Birthday special: Vijay Hazare – One of India’s batting greats

One of India’s first great batsmen and first successful captain Vijay Hazare was born on this day in 1915. The former India skipper made his debut at the age of 31 against England in 1946 and represented India till 1953 although he continued playing in domestic cricket till 1961. Overall, Hazare played in 30 Tests and guided the country to its first-ever Test win.

Hazare scored 2,192 Test runs at 47.65 with seven centuries and nine half-centuries. He also took 20 wickets. He was the first Indian batsman to 1,000 Test runs, and also one of the fastest to the mark, accomplishing it in his 25th innings. His record in first-class cricket was phenomenal as he scored 18,740 runs in 238 games, averaging 58.38, with 60 centuries and 73 half-centuries.

Career highlights

Before playing in international cricket, Hazare proved his mettle as a batsman and medium-pace bowler in first-class cricket. He was the first Indian to score a first-class triple century. In 1943-44, he became the first Indian to score over 1000 runs – which he compiled in an incredible four matches – in a domestic season. With Gul Mohammad, he shared a fourth-wicket partnership of 577 runs for Baroda against Holkar in the Ranji Trophy final in 1946-47. The record stood until 2006 when Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene put on 624 for the third wicket against South Africa in the Colombo Test.

After scoring heavily in first-class cricket, Hazare made his debut in international cricket in 1946. His finest moment in the game came during the tour of Australia in the 1947-48 season when he scored twin centuries against Donald Bradman’s ‘Invincible’ team in Adelaide in 1947-48. He became the first Indian to score a century in both the innings of a Test.

Although India lost the game, the knocks further enhanced Hazare’s reputation as one of the best Indian batsmen of his era. After scoring 116 in the first innings, he scored 145 in the second innings in which six of his teammates could not even open their accounts. On the same tour, he had clean bowled Bradman not once but twice. In a later interview, he admitted that Bradman’s wicket meant more than his centuries.

Captaincy and retirement

Four years later in 1951, he was handed India’s captaincy for the first time for the home series against England. Hazare started his captaincy stint with a bang by scoring centuries in the first two Tests in Delhi and Mumbai. In the same series, he went on to immortalize his name in Indian cricket folklore by guiding the country to its first-ever Test victory.

But things went downhill from there as Hazare failed to deliver with the burden of captaincy. In the 14 Tests under his captaincy, India lost five and drew eight. The pressure of captaincy took a toll on his batting too and he finally brought down curtains on his illustrious career in 1953. The struggle as a captain and batsman in the last few years in international cricket does not undermine Hazare’s contribution to Indian cricket.

In 1960, he became the first cricketer to get the prestigious Padma Shri Award, India’s fourth-highest civilian award. In the 2002/03 season, India’s premier domestic one-day tournament was named Vijay Hazare Trophy in his honour. The batting legend passed away on 18 December 2004, due to intestinal cancer.