Skip to main content

Ranjitsinghji was father of batting, codifying the shots we take for granted today

By Harsh Thakor 

On September 10th, we commemorated the 150th birth anniversary of K.S.Ranjitsinghji.  Ranjitsinhji was born on was born on September 10, 1872, in Kathiawar, Gujarat under the rule of British India. He was the ruler of the princely Indian state of Nawanagar. He was secretly adopted by Jam Saheb so that he could have a direct heir to the throne. In a stroke of great fortune for Ranji, Jam Sahib Vibhaji, who was the ruler of the local province, adopted Ranji as his heir. This paved the way for Ranji to attend school in England, and his potent skill with the bat were shaped by RS Goodchild, who was the headmaster of St Faith's College.
Ranjitsinghji virtually took batting art to another dimension, transcending artistry or wizardry to regions of divinity. Ranji was the ultimate manifestation of batting genius of his age. He may have been overshadowed statistically by some, but no batsmen's strokes more bestowed the beauty, grace or poetry of the game of cricket.Batsmen were simply unable to execute strokes Ranji could do to given deliveries. He was the pioneer of oriental artistry which defied all conventions. The equivalent of a Michelangelo to the art of batting, in terms of inventiveness or creativity, giving a sensation of undertaking experiments with the bat.Ranjitsinghji possibly was endowed with more natural talent than even Donald Bradman . He was the pioneer of oriental artistry which defied conventional bio-mechanics. He epitomised perfection in backfoot play like no other player. No batsmen ever dispatched straight balls from the fastest bowlers with such remorseless ease to the boundary, with a mere flick of the wrists. He invented the leg-glance.
The English batsmen were unable to emulate Ranji The later genius of a Gundappa Vishwanath or Mohammad Azharuddin have direct descent, from Ranji’s game. He was the pioneer of oriental artistry which defied all conventions. It is arguable that even modern day wizards like a Viv Richards or Sachin Tendulkar did not equal Ranji’s genius. Ranji was the first outstanding Indian sportsman, and apart from boxing, there was no other non-white champion sportsman. He illustrated that an Indian or non –white person could be more talented than a white person.Ranji was the first ever Indian sportsman to attain international status.
Simon Wilde wrote in his biography “Ranji A Genius Rich and Strange”: “He practised with as much purpose whether he had just been out for 100 or for 0. He was a severe critic of his own game, and if he was indeed a genius it was for his infinite capacity for taking pains, not for becoming a superlative cricketer overnight. He enjoyed theorizing about the game and putting those theories into practice.”
Neil Cardus elucidated in "Good Days" (1934): “In the ‘nineties the game was absolutely English; it was even Victorian. W.G. Grace for years had stamped on cricket the English mark and the mark of the period. It was the age of simple first principles, of the stout respectability of the straight bat and the good-length balls. And then suddenly this visitation of dusky, supple legerdemain happened; a man was seen playing cricket as nobody in England could possibly have played it. The honest length ball was not met by the honest straight bat, but there was a flick of the wrist, and lo! The straight ball was charmed away to the leg-boundry. And nobody quite saw or understood how it all happened.”
All those who saw Ranji bat sweared that he had an exceptionally quick eye and could hook the fastest bowling with contemptuous ease. Though he had appeared in English first-class cricket since 1893, Ranjitsinhji’s first full season was in 1895 when he made his debut for Sussex against the MCC at Lord’s. He caused an immediate impact, carving out scores of 77 and 150. From then on he captured the imagination of the public and became a very popular, even mystical, figure.
The next year at the age of 23, Ranji topped the first-class averages at 57.92, surpassing Grace’s record season aggregate by scoring 2780 runs, and equalling the great senior’s 10 hundreds. In a unique feat, Ranji hit up a century in each innings of a match on the same day. Resuming at zero not out, he notched up 100 and 125 not out for Sussex against Yorkshire at Hove. The English were reluctant to pick him in their Test side, but his immense popularity ensured that he was selected for the second match. Appropriately, Ranji became the second England batsman after Grace to score a hundred on Test debut, an unbeaten 154 against Australia at Manchester, having hit 62 in the first innings. In the process he nearly pulled off an improbable win. In the 1897 season, Ranji scored 1940 runs at an average of 45.12. He hit up his first double-century, 260 in just 250 minutes with 36 fours and a six against MCC at Lord’s, the highest by a Sussex batsman.
Ranji was never at home in arduous journeys. Prone to bouts of asthma, he was taken ill during the month-long voyage to Australia in 1897-98, even though he joined the team only in the south of the European Continent. He was still unwell when the first Test began in Sydney. Even so, he battled through, sculpting a classical 175, which was a record for England until R.E. Foster bettered it with 287 at the same venue six years later. Ranji’s knock enabled England to win their only Test in a series they lost 1-4. It was a productive tour for him personally, averaging over 50 in the Tests and over 60 in the first-class matches. In all he amassed 1157 runs. At the end of the tour, Ranji returned to his homeland after a decade.
Having missed the English season of 1898 as a result of a long sojourn at home, Ranji’s best came at the turn of the century, even though he was not quite as slim and his feet seemed not as nimble. In 1899 he became the first to score 3000 runs in a season. He bailed out England in the first Test at Nottingham, scoring 42 and 93 not out, and holding Australia to a draw. By the end of the series he had scored 970 runs in 12 Tests at a brilliant average of 53.88. He amassed 3159 first-class runs at 63.18 per innings.
After a trip to the United States during the winter, Ranji’s 1900 season was just as brilliant. With the invincibility of a great emperor he knocked up successive double centuries, both for Sussex – 222 against Somerset at Hove, and an unbeaten 215 versus Cambridge University at Fenners. Illustrating mastery on rained surfaces, in scintillating style he reached 202 in three hours off the Middlesex bowling after a thunderstorm at Hove, the next highest by a Sussex colleague being 17. His five double centuries were a record for a season, bettered only by Bradman with six in 1930. Everton Weekes of the West Indies equalled Ranji’s five double tons exactly half a century later. The now-unstoppable Ranji logged up 3000 runs for the second successive season, this time scoring 3065 runs and topping the averages at a mind-boggling 87.57, hitting up 11 hundreds.
1901 he was again at his best. Again Ranji scored two double centuries in a row, once more representing his county, an unbeaten 285 against Somerset at Taunton and 204 at the expense of Lancashire at the home ground of Hove. The first was an amazing feat, not only for the fact that it was his top score and the highest-ever by a Sussex batsman, but because he was out fishing the entire previous night! For the 1901 season his tally was 2468 runs at 70.51 per innings. In three consecutive seasons, Ranjitsinhji had totalled 8692 runs at an average of 72.43 with 27 hundreds. The wizard from the orient continued to enchant and befuddle at the same time.
He did not set sail to Australia in 1901-02 .Possibly due to the troubles in his personal life, he lost form dramatically in the Tests in 1902, managing just 19 runs in four innings and never played at that level again. He still finished with a Test average of 44.96, an outstanding achievement at the time. In first-class matches, though, Ranji continued to blaze away till 1904 when he again topped the 2000 mark as well as the averages – 2077 runs at 74.17.
Ranji stepped on a cricket field one last time in 1920. Surprisingly, he played three first-class matches and, as was only to be expected, failed miserably. The fact was that his right eye had been removed five years earlier when on August 31 he had met with an accident while shooting grouse on the Yorkshire moors. This was soon after he returned from France, ending a brief and miserable stint in the army during the First World War.
In test cricket Ranji averaged 44.95, scoring 989 runs and 2 centuries. In first class cricket he amassed 24692 runs, with 72 centuries.Ranji’s first-class average of 56.37 was the highest for a full career by an England-based player until as late as 1986 when Geoff Boycott retired with a fractionally higher average of 56.84. And if one considers that Ranji’s career was all but over in 1904; his appearances thereafter were sporadic in 1908 and 1912, and farcical in 1920, his deeds are even more astounding. Upto 1904, Ranji had scored 22,402 runs at an average of 58.49 with 65 hundreds in 267 matches, really in less than a decade. Simply genius personified. In first class cricket his achievements are comparable to any all-time great batsmen.
To the outside world Ranji was picture exceptionally gifted prince who toiled arduously in the nets to emerge as the finest batsman of his era. People hardly gauged the inner turmoil he faced during his best years at the wicket. The sensation of his adoption that never was, the machinations over his succession as ruler and his financial woes at the time. He was beset by illness for prolonged periods, which affected his career. One has to applaud his success under the most challenging circumstances. Throughout is life he had to confront the barrier of racial or political prejudice .Sadly in 1902 he was denied title of Maharaja and financial problems drew him towards bankruptcy. Thanks to British colonial civil servants he was awarded a vacant princely thrown of his patron, which multiplied his wealth and enabled him to play more cricket in England. He ultimately lived the life of an aristocrat in England, serving with Fry in the League of nations.
As Gilbert Jessop wrote: “From the moment he stepped out of the pavilion he drew all eyes and held them. No one who saw him bat will ever forget it. He was the first man I ever knew who wore silk shirts, and there was something almost romantic about the very flow of his sleeves and the curve of his shoulders. He drew the crowds wherever he went, and at the height of his cricket days the shops in Brighton would empty if he passed along the street. Everyone wanted to see him.”
As late as 1944, Pelham Warner wrote in The Book of Cricket: “With his wonderful eye and wrists, he could play back to almost any ball, however good a length, and however fast. Like Bradman, he seldom played a genuine forward stroke, for, again like Bradman he found that balls to which he could not play back he could, with his quickness of foot, get to and drive.”
Quoting cricket enthusiast Robert on Pakpassion blog “Prince Ranji was the father of batting, codifying the shots we take for granted today (backward and forward defensive, hook, cut, pull, drive). Sir Jack Hobbs and then Sir Donald Bradman stood on his shoulders.”
I recommend fans to read the books on Ranji by Simon Wilde and earlier essays of Neil Cardus.

Comments

TRENDING

Sorry state of Indian academics: why was I thrown out of Delhi varsity interview room?

By Dr. Abhay Kumar*  The interview for the post of political science (Guest) was scheduled on Saturday afternoon, September 10, 2022. Given my previous experience, I was not willing to appear for it. But friends persuaded me to go and fight for our rights. I reached the college well before the time. When my turn came and I entered the room. The first question was asked about my experience. I said that I had taught for four semesters at NCWEB. I mentioned that I had taught ”Comparative politics”, “International Relations”, “Comparative Political Thoughts” and “Indian Government and Politics”. I said that as a teacher I had taught all the articles listed in the syllabus of the same Delhi University and the expert could ask anything about any reading or ideas. Friends, the first question asked by a female member, perhaps she is the principal of the college if I am not wrong, to give the full form of NCWEB! The second question asked by a male expert, perhaps he is the political science dep

Musician and follower of Dr Ambedkar? A top voilinist has this rare combination!

Some time back, a human rights defender, Vidya Bhushan Rawat, who frequently writes for Counterview, forwarded to me a video interview with Guru Prabhakar Dhakade, calling him one of India's well known violinists.  Dhakade is based in Nagpur and has devoted his life for the Hindustani classical music. A number of his disciples have now been part of Hindi cinema world in Mumbai, says Rawat. He has performed live in various parts of the country as well as abroad. What however attracted me was Dhakade's assertions in video about Dr BR Ambedkar, India's undisputed Dalit icon. Recorded several years back at his residence and music school in Nagpur, Dhakade not only speaks candidly about issues he faced, but that he is a believer in Dr Ambedkar's philosophy. It is in this context that Dhakade narrates his problems, even as stating that he is determined to achieve his goal. A violinist and a follower of Ambedkar? This was new to me. Rarely do musicians are found to take a

Tokens, symbols or incipient feminists? : First generation women sociologists in India

By IMPRI Team  The online event on the theme ‘Tokens, Symbols or Incipient Feminists? : The first Generation of Women Sociologists in India’ was held as an initiative of Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi under the #WebPolicyTalk series of The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps. Inaugurating the session, Zubiya Moin welcomed the speaker and participants to the program, followed by an introduction to the eminent panelists. Commencing the program, Prof Vibhuti Patel made her opening remarks welcoming Prof Kamla Ganesh, Feminist Sociologists and then greeted Prof Ratna Naidu and the editors of book ‘Reimaging Sociology in India: Feminist Perspective’, Dr Gita Chadha and Dr. Joseph M.T. along with Prof Arvinder Ansari and also welcomed all participants. She set up the stage by making us familiar with women sociologists and their works. Dr Gita Chadha, Editor of the book ‘Reimaging Sociology in India: Feminist Perspective’ After th

Omission of duty by BSF and police: Hindu forcefully kidnapped, taken to Bangladesh

Kirity Roy, Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), & National Convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI) writes to the Chairman, National Human Rights Commission: *** I am writing this to focus on the life and situation of the poor and marginalized villagers living alongside the Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal. Through the several complaints we made throughout the years to your good office, it is now evident that the people of this border are living in an acute crisis, not only from a financial perspective but also in terrible distress. The people of the border are devoid of their basic rights and are subjected to immense torture, harassment and restrictions mostly enacted by the Border Security Force personnel, who are supposed to be posted at the international borders with intentions to protect the Indian citizenry. However, on the contrary, incidents of victimizing Indian citizens are being witnessed at large by the BSF. 130 Bhot

Tamil Nadu govt claiming to reform Hindu religion, temples. People deserve better

By NS Venkataraman  For the last several decades, there have been hate campaign against Hinduism in Tamil Nadu in a subtle or not so subtle manner. Initially, it was a hate campaign against brahmins and the brahmins were abused, insulted and physically attacked. Fearing such conditions, many brahmin families left Tamil Nadu to settle down in other states in India or have gone abroad. Now, the brahmin population in Tamil Nadu is at microscopic level, for which these hate campaigners against brahmins were responsible. Later on, emboldened by the scenario of scared brahmin families not resisting and running away, the hate campaigners started focusing on Hindus. For some years, when M.G.Ramachandran and Jayalalitha were the chief ministers of the state, the hate Hindu campaigners were not much heard, as both these chief ministers were staunch believers in Hindu philosophy and have been offering prayers in temples in full public view. However, in the last eighteen months in

Emerging dimensions of India’s foreign policy in the context of global politics

By IMPRI Team  The three-day course took place recently, providing participants with an understanding of the development of Indian foreign policy, the complexity of geopolitics, and its flexibility to adjust to and even shape global outcomes. Many distinguished academics, senior scholars, former Indian diplomats, and journalists who are skilled observers and commentators of India’s foreign policy will serve as instructors for this course. Day 1 The three-day immersive online certificate training on “Emerging Dimensions of India’s Foreign Policy and Global Politics”, an initiative by the Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), began on July 14th, 2022 at 5:00 PM (IST) on Zoom platform. Dr Souravie Ghimiray served as the emcee throughout the 3 days of the event and welcomed the distinguished speakers of Day 1. The esteemed panel on Day 1 consisted of, Dr Soumita Basu, Associate Professor, Department of Intern

Demographic parameters of India@75: resource allocation, political representation

By IMPRI Team  As per UN Population Prospects 2022, India is going to be the most populous country in the world. In this regard, IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi with #IMPRI Center for Human Dignity and Development (CHDD) , organized a panel discussion, #WebPolicyTalk, as part of the series The State of Population Development- #PopulationAnd Development on India@75: Most Populous Country? The moderator of the event was Mr Devender Singh, Global Studies Programme, University of Freiburg and a Visiting Senior Fellow at IMPRI. The panellists for the event were Prof P.M Kulkarni, Demographer, Retired Professor of Population Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU) , New Delhi; Dr U.V Somayajulu, Co-Founder, CEO and Executive Director, Sigma Research and Consulting ; Dr Sonia George, General Secretary, Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), Kerala; Prof K.S James, Director and Senior Professor, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai. Th

Bhagawat Gita shows the way for the attitude to life and desirable goal of life

By NS Venkataraman*  When a mother delivers a human body, this body has no identity. Then, parents, relatives, friends consult each other and discuss the alternate appropriate names and arrive at a suitable name for this human body and this body is known and identified by this name. This human body, which steadily grow just like animals, plants and others and after experiencing the pleasures and pains of worldly life alternately for several years, perish one day, for the body to be burnt or buried. This body, bearing a name as it’s identity, comes in to the world and goes away from the world and the name that is the identity for the body also goes away along with the body. This is the scenario for several thousands of years that have gone by. The question: One question that does not seem to be still “convincingly explained” in a way that will appeal to the brain in the human body, is as to whether this human body only consists of flesh, bone and blood with well

Implementing misleading govt order to pollute Hyderabad's 100 year old reservoirs

Senior activists* represent to the Telangana Governor on GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by the Municipal Administration and Urban Development (MA&UD), Government of Telangana: ‘...restrictions imposed under para 3 of said GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996 are removed...’: *** Ref: GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996: ‘To prohibit polluting industries, major hotels, residential colonies or other establishments that generate pollution in the catchment of the lakes upto 10kms from full tank level as per list in Annexure-I...’ We come to your office with grievance that GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by Government of Telangana not only contains false information issued ‘By Order and in the name of the Governor of Telangana’ , without any scientific or expert reports, but also that implementation of the said GO is detrimental and can be catastrophic to the Hyderabad city as two 100 year old reservoirs Osman Sagar and Himayath Sagar were constructed as dams on river Moosa and river Esa, with the first and

Tattoos and intimidating gestures can't always win cricket matches for India

By Sudhansu R Das  Team India waited with baited breath for the outcome of the Pakistan vs Afghanistan match. Speculation was on about India’s return to the game if Pakistan loses to Afghanistan until Pakistan’s tailender, Naseem hit two massive sixes to win the match for Pakistan. Unfortunately, Afghanistan lost the match after being in a strong position till the last over of the game; two full touch balls in the final over turned the match into Pakistan side. The Afghanistan team would never forget this blunder and shock for a long time. India’s team management should introspect and take tough decision keeping in view of the tough match situation in the world cup matches. India lost two crucial matches in the Asia Cup. It could not defend a big total of 176 against Pakistan due to mediocre bowling attack, sloppy fielding and unimaginative captainship. It failed against Sri Lanka in similar fashion; it could not defend another respectable T 20 total of 171 runs. It was a pat