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Vijay Hazare — an insatiable run-gatherer

By Our Special Correspondent

Vijay Hazare ... player par excellence

CHENNAI, DEC. 18. Cricket was deprived of a stalwart when life ebbed out of Vijay Samuel Hazare on Saturday at Baroda. He was 89. Few players of our time, and perhaps, only a handful in the annals of the game have passed into history with such a superb record in every stage and with such impact. He was a delight of the statisticians. "There was a time when a Hazare hundred was a matter of routine, and there was hardly a time when one could not bank on his long stay at the wicket," commented A. F. S. Talyarkhan.

That Hazare compiled as many as 18,635 first class runs at an average of 57.87 with 60 centuries clearly mirrors the quality of his batsmanship; which was marked by patience, perseverance and pugnacity. He had a tally of 592 wickets at 24.49 apiece too.

Rare charm

Hazare's batting might have lacked the élan of a Lala Amarnath, or the audacity and authority of a CK. But it definitely had that rare charm, especially in those beautifully executed square cuts and flowing cover drives. Basically, Hazare was an insatiable run-gatherer. If the Second World War had not intervened to disrupt sporting activities, his figures would have been far more phenomenal. Born on March 11, 1915 at Sangli (Maharashtra), Vijay Hazare shot into prominence at the age of 24 with a brilliant triple century (316 not out) in the Ranji Trophy for Maharashtra against Baroda in 1939-40 at Poona. He was the first Indian to record a triple century. Three years later, he reached another milestone, hitting 309 for the Rest against the Hindus in the Pentangular tournament.

Switching over to Baroda after being capped for Maharashtra and Central India in the Ranji Trophy and enjoying the patronage of the Scindias, Hazare blossomed into a sheet anchor and won international status against the Australian Services in 1945. As an 18-year old he had figured for Maharashtra against D. R. Jardine's team in 1933-34. From 1945, he continued to be a part of the national team till the 1953 tour of the West Indies. In all, he played 30 Tests aggregating 2,192 runs at an average of 47.65. He scored seven hundreds, two of them (116 and 145) in the fourth Test at Adelaide against Bradman's Australians in 1947.

" In his two memorable centuries in the Adelaide Test against the fury of Miller and Lindwall, he shone like a lamp in darkness. But not often did he strike this heroic attitude," wrote a commentator.

Best moment of career

The best moment of Hazare's career, however, was the first official Test triumph against England at Chepauk in 1952-53. (India won by an innings and eight runs). In the 14 matches that he captained the country, Hazare won only the Chennai Test. He lost five, the remaining eight being drawn.

Hazare was a prolific scorer in the Ranji Trophy aggregating 6,312 runs with an average of 68.61 with the 316 not out as the highest. More memorably, Hazare established a World record partnership of 577 runs for the fourth wicket with Gul Mahmood for Baroda against Holkar in 1946. Another memorable event was the ninth wicket Ranji Trophy record of 245 runs with N.D. Nagarwala for Maharashtra against Baroda in 1939.

In all, he scored 22 centuries in the Ranji Trophy. An effective right-arm medium pace bowler with a round-arm action, Hazare captured 291 wickets in the Ranji Trophy. His best effort was eight for 90 for Baroda against Maharashtra in 1946.

After the West Indies tour in 1953, at the age of 38, Hazare faded away from the national scene but continued to take active interest in the sport. He was nominated as the Chairman of the Selection Committee of the BCCI in 1960 and was awarded the Padma Shri in the same year. Failing health confined Hazare to his home. The memories of his life are well etched in the autobiography, My Story.

Hazare is survived by his wife, two daughters and a son.

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