Vijay Hazare

High-scoring Indian cricketer

Vijay Hazare was a compact, right-handed batsman of the highest class, a capable medium-pace bowler and one of the rare Christians to play cricket for India. He was also, said Fred Trueman, who clashed memorably with him in the epic 1952 Test series in England, "a gentleman". He will be fondly remembered in Lancashire, where he performed with distinction for both the Rawtenstall and Royton clubs.

Vijay Samuel Hazare, cricketer: born Sangli, India 11 March 1915; married (one son, one daughter); died Baroda, India 18 December 2004.

Vijay Hazare was a compact, right-handed batsman of the highest class, a capable medium-pace bowler and one of the rare Christians to play cricket for India. He was also, said Fred Trueman, who clashed memorably with him in the epic 1952 Test series in England, "a gentleman". He will be fondly remembered in Lancashire, where he performed with distinction for both the Rawtenstall and Royton clubs.

Hazare was outstanding as a schoolboy at Sangli High, Maharashtra, playing for Central India as a teenager and being selected to play against the touring MCC team in 1934. He transferred to Baroda in 1941, where he became an officer in the Gaekwar's army and then emerged as a prospective Test player during the Second World War. Scyld Berry noted that

high scoring was a phenomenon confined to the grass pitches in the main cities. It was escalated further as a result of the rivalry between the two Vijays, Merchant and Hazare. The record for the highest individual score in the Pentangular Tournament passed between them like a metronome. Merchant made 243, then within the month of December 1943, Hazare surpassed it with 248. Merchant replied with 250 for the Hindus and then, in the same game, Hazare trumped it with 309 for the Rest.

They took their rivalry to England in 1946; when Merchant made 242 against Lancashire it was predictable that Hazare should immediately respond with 244 against Yorkshire.

What made Hazare's 309 astonishing was that it was made out of 387. That innings came in this sequence of scores made in 1943-44: 264, 81, 97, 248, 59, 309, 101, 223. For Baroda against Holkar in 1946-47 he shared a world record fourth wicket stand of 577 with Gul Mahomad. Hazare's share was 288 in 150 minutes.

As a player, he was square-shouldered and beautifully balanced, showing intense concentration and an implacable defence. His sinewy wrists and forearms made him a formidable cutter and his best shot was probably a hammered cover drive, after moving his right foot to on or outside the leg stump. Trueman also declared Hazare to be "as good a player of fast bowling as there was in the world at that time. He was a lean, resolute man who stood as erect as a Grecian pillar."

After his wartime exploits Hazare was a certain choice for India's first post-war tour on England in 1946, scoring 344 runs and taking 56 wickets, but he was disappointed in his Test performances in what was a damp summer.

In Australia the following winter, he passed 1,000 runs and made the most runs in the Tests (429), scoring 116 and 145 in Adelaide, the first Indian to score two centuries in a Test match. When West Indies visited in 1948-49 he averaged 67 and was then made captain for India's tour of England in 1952, where he and his batsmen collided with the rampaging, 21-year-old Trueman. Nevertheless, despite the depredations of Trueman, 24 wickets in three Tests, and Alec Bedser, Hazare emerged with a creditable 333 at an average of 55.

In all he led India in 14 of his 30 Tests, in which he scored seven centuries, averaging 47, and took 20 wickets (61), but those 20 wickets include the great Don Bradman's, twice. In his entire career he scored 60 centuries at a lifetime average of 57. He went on to serve India as a selector and was chairman in 1961-62 when India first won a series against England.

Hazare retired, greatly honoured, from all cricket in 1967. Seven years ago he was diagnosed with intestinal cancer and although he was operated upon, a recurrence was diagnosed and he was admitted to hospital last month, when doctors said that the disease had spread to all parts of his body. His family thanked cricket lovers worldwide for the "love and affection that had been showered upon him". The Board of Control for Cricket in India insisted upon paying all his medical expenses.

A junior cricket tournament has been named in his memory.

Derek Hodgson



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