India news May 16, 2016

Former India cricketer Deepak Shodhan dies aged 87

Deepak Shodhan with his wife Gauri in their home in Ahmedabad © Siddharth Raja

Deepak Shodhan, the first Indian to make a Test century in his debut innings, has died aged 87. He was India's oldest living Test cricketer.

Shodhan passed away at his residence in Ahmedabad. He had been suffering from lung cancer, which was detected in February this year. The funeral was scheduled for 11 am on Monday.

An attractive left-hand batsman who bowled left-arm pace as well, Shodhan was given his first India cap at 25, against Pakistan at Eden Gardens in 1952, and made an immediate impact. He walked in at No. 8, with the score on 179 for 6 and no specialist batsmen left, and he walked out with 110 against his name. India claimed a lead of 140 runs, but the match ended in a draw.

"I was in the reserves for the series against Pakistan in 1952-53, the historic first Test series between our two newly independent nations," Shodhan had said in a recent interview. "In the final Test match, at Calcutta, I was drafted into the playing XI after our captain Vijay Hazare pulled out unwell. It was Lala Amarnath, who was captaining India in Vijay Hazare's absence, who asked for me to be brought in - 'that tall Gujarati boy who had done so well in the trials and other matches'."

Despite that bright start, Shodhan played only two more Tests, on a tour of West Indies in 1953. The team had journeyed to the Caribbean by a small boat, which kept tossing and turning. Everyone got sick at some point or other and Shodhan remembered being the last man standing. Having made 45 and 11 in the first Test at Port-of-Spain, he did not play the next three and was taken ill when he returned for the fifth one in Jamaica. That didn't stop him from walking out at No. 10, after West Indies had taken a 264-run lead, to try and salvage a draw.

Madhav Apte, the 83-year old former opening batsman who was part of that series, recollected Shodhan's bravery. "He was down with flu and was admitted to the hospital and did not bat in the first innings. [In the second innings] We needed someone to waste time and delay the West Indies batting. Deepak managed to just do that and consumed enough time to help India draw that match."

Shodhan had a long domestic career, playing for Gujarat and Baroda in the Ranji Trophy and was a title-winner in 1957-58. "I loved playing cricket. My first-class career stretched on to 1962, ten years after I played my last Test match," he had said in April. Shodhan had made his debut in 1946-47, in the same match that his older brother Jyotindra, currently 91 years old, had struck his first century.

Datta Gaekwad, father of former India allrounder and coach Anshuman Gaekwad, has become India's oldest living Test cricketer at 87 years and 202 days.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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