Dinkar Balwant Deodhar was arguably the most distinguished Indian cricketer never to have played in an official Test. His life spanned a remarkable 101 years until he was taken from our midst seven years ago on this day. Deodhar's first class career was also a salute to the man's endurance, lasting as it did from 1911 to 1946. He was looked up to as a father figure by the first generation of Test cricketers in India and inspired them through his own personal example.
At forty, Deodhar's age was considered too advanced for him to join the touring party to England in 1932, although four years later the selectors had no compunctions in calling up two other grey eminences CK Nayudu and C Ramaswami for the tour. A tough upbringing forced upon him a disciplined lifestyle and an early flirtation with outdoor games, notably football, brought with it a devotion to physical fitness that would have put many a younger man to shame.
``For a man of fifty, his stamina was something to be seen to be believed. Even at the end of a tiring day, he was as fresh as in the morning. His batting was based on orthodoxy and he was particularly strong on the off side. He was not powerfully built but possessed strong wrists which, combined with perfect timing, gave his strokes all the speed to beat the fielders," says Vijay Hazare in his memoirs `Cricket Replayed.'
Deodhar was also an astute captain who had an eye for discovering young talent. Before the 1939-40 Ranji season, Maharashtra had never won a single match in the competition let alone the trophy. Deodhar brought the Ranji Trophy to Poona for two successive seasons in 1939-40 and 1940-41. He was instrumental in recruiting Kamal Bhandarkar and Khandu Rangnekar to the Maharashtra side and in securing the return of Vijay Hazare from Central India in the 1939-40 season to begin a glorious period for both Hazare and Maharashtra.
Deodhar's greatest moment undoubtedly came against arch rivals Bombay in November 1940 at the Poona Club ground when two months short of his 49th birthday he made a brilliant 246 that lifted Maharashtra to a massive 675. "When all the youngsters seemed to be satisfied with a fifty or in one case (that of Sohoni) a century, this fifty-year-old marvel went on forever like the proverbial brook glorified by a poet. He sensed that on the featherbed wicket, no side can rest assured by a simply good total. It had to be a stupendous one", Hazare recalls.
This was still not beyond a formidable Bombay batting line-up led by Vijay Merchant but Deodhar marshalled his resources judiciously until finally on the fifth afternoon, he personally trousered a skier from Havewala off the bowling of Hazare to see off Bombay's challenge for 650. Deodhar made over 500 runs in Maharashtra's successful defence of the title that season and even four years hence, he was a worthy competitor, making a century in each innings against Nawanagar, only the second such instance in the Ranji Trophy.
A professor of Sanskrit in a Pune college, Deodhar goes down as the first Indian to score a Test hundred, unofficial though it may have been, against Arthur Gilligan's visiting side of 1926-27. He made a classy 148 to lift All India to a first innings lead of 75 and MCC were tottering on the brink of defeat when time ran out on the third day. Deodhar also scored a century for Maharashtra against Lord Tennyson's side of 1937/38 in Pune.
Accompanying the Indian team to England in 1946 and Australia in 1947/48 as a journalist for the Hindustan Times, Deodhar was a great font of encouragement to the Indian team. The Deodhar Trophy, a domestic zonal one-day competition was named in his honour in 1973-74. Two other signal accolades have been the Padma Bhushan and the naming of a road after him in Pune - Cricketer DB Deodhar Marg - near the Poona Young Cricketers Hindu Gymkhana ground.