengsarkar led the charts as the No. 1 Test batsman in the world.

Between 1983 India’s World Cup winning year and 1987, Vengsarkar played 35 Tests, scoring 2772 runs at an average of 64.46, higher than the likes of Allan Border, Clive Lloyd, Gordon Greenidge and Sunil Gavaskar. In those five years, Vengsarkar had outscored the best by a comfortable 15-20 runs per innings. In the eighties, he was indisputably the premier batsman of India, more prolific and consistent than Gavaskar, Azhar and Mohinder Amarnath. Yet, more often than not, fans showered far more adulation on far lesser players. He received the Arjuna award in 1981.

Top batsmen in Tests from Prudential Cup 1983 to end of 1987

Player T Runs Ave 100s 50s
Dilip Vengsarkar 35 2772
64.46
11 10
Allan Border 41 3666 61.10 13 12
Clive Lloyd 20 1277 58.04 3 7
Gordon Greenidge 39 2807 51.03 8 8
Mohammad Azharuddin 23 1560 50.32 6 5
Mike Gatting 39 2894 49.89 9 12
Sunil Gavaskar 35 2497 48.01 7 12
Javed Miandad 37 2347 47.89 5 14
Dean Jones 13 999 47.57 2 4
John F Reid 15 1027 46.68 5 1
David Gower 47 3451 46.63 9 16
Martin Crowe 36 2538 46.14 8 9
Viv Richards 39 2284 45.68 7 10
Richie Richardson 29 1819 44.36 6 6

At a venue where some of the big names in the history of cricket have not scored a century, Vengsarkar’s name appears on the Lord’s Honours Board thrice as he remains the only batsman to score three consecutive centuries at the Mecca of Cricket. As a 23 year old, Vengsarkar’s 103 in the second innings saved India from a defeat and escape with a draw.

Top run getters in the 1980s (more than 4000 runs)

Player T Runs Ave 100s 50s
Allan Border 93 6940 53.79 18 39
Javed Miandad 75 5401 53.47 15 24
Dilip Vengsarkar 75 4652 46.05 12 23
Viv Richards 71 4361 45.42 13 22
Sunil Gavaskar 62 4148 45.08 11 20
Gordon Greenidge 73 4980 45.27 13 20
David Gower 89 6446 44.15 14 32
Graham Gooch 56 4587 44.97 11 24
Desmond Haynes 75 4837 41.69 12 26
Allan Lamb 68 4027 36.60 13 14

In 1982, Vengsarkar’s 157 stood out even though it couldn’t save India from a defeat, costing them the series. Four years later as India created history by winning a Test series in England under Kapil Dev, Vengsarkar was the leading run-scorer for the team with 360 runs for which he was named Man of the Series with hundreds at Lord’s and Leeds. He was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1987, the same year when he won the Padma Shri.

Vengsarkar was the third-leading Test run-getter of the 80s, behind Border and Miandad, tallying 4652 runs at an average of 46.05 with 12 hundreds and 23 half-centuries. Long after he was done, Vengsarkar was appointed the BCCI chairman of selectors in 2006, and picked the Indian team that created history in 2007, winning the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa under MS Dhoni.