BB Nimbalkar: 'I was left stranded in the middle of the ground'
The Ranji Trophy match between Maharashtra and Kathiawar
in December 1948 has gone down in the record books for two things. One is that the result was a rarity in that one side - Kathiawar - forfeited the match as a result of boredom - and the other is that during it Bhausaheb Babasaheb Nimbalkar set what still remains the record for the highest first-class score by an Indian.
The match came in an era of big scores in the Ranji Trophy, partly caused by the competition rules which stated that in the event of a drawn match the side leading after the first innings were the winners.
On a balmy December day at Poona, Kathiawar were bowled out for 238 on the first day of the four-day match, and by the close Maharashtra were well placed at 132 for 1. Nimbalkar, a 29-year-old right-hand batsman, joined KV Bhandarkar at 81 for 1. They were not to be parted until shortly before the close on the second day, by which time they had added 455 for the second wicket in a little over five hours. Bhandarkar was dismissed for 205, but Nimbalkar found another ally in SD Deodhar, and brought up his 300 in the last over.
The third day started with Maharashtra on 587 for 2, and the relentless run-scoring continued unchecked. Nimbalkar and Deodhar put on 242 for the third wicket. There was a slight wobble when Deodhar fell within sight of a hundred and then Mohan Lal soon followed, but Nimbalkar pressed on. He passed 400 and headed towards the world-record - Don Bradman's 452.
By the time the weary Kathiawar fielders took tea - they stayed in the middle in those days - Nimbalkar had made 443 out of a total of 826 for 4. There could only be one result, and all that there was to play for was pride and personal glory.
However, His Highness the Thakur Sahib of Rajkot, Kathiawar 's captain whose title was more impressive than his ability, had had enough of chasing leather. He gave his opposite number an ultimatum - declare or he and his side would go home.
Neither side would back down, although Raja Gokhale, Maharashtra 's captain, and the match officials did ask Kathiawar to continue for two overs to allow Nimbalkar to break The Don's record. They refused, trooped off to pack their bags and then headed to the station. "They kept saying that you have already scored so many runs, why do you want to get more," Nimbalkar recalled years later. "Their skipper felt that the name of the Kathiawar team would figure in the record books for the wrong reasons. I was left stranded in the middle of the ground.
"I didn't like the approach of the Kathiawar team. How could they be so unsporting? Once I came to know that I was just 10 runs short of a world record, I was desperate to achieve it because it would have put Sir Don's name behind me. But this didn't happen."
Nimbalkar explained that it was only at tea that he became aware of the record. "Had I known, I would have gone for the runs. 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."
Nimbalkar had batted for eight hours and 14 minutes and had hit 46 fours and a six. And Bradman's was not the only record under threat. Maharashtra were within sight of the highest score in the Ranji Trophy, 912, made by Holkar four years earlier.
There was some consolation for Nimbalkar. "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."
Despite a good record in first-class cricket - he scored 4841 runs at 47.93 in 80 matches - there was to be no international recognition for Nimbalkar. The closest he came was in 1949-50, when he was chosen for an Indian XI in an unofficial Test against a Commonwealth XI. "I think I was really good enough to play for India in Tests with a splendid performance," Nimbalkar reflected. "I don't know why the selectors sidelined me all the time. What really hurt me was that some of the less talented players got a chance to represent the country."
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Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo