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Full name Maharajah of Vizianagram
Born December 28, 1905, Benares (now Varanasi), Uttar Pradesh
Died December 2, 1965, Benares (now Varanasi), Uttar Pradesh (aged 59 years 339 days)
Major teams India, Maharaj Kumar of Vizianagram's XI, United Province
Also known as Vijaya Anand (Rajkumar of Vizianagram), Vizzy
Batting style Right-hand bat
Education Princes' College, Ajmer; Haileybury College, England
|Test debut||England v India at Lord's, Jun 27-30, 1936 scorecard|
|Last Test||England v India at The Oval, Aug 15-18, 1936 scorecard|
Better known as Vizzy, the Maharajah of Vizianagram takes his place as one of the most colourful and controversial characters in the history of Indian cricket. A great patron of the game in the late twenties and thirties, Vizzy used his personal wealth to get legendary cricketers like Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe to play in India, often at the ground he had built inside his palace grounds. His immense wealth and interest in the game saw him rise to be an influential figure in Indian cricket circles in the 1930s.
However, despite limited ability as a player, he harboured a desire to lead India. "If Vizzy had been content with being such a cricket sponsor", wrote Mihir Bose in his History of Indian Cricket, "like Sir Horatio Mann in the 18th century, or Sir Julien Cahn in the 20th, his name would be one of the most revered in Indian cricket. But he was consumed with the ambition to be a great cricketer".
He had a fierce rivalry with the Maharaja of Patiala, who was a good player and also wealthy. Vizzy muscled in when Patiala fell out with Lord Willingdon, the Viceroy, and even attempted to donate a Willingdon Trophy to the winners of the national first-class competition but Patiala beat him to it with the Ranji Trophy.
In 1932 he bankrolled the tour of England, gaining the title of deputy vice-captain, but he withdrew on health grounds. By 1936, however, his influence was such that he was named as captain of the second side to undertake a Test tour of England. The result was disastrous.
Whereas the Marharajah of Porbandar in 1932 had shrewdly left himself out of most matches, Vizzy was far more arrogant and the tour was an unhappy one. He sent the best player, Lala Amarnath, home on disciplinary grounds and fell out with other leading lights. He was mocked for his lack of ability - his 600 runs on tour came at an average of 16.21, and in the three Tests he scored 33 runs at 8.25. But even then, all was not as it seemed. There is a story that in one county match Vizzy gave a gold watch to the opposing skipper. "I gave him a full toss and a couple of long hops," recalled the recipient, "but you can't go on bowling like that all day, not in England."
Vizzy was lambasted when he returned home and many blamed him for what had happened. He withdrew, maintaining a low profile, but he returned in the 1950s as a politician, administrator and broadcaster. He was a far from universally popular commentator, with accusations of pomposity and dullness to the fore. It is said that when discussing tiger shooting - and he claimed to have bagged more than 300 - he was lecturing on hoiw it was done. "Really," said Rohan Kanhai. "I thought you just left a transistor radio on when you were commentating and bored them to death."
Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge
Plays of the day from the tri-series match between Zimbabwe and South Africa
Would he have fared better than the incumbent middle-order batsmen, Root and Ballance?