Polly Umrigar dies at 80

'A gentleman and a great student of the game'

Cricinfo staff

November 7, 2006

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Polly Umrigar will be remembered as one of India's greatest batsmen but it musn't be forgotten that he was, as his team-mates fondly recalled, one of the gentlest human beings as well.



Polly Umrigar opening the batting with the Nawab of Pataudi in the Caribbean in 1961-62 © Cricinfo
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I still remember the Madras Test against Pakistan in 1961. It was played on a sticky wicket and Haseeb Ahsan, the offspinner, was turning the ball left and right. We were in trouble when I came to the crease (chasing 448, India were struggling at 164 for 4) but he told me, 'Don't do anything silly, just hang around'. I'll never forget that moment because it gave me immense belief. Both of us went on to score hundreds and we drew the game. He was the best student of the game I have come across and that helped him become a very good captain. He also loved the game so much that he always wanted to give it something in return, as an administrator, curator, or as a player. He liked to dominate the game and was a very powerful hitter. A lot of people do not realise he was also a good offspinner. He kept a good line and length and it enabled the bowler at the other end to attack. All in all a thorough gentleman and one of the greatest cricketers I have come across.
Former Indian middle-order batsman Chandu Borde played 55 Tests between 1958 and 1969

It's one of the saddest days in world cricket. To have played 59 Tests in that era and score more than 3500 runs was a tremendous achievement. He helped all of us when he was appointed the manager of the team. He always advised youngsters. I wasn't getting too many runs in the first couple of Tests on the 1976 tour of the West Indies. He asked me what I was doing and I said, "I'm watching every ball, not trying to miss it"'. His reply shocked me a bit: "Don't watch all the time, take a break in between. Go into the dressing-room, try some skipping, get your eye moving with some exercises. I did that and it worked immediately. He was a really genuine person, he liked his cricket and certainly gave whatever he earned from it.
Former Indian batting great Gundappa Vishwanath played 91 Tests between 1969 and 1983

He was the finest human being among cricketers I've known. Like a doctor to patients, he was one to the game of cricket. You could go to him anytime you needed for advice. My everlasting memory of him was when I was called up for the New Zealand tour in 1981 and he lent me his sweater, which came in really handy. I gave back my sweater when I finished my career and it's now displayed in the Cricket Club of India. He was one cricketer I would always go to for advice. He had an extremely good cricketing mind and was a tremendous student of the game.
Former Indian allrounder Ravi Shastri played 80 Tests between 1981 to 1992

He was a great allround cricketer. He struggled in the debacle of 1952, when India were reduced to 0 for 4 against Fred Trueman at Headingley but then every other cricketer struggled.. Then came the 1952 tour of West Indies when he showed a complete transformation. He'd tightened up his technique and proved himself against the hositle Caribbean fast bowling. He was a very good reader of the game and especially a great reader of pitches. I remember the 1969 series in NZ where he suggested that S Venkataraghavan's fastish offies would prove more useful than the flight of Erapalli Prasanna. He was also a great fielder. In my book, he will remain one of the top five Indian cricketers.
Raju Bharatan is a veteran Indian journalist

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