1926-2006 November 7, 2006

Polly Umrigar dies at 80

Cricinfo staff

Polly Umrigar: lost his battle against lymph cancer © Cricinfo

Polly Umrigar, the former Indian captain who played 59 Tests between 1948 and 1962, has died in Mumbai. He was suffering from lymph cancer and lost the battle at 8:30 this evening at his residence.

Umrigar, who will be remembered as one of the heroic figures in Indian cricket, was an early pillar of India's middle order in the '50s and '60s. He scored 3,631 runs at an average of 42.22 with 12 centuries and led India in eight Tests, winning two and losing two with four draws. Having learnt his trade in the competitive maidans in Mumbai, where the emphasis was on technique and application, he went on to break several Indian records, including the most Tests, highest batting aggregate and most hundreds. A burly six-footer, Umrigar was a domineering figure at the crease - whether batting, bowling, or leading the side. He was renowned for his full-blooded drives but, as he showed in the memorable summer in the Caribbean in 1961-62, he could also hook and pull powerfully.

More significant, perhaps, than his achievements at the crease was the fact that he helped shape the few Indian triumphs in his time. His vital 130, coming in at No. 7, helped India achieve their first-ever Test win, against England at Madras in 1952. His hundreds also paved the way for two more Test wins, against Pakistan at Mumbai in 1952 and New Zealand at Madras in 1956.

He was the first Indian to hit a Test double-century, a feat he achieved against New Zealand at Hyderabad in 1955. He led India in eight Tests, winning two and losing two before he resigned the captaincy at Madras against West Indies in 1959 following a misunderstanding with the selectors. He is only one of two Indian cricketers (Vinoo Mankad being the other) to score a century and take five wickets in an innings - a feat he achieved against West Indies at Port of Spain in 1962. After retirement, he continued to serve Indian cricket as chairman of the selection committee, tour manager and BCCI executive secretary.

After retiring from the game, Umrigar served in various administrative roles, including chairman of the selection committee, manager of the Indian side, executive secretary of the Indian board and chief curator of the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai.

He is survived by two sons and a daughter.