March 1, 2001

Nimbalkar recalls Bradman's `personal message'

Staff Reporter

Don Bradman is no more. But the batsman who in 1948-49 threatened to surpass Bradman's then record first class score of 452 not out is very much alive. At 81, Bhausaheb Babasaheb Nimbalkar is still a keen follower of the game. CricInfo met Nimbalkar at the Wankhede stadium during the first Test and he shared his feelings and thoughts on Sir Donald Bradman.

Asked to comment on the Don, Nimbalkar became emotional as he said "He was the greatest and finest cricketer. He is still the godfather of cricket. Now he is lost. But his records have stood the test of time. My hats off to Sir Don Bradman."

Nimbalkar can never forget his famous innings for Maharashtra against Kathiawar in the Ranji Trophy match at the Pune Club. He and KV Bhandarkar set a record 455-run partnership for the second wicket. This was the match in which he scored the highest first class score by an Indian. The eight hour long unbeaten innings reaped 443 runs.

"It was in 1948 that I played that match and myself and Bhandarkar made a record partnership of 455. Bhandarkar got a double hundred. But I never knew that I was nine runs short of Bradman's record. Had I known, I would have gone for the runs."

Nimbalkar continues to feel that had he been given the right message, the record would have been held by an Indian. It would have been a great achievement for the country and not just a personal landmark for him. At that time, India was not a very established name in international cricket and to have a record like this would have done wonders for Indian cricket.

"My captain sent me a message that I should stay at the wicket, so I did just as I was asked. I did not put my personal objectives ahead of the side. I played for the team."

Bradman sent Nimbalkar a greeting note congratulating him on his innings. Nimbalkar was the happiest man at the time at having been complimented by the Don himself.

"I remember that I had got a personal message from Sir Don Bradman that I should go for the record and he congratulated me as well. I still remember he ranked my innings above his own, such was the greatness of the Don. Even though he had the World record and I had only the record in India, he still rated my innings as better."

But the most important record - the record first class score - could not be broken. The opposition left the field when Nimbalkar was 443, did not come back and conceded the match.

"My captain Raja Gokhale requested the opposition to come on to the field for two overs, so that I could get the record. But they refused to do so and conceded the match. They kept saying that you have already scored so many runs, why do you want to get more runs."

Despite having the highest first class score, Nimbalkar never played Test cricket. He did feature in an unofficial `Test' but always regrets not been given a chance to play for the country. "It was sheer injustice that I did not get to play Test cricket. I played an unofficial `Test' and they should have given me a second chance. I might have done something. It was not in my luck."