By Qaiser Mohammad Ali
New Delhi, Oct 27 (IANS) India’s oldest living Test cricketer, Dattajirao Krishnarao Gaekwad, turned 92 on Tuesday and, even at this age, he recalled his entire career with pin-point accuracy — from his alma mater Maharani Chimnabai High School in Baroda to winning the Ranji Trophy in his first year as Baroda captain in 1957-58 to representing India.
The postal department paid a fine tribute to Gaekwad as it issued a ‘Special Cover’ in his honour on Thursday. Titled “Dedicated to Shri DK Gaekwad”, it bore the former India captain’s photo printed in the centre, along with that of other stalwarts of Baroda cricket.
Also on Tuesday morning, Gaekwad’s son and former India Test batsman Anshuman and his family members, who live elsewhere in Baroda, visited him. Gaekwad senior said they were to come again in the evening for a family get together when a celebration would take place and he would cut a cake.
“I am not exactly keeping well these days. I have a back problem. But I have a lot of memories from my cricketing career. I am 92 and I have been associated with cricket for 70 of those years. And my most memorable match is the Ranji Trophy final of 1957-58 when Baroda won the title in my first year as captain,” Gaekwad told IANS from his Baroda home.
“We [Baroda] defeated the Hemu Adhikari-led Services by an innings and 51 runs in the final played at Moti Bagh Stadium in Baroda. I remember I scored 132 and Vijay Hazare scored 203. In those years there was no money in the game. But I never played cricket for money and worked elsewhere; I played cricket for the name and for the country,” said Gaekwad, who appeared in 11 Tests between 1952 and 1961.
Gaekwad specifically pointed out that he was a student of legendary Test cricketer CS Nayudu, who coached him when he was very young.
“In 1948, CS Nayudu, brother of former India captain CK Nayudu, came to Baroda looking for a job; the Maharaja of Baroda had called him. When I was about 12 years old, CS Nayudu was my coach. He launched under-14 and under-16 tournaments in Baroda. He was a well-known leg-spin-googly bowler and I learnt a lot from him. I started bowling leg-spin and googly copying his style,” he said.
“I made my Ranji Trophy debut in 1948. At that time MS University in Baroda wasn’t there, so I played for Bombay University for two years, when players like Polly Umrigar and G. Ramchand played with me. And when MS University came up I was their first cricket captain. I also coached in Baroda on being appointed by the Board of Control for Cricket in India. I coached boys of various age groups in Baroda till 2000,” said Gaekwad.
Anshuman said his father’s “old memory” is still very sharp, though at times he tends to forget current events or repeat things.
“I went to meet him in the morning. And now, I am leaving with my wife, sons and daughters-in-law for a family get together at his place. It is going to be a close family thing. Father lives with my sister and her son and her daughter-in-law,” Anshuman told IANS.
Also on Tuesday morning, officials of the Baroda Cricket Association (BCA), with which Gaekwad had served as a joint secretary in 1960s, visited his residence and presented him a memento titled ‘Celebrating Your Cricketing Journey’ and bearing his photo in which he is posing with the Ranji Trophy and its replica in hand.
Gaekwad has coached one of the current BCA office-bearers who visited him, secretary Ajit Lele, son of late BCCI and BCA secretary JY Lele. “He had coached me when I was playing under-19 cricket in 1977-78. My father and he were joint secretaries of the BCA in late 1960s. Today, we presented him a memento on behalf of the BCA,” said Ajit Lele.
Gaekwad is, in fact, the sixth oldest living Test cricketer in the world. John Watkins of South Africa is the oldest at 97 years and 200 days, as on Tuesday. The others are: England’s Don Smith (97 years and 135 days), South Africa’s Ronald Draper (93 years and 308 days), Australia’s Ken Archer (92 years and 284 days), and Aussie Neil Harvey (92 years and 19 days).