India's oldest first-class cricketer December 21, 2003

MJ Gopalan dies at 94

Wisden Cricinfo staff



The former Indian allrounder MJ Gopalan has died at the age of 94 in Chennai. Before his death he was the oldest surviving Test cricketer, a mantle which has now passed to Don Cleverley, who played twice for New Zealand - either side of the war - and who was born on December 23, 1909.

Gopalan played his only Test against England at Calcutta in 1933-34, taking one wicket and scoring 18 runs. He was more successful in first-class cricket, taking 194 wickets as a fast bowler as well as scoring 2916 runs in 78 matches.

Gopalan was a double international, who also represented India at hockey as a centre-half. In 1936 he was faced with a difficult choice when he was picked for both the cricket tour of England and for the hockey team at the Berlin Olympics. He opted for cricket, arguably an unwise move. He was almost assured of a gold medal at Berlin, but instead he was part of an unhappy tour of England. He had only modest success in the limited opportunities he was given on a trip was marred by some eccentric captaincy from the Maharajah of Vizianagram.

A tower of strength in Madras cricket for around 25 years with his allround skills, Gopalan bowled the first delivery in the Ranji Trophy, against Mysore at Madras in November 1934. He also captained them for several years.

He was a Test selector in the late 1950s and early '60s. For about 30 years until the match lapsed in the late 1980s, Madras and Ceylon (later Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka) competed in an annual contest for the Gopalan Trophy.

Gopalan's date of birth, as given in Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, was June 6, 1909. But some reports have suggested he was older than that, having been born in 1906 - which would have made him 97 years old at the time of his death.

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