Player No. 207 is the modern-day Vijay Hazare

Ramachandra Guha in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“In the winter of 1947-48, the Indian cricket team visited Australia to play four Test matches. Australia, led by Don Bradman, were by some distance the finest team in world cricket. India, on the other hand, were greenhorns, having only played 10 Test matches, without winning any of them. To make matters worse, some of the country’s top players were not available for selection. These included three superlatively gifted batsmen: Vijay Merchant, Mushtaq Ali, and R.S. Modi….

“The loss of the three Ms would have hurt the team in any case; here, because of the quality of the opposition, their absence was catastrophic…. Only two Indians emerged with any credit from this unequal encounter. One was Vinoo Mankad. The other was Vijay Hazare…. To play a lone hand was not an uncommon experience for Hazare. He did that always for The Rest, his team in the Bombay Pentangular, then India’s premier domestic tournament….

“In the 1930s and 1940s, Hazare bravely bore the burdens of The Rest; in the 1940s and the 1950s, he oftentimes did the same for India. When India were 0 for four in a Test match in England, it was left to Hazare and his fellow Vijay, Manjrekar, to come together in a retrieving stand that restored some respectability to his side. In the first part of the 1950s, three Commonwealth sides toured India — in the 15 fiercely fought, albeit unofficial, ‘Tests’ that they played, the man that bowlers of the quality of Sonny Ramadhin and Jim Laker found hardest to dismiss was Vijay Hazare….

“No historical analogy can be exact, but still, it may be worth pursuing the question — who is the modern Hazare? One might say it was Sachin Tendulkar, who, for much of his career, has had to bear “this strange burden of popularity and responsibility”, to score hundreds upon hundreds to maintain his fame and keep his team afloat.

“But one can also make a case for Rahul Dravid. For one thing, his style is more akin to Hazare’s, sound and orthodox — coming in at 5 for one, which soon becomes 10 for two — he seeks to patiently rebuild the innings, whereas Tendulkar would seek rather to play some flashing shots and immediately take the initiative away from the opposition.

“These past few weeks in the West Indies, Rahul Dravid had indeed been the modern Hazare. As in Australia in 1947, three of India’s finest batsmen — Sehwag, Tendulkar and Gambhir — cried off from the tour. Here, as then, there were only two experienced batsmen left to carry along a bunch of novices. Laxman, like Mankad in 1947, has batted bravely on occasion — but the Hazare of this tour has been Rahul Dravid. That India won the series is owed largely to the magnificent hundred he scored in the second innings of the Test match in Jamaica.

“Like Hazare, Dravid is a man of courage and decency, content to play — and live — in the shadows of his more glamorous team-mates. Like Hazare, his contributions to Indian cricket have been colossal, and probably under-appreciated. It is time that one of the present, and very gifted, generation of Indian writers treated his achievements and his character in a subtle work of fiction. I suspect, however, that its ending will see its hero living not with animals in a farm, but among books in a library.”

Read the full article: The modern Hazare

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