Obituary

K. S. Duleepsinhji

DULEEPSINHJI, KUMAR SHRI, who died from a heart attack in Bombay on December 5, aged 54, was among the best batsmen ever to represent England and certainly one of the most popular. Ill-health limited his first-class career to eight seasons, but in that time he scored 15,537 runs, including 49 centuries, at an average of 50.11. A remarkably good slip fieldsman, he brought off 243 catches. "Duleep" or "Mr. Smith," as he was affectionately known in cricket circles, was in the Cheltenham XI from 1921 to 1923, and when captain in the last year headed the batting figures with an average of 52.36, his highest innings being 162. He also met with considerable success as a leg-break bowler and in 1922 was top of the averages with fifty wickets at 13.66 runs each, but he rarely bowled after leaving school. During this time H. S. Altham, the present President of M.C.C., wrote of him in Wisden: "In natural gifts of eye, wrist and footwork he is certainly blest far above the ordinary measure . . . there is no doubt about the judgment and certainty with which he takes toll of straight balls of anything but the most immaculate length. His late cutting is quite beautiful and there is a certain ease and maturity about all his batting methods that stamps him as of a different class from the ordinary school batsman." The accuracy of this estimate of his qualities was borne out when in 1925 he went up to Cambridge. He got his Blue as a Freshman, scoring 75 in the University match, and also played against Oxford in 1926 and 1928. Illness kept him out of the side for most of the 1927 season.

His career with Sussex, whom he captained in 1932, began in 1926 and he headed the county averages in every season until 1932, when doctors advised him not to take further part in cricket. In 1930 he hit 333 in five and a half hours against Northamptonshire at Hove, which still stands as the highest individual innings played for Sussex and beat the biggest put together by his famous uncle, K. S. Ranjitsinhji--285 not out against Somerset at Taunton in 1901; three times he reached three figures in each innings of a match, 246 and 115 v. Kent at Hastings in 1929, 116 and 102 not out v. Middlesex and 125 and 103 not out for Gentlemen v. Players, both at Lord's the next summer; and in 1931 he registered twelve centuries, four of them in successive innings.

He made twelve appearances for England and in his first against Australia at Lord's in 1930 he obtained 173. Of this display a story is told that, when Prince Duleepsinhji was at last caught in the long field from a rash stroke, his uncle remarked: "He always was a careless lad." His one tour abroad was with the M.C.C. team in New Zealand and Australia in 1929-30, when he scored more runs than any other member of the side. A. H. H. Gilligan, the captain, rated him the best player of slow bowling on a wet pitch that he ever saw. "Duleep" had to withdraw from the team for D. R. Jardine's "body-line" tour of 1932-33. He joined the Indian foreign service in 1949 and became High Commissioner for India in Australia and New Zealand. Upon returning to India in 1953 he was appointed chairman of the public service commission in the State of Saurashtra.

When he retired from cricket through recurring illness, Wisden wrote of him: "Of singular charm of character; extremely modest of his own wonderful ability; and with a love for the game which transcended his joy in all other pastimes, Duleepsinhji will always be remembered as one of the outstanding personalities during his period in first-class cricket." So he remained to the end.

Tributes included:

Sir John Hobbs: "He was an extremely popular personality and did not have an enemy on the field. He was a brilliant player."

R. Aird: "He was not only a very great cricketer, but he also possessed a charming and gentle nature which endeared him to all his many friends."

H. Sutcliffe: "There was no better man to play with. He was never out for personal glorification, his great concern being for the success of the team. He was a real joy to watch and was, above all, a first-class man."

© John Wisden & Co