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December 18, 2004
I am sorry to hear about his sad demise. He was one of our great cricketers, and gave yeoman service to Indian cricket for a number of years. What appealed to me about Vijay is that he was a gentleman cricketer with few words. He had terrific amounts of concentration while batting, which was a very strong point. He was a treat to bat with, as he had a very sound defence and he gave you a lot of confidence. In fact I associate my big innings with him.
He was a dedicated cricketer. Once he got into the game, if he stuck, it was very difficult to shift him from there. He was a very good, quiet person. Good, in the sense that he would mind his business and play cricket and put everything into the game. He did not go to parties in the evenings. Once the game began, he was [all] there.
I remember an incident. It was against Pakistan. After I got my fifty I attacked the bowling and got to my hundred. He was in his nineties. I asked for a glass of water. He came near me, and expressed in few words, "Young man, you've got your hundred, but I've not got mine." I knew at once what he wanted to say. I should have waited for him to get his hundred. He was a man of few words, but was to the point.
After we had batted, we had the habit of sandpapering our bats. Once he got a duck, and he sat in the dressing-room and did this in one corner. We said, "Rao [as a mark of respect], the ball has not touched your bat, so why are you using this sandpaper?" He said, "I'm preparing myself for the second innings." He had that grit.
Polly Umrigar played 59 Tests - eight as captain - for India between 1948 and 1962.
Vijay Hazare was a fine gentleman and a brilliant cricketer. We had contrasting styles - he had one of the best defensive techniques while I always attacked. Vijay was a run-getting machine and managed to stay at the wicket for very long periods. We also had a good friendship off the field, and I still remember the wonderful times we had on the 1946 tour to England. He was a great person to know. I was very saddened to hear about his ill health, and am still in a state of shock after hearing the news of his sad demise.
Mushtaq Ali played 11 Tests for India from 1934 to 1952. His final Test was India's first victory, against England in Madras, when Hazare was captain.
Hazare and Vijay Merchant were the two greatest Indian batsmen of their generation. I have many memories of watching Hazare bat. His technique was one of the soundest I have ever seen. Hazare was also my captain on the tour of West Indies in 1952-53, and he went out of his way to make sure I felt comfortable.
Hazare was a thorough gentleman - a very quiet, reserved person with a heart of gold. After retirement he returned to Baroda, and I saw him only rarely. The last time I saw him was at a function last year in Mumbai to honour Indian players who had done well at Lord's, and then he was clearly ailing. He will be remembered as one of the greatest batsmen India has ever produced.
Madhav Apte played seven Tests for India in 1952 and 1953.
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