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From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 2

Vijay Ananda Gajapathi Raju, Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram aka Vizzy
Vijay Ananda Gajapathi Raju, Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram aka Vizzy
Though one can write about C K Nayudu with awe and respect, the same is not true about the man captaining India on its 1936 England tour. It is said that the captain is always only as good as his team, but this man, though having a much balanced and talented team compared to the 1932 sojourn with the Colonial masters, he was not able to make good use of his players. On the contrary, in this tour it was the captain Lieutenant Colonel Vijay Ananda Gajapathi Raju, (Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram) aka Vizzy who was the chief detriment to his team’s performance.

There was an excellent ppening batting pair of Vijay Merchant and Syed Mushtaq Ali. The middle order boasted names like Syed Wazir Ali, C K Naidu and L P Jai. There were two world class allrounders in Amar Singh and Lala Amarnath and one of the best wicketkeeper in Dattaram Hindlekar. This was a formidable squad, yet it didn’t perform to it’s potential in England.

In the first test at Lords, England won the toss and put India in. India started well with Vijay merchant and Dattaram Hindlekar defying the new ball and putting on 62 runs for the first wicket. But after that, the batsmen went to the wicket to bat and batted as if they were very concerned about the scorers and thought that it was better if the scorers not be troubled by scoring runs. Here, the captain played a captain’s knock as well as his limited abilities would allow him and from 97 for 6, guided the Indian team to a somewhat respectable score of 147. Vizzy’s opposite number, Gubby Allen was the wrecker in chief, taking five wickets for a mere 35 runs.

India covered up their bad batting performance by responding well with the ball. Amar Singh took 6 wickets for 35, Nissar 3 for 36 and CK Naidu took one for 10. In spite of Maurice Leyland’s defiant 60, England were skittled for 134, giving India a slender lead of 13 runs. In the Indian second innings, Gubby Allen took his second five wicket haul of the match, Headley Verity claimed four wickets, and Indian innings folded up for 93, which was the first of the many subsequent spineless Indian batting performances at Lords.

England needed a mere 107 runs to win, which they easily got losing a solitary wicket of Mitchell and Harold Gimblett scoring 67. India had lost by 9 wickets. In the second test at Manchester, one of the most dazzlingly audacious performance of the Indian Cricket team was seen. In the first innings, nearly all the Indian batsmen got starts, but couldn’t convert them to big scores. India scored 203, with Syed Wazir Ali top-scoring with 42. England responded with a mammoth 571/8 declared, with the mighty Hammond making a handsome 167, and Stan Worthington, Joe Hardstaff Jr., Headley Verity and Walter Robbins getting half centuries. England plundered the Indian bowling, which looked toothless.

India went in to bat again, facing an innings defeat, and least would have anyone expected what happened after that. An ideal opening partnership, where one dashed and other blocked was made. The stoic Vijay Merchant scored 114 and the debonair flamboyant Mushtaq Ali scored a blistering 112. Mushtaq beat Merchant by minutes to score India’s maiden test match century overseas. His batting was superlative in that innings. The great Neville Cardus wrote,’ There was suppleness and a loose, easy grace which concealed power, as the feline silkiness conceals the strength of some jungle beauty of gleaming eyes and sharp fangs. At times his cricket was touched with genius and imagination.’ Cotar Ramaswamy scored 60, CK Nayudu scored 34, and Amar Singh a brisk 48 not out. India scored 390 for the loss of 5 wickets, and the match ended in a draw.

Vizzy remained not out and didn’t score a run. He presented Mushtaq with a gold watch. India needed inspiration from second innings of the second test, Indian batting considerably improved in the third test at Oval. The hosts, riding on Hammond’s double hundred and Worthington’s 128 scored 471/d in the first innings. Nissar took another five for, and India was again up against a mammoth total. Merchant and Mushtaq again started well, scoring 52 apiece and putting on 81 for the first wicket, but the rest of the batsmen contributed little precious and the Indian innings card showed only 222 runs.Allen immediately imposed the follow on, sensing an innings victory. But in the second innings, India defied the hosts well. Merchant, Naidu, Dilawar Hussein and Ramaswamy batted well and India made 312 in the innings. Naidu made 81, which was his top test score. Given a mere 64 runs to chase, England achieved victory losing only Arthur Fagg. Vizzy’s tour was over, and so was his international cricket career.

The 1936 tour to England was perhaps one of the most acrimonious in the history of Indian cricket. He was fickle-minded, and whimsical, and the dressing room atmosphere was always polluted with plots and schemes to ensure disunity in the players. A few of the occurrences masterminded by Vizzy will remain like eyesores on the canvas of Indian crickets.

Vizzy’s cricketing ability was much inferior to the likes of Lala Amarnath, Mushtaq Ali, Vijay Merchant, Nissar, Amar Singh and CK Nayudu, and he was tremendously jealous of these better players. He had Amarnath sent back for “disciplinary” reasons after humiliating him repeatedly and also had a feud with Nayudu. He asked Baqa Jilani to insult C K Naidu at breakfast and rewarded him with a place in the test 11. 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.Lieutenant Colonel Vijay Ananda Gajapathi Raju, Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram aka Vizzy was a prince, a scheming man, a bootlicker of the British Government and if he called himself a cricketer, was a very very ordinary one. He, however was extremely well connected, was filthy rich and had an ambition to lead India in test cricket.
To his credit though, Vizzy had made space for a cricket ground in his palace in Banaras, and invited international greats like Jack Hobbs, Herbert Sutcliffe, Leary Constantine to India, paying them handsome sums of money, and arranged for them to play in matches in various locations in India, thereby granting India a glimpse of their geniuses. He was also instrumental in the development of Syed Mushtaq Ali, Dilawar Hussein and Baqa Jilani. But his was nothing compared to the huge damage he caused to Indian Cricket. Vizzy died 26 days short of his 60th birthday in Banaras, in 1965.

Special thanks to Sanjeev Sathe, who is an avid cricket fan and a dear friend of ours for contributing this wonderful article.