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Dattajirao Krishnarao Gaekwad. PHOTO: Vijay Soneji
Dattajirao Krishnarao Gaekwad, India’s oldest living Test cricketer, will turn 88 on October 27.
He began his 11-match career in India’s 26th Test and ended it in India’s 71st, receiving Rs. 50 for each game he played. He has one particularly interesting record to his name: he was the first batsman to face the great Fred Trueman in Test cricket, which he did opening the innings at Leeds in 1952, when both men debuted.
What were his emotions when he was selected for the tour? “When I got the Test cap in 1952, I was very young,” said Gaekwad. “I would always put on the cap and the blazer, and look at myself in the mirror.”
Leading the country
Gaekwad also captained India on the 1959 tour of England, a curious turn of events, for his record wasn’t especially distinguished. It was indicative of the times. In the preceding home series, against the West Indies, India had as many as four captains: Polly Umrigar, Ghulam Ahmed, Vinoo Mankad and Hemu Adhikari.
Adhikari withdrew from the tour of England, and the national selection committee, chaired by Lala Amarnath, nominated Gaekwad reportedly because he had led Baroda to a Ranji Trophy triumph in 1957-58.
“I never thought I would be named the captain,” Gaekwad said in a recent interview. “All I wanted was to play the game, enjoy it and score runs and be happy. I have always heard of rivalries in the Indian team, right from C. K Nayudu’s time, and how players did not cooperate with each other. But I never had any issues with the players.”
After India was beaten 5-0, Gaekwad lost the captaincy and played just one more Test, nearly two years later in 1961.
Initially influenced by C.S. Nayudu and Vijay Hazare, and subsequently by C.K. Nayudu, Lala Amarnath and Vijay Merchant, the Baroda right-hander was a successful First Class cricketer.
Patronised by Baroda’s royal family during his fledgling and formative years, ‘DK’ — as he is popularly known — made his First Class debut for D.B. Deodhar’s XI against C.K. Nayudu’s XI at the Maharaja Pratapsingh Coronation Gymkhana Ground, Baroda, in March 1944. By the time he ended, in 1963, Gaekwad had 5788 runs from 110 First Class matches.
Five-and-a-half decades after his Test retirement, Gaekwad keeps up with the game, including its Twenty20 variant, on television from time to time. “It is entertainment for the public, not for people like me,” he said. “Today cricket has become a profession. It is a good thing that cricketers are getting more money now. [But] the injuries have increased [as well] with so much cricket played.”