Ranji: Prince of Cricketers
Rajinder was very pro-British and an enthusiastic cricketer and soon became friends with Ranjitsinhji; he subsequently provided Ranjitsinhji with another source of income. He also spent time with his mother and family in Sarador. Although he scored in one game, in another he failed to score in either innings, the only time this happened to him in any form of cricket. The British administration in India were concerned by Ranjitsinhji; some individuals suspected that he intended to cause trouble in Nawanagar and wished to keep him out of the region.
Others supported him, believing he had been treated unfairly. Kennedy, the Administrator of Nawanagar, successfully lobbied the Government of Bombay and the India Office in London to have Ranjitsinhji's allowance doubled. But concerns among senior figures in the Government of Bombay about whether this was appropriate and over any potential agitation in Nawanagar by Ranjitsinhji meant that Kennedy's appeal to have the allowance further increased was unsuccessful.
He argued that he had been adopted as heir before being set aside without an enquiry, and that Jassaji was illegitimate. Consequently, the Government of India began to investigate and under Elgin's successor, Lord Curzon , Ranjitsinhji's application was sent to Hamilton in London. Returning to England at the beginning of the cricket season, Ranjitsinhji immediately resumed playing cricket. His health seemed improved and financial assistance from his supporters in India gave him respite from monetary worries. His tactics were unorthodox as he took risks to ensure that he faced most of the bowling, even though he was batting with recognised batsmen.
However, as the innings progressed, he rediscovered his batting touch. In total, he scored 3, runs at an average of He was dismissed for low scores in the second and third games, but was slightly more successful with 21 and 49 not out in the fourth and he hit 54 in the final match. In a low-scoring series, Ranjitsinhji scored runs at In June , Ranjitsinhji was appointed Sussex captain after Murdoch retired, ahead of other amateur cricketers. George Brann captained the county's first match after Murdoch stood down but he may have found the position to be too difficult and Ranjitsinhji led the team for the remainder of the season.
He took the opportunity of leading the side to increase the amount of bowling he did, taking 31 wickets in the season. Ranjitsinhji continued to score heavily throughout the season. After a slow start in cold weather, in the space of nine days, he hit scores of 97, , and not out, followed by a week later. He was successful in a variety of conditions and match situations, and after some criticism of his ability to play on difficult pitches for batting, scored 89 against Somerset and against Middlesex on rain affected pitches. Against Leicestershire, he achieved his highest score until then, making in five hours.
In response to Ranjitsinhji's success, opposing captains began to adopt tactics to counter his leg-side shots, placing extra fielders on that side of the pitch to either block runs or to catch the ball. Consequently, Ranjitsinhji played the drive more frequently. Wisden reported: "[He] became more and more a driving player Without abandoning his delightful leg-side strokes or beautifully timed cuts, he probably got the majority of his runs by drives—a notable change from his early years as a great cricketer.
He suffered from ill-health early in the season and struggled in the first months. His later form was better and he made the highest score of his career, against Somerset, but several leg break bowlers took his wicket and some of his innings were played in easier batting conditions or during less competitive circumstances. According to Simon Wilde, part of the reason for Ranjitsinhji's reduced output in was the death in November of Rajinder Singh; the subsequent reduction in his income would have presented Ranjitsinhji with financial difficulties.
Through his solicitor, Ranjitsinhji claimed that his debt to one creditor only came through his acting on behalf of Pratap Singh and Sardar Singh, the Maharaja of Jodhpur. Ranjitsinhji returned to England in mid-May and immediately resumed the captaincy of Sussex. However, a succession of low scores and uncertain performances suggested that he was neither mentally nor physically fit for cricket and Simon Wilde writes that his failure to secure support in India and the continued pressure of threatened bankruptcy placed him in a difficult situation.
However, he seemed to be nervous and struggled to concentrate, running out his captain, Archie MacLaren before he was out himself for However, he faced serious distractions from his parlous financial situation as one of his creditors presented him with a demand for payment shortly before the game. Ranjitsinhji claimed after the match, falsely, that Pratap Singh intended to pay the debt but needed approval from the India Office, but it is likely that Ranjitsinhji anticipated another petition in bankruptcy going before a court and that this affected his performance in the Test.
In the latter innings, when England had a relatively small target to chase for victory, he looked to have lost all confidence and could have been dismissed several times; the Australian players thought he played more poorly than they had ever seen.
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His lack of belief may also have contributed to the defeat, as Fred Tate notoriously dropped an important catch fielding, according to Simon Wilde, in a position which Ranjitsinhji was more likely to fill in normal circumstances. The real reason for his poor performance has remained the knowledge of only a very few. At the time, a polite veil was drawn over his failure, but he was never to play for England again.
After the Test, Ranjitsinhji played only a few more games that season. After two batting failures for Sussex, he dropped out of the team, even though the side were in contention for the County Championship, eventually finishing second. Part of the reason may have been to pre-empt his omission from the England team for the final Test, a match he attended as a spectator, but he did not return to Sussex after the match.
The press speculated he had walked out on the team; among the reasons suggested were disappointment with the performances of the side, dissatisfaction with the bowlers and efforts to recruit new players, and his falling out with the professional players. The local press criticised him for abandoning the team at a crucial phase of the season, and praised Brann, his replacement. Ranjitsinhji managed to raise enough money, probably through a loan, to head off the threat of bankruptcy. He spent the winter there, adding to the speculation surrounding him.
He became very close to Borrisow's eldest daughter, Edith, and the pair may have become engaged around this time. After alleviating some of his financial concerns through journalism and writing, Ranjitsinhji was able to return to cricket. Ranjitsinhji scored 1, runs at He played more regularly for Sussex and missed just two matches but displayed a reduced commitment to the club and resigned the captaincy in December, Fry assuming the role.
The difficult pitches forced him to play more defensively than usual and on a couple of occasions, crowds jeered him for slow scoring. The press also criticised his decision to prolong one Sussex innings until he had completed his own double century, adversely affecting his team's chances of victory.
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In separate matches, Len Braund and Walter Mead , bowlers who had troubled him in previous years, both took his wicket before he had scored many runs. Loans from an acquaintance from his school days, Mansur Khachar, as well as from the Nawab of Junagadh , allowed him to return to England for the following season. In , Ranjitsinhji led the batting averages for the fourth time, scoring 2, runs at This included a highest score of not out against Lancashire where Wisden reported that "From the first ball to the last in that superb display he was at the highest pitch of excellence, and beyond that the art of batting cannot go.
Furthermore, many of his runs came in less important matches, away from the pressure of the County Championship. His innings of , regarded by some critics as one of his best innings, helped the team to score an unlikely runs in the final innings to defeat the Players. Four years after his previous appearances, and now known as H. Playing mainly in Sussex and London, he had put on weight and could no longer play in the same extravagant style he had previously used. Playing in many less competitive fixtures, he scored 1, runs at In , aged 39, Ranjitsinhji returned to England and played once more.
Although announcing himself available to play for England in that season's Test matches, he was not selected. Restricted for a period by a wrist injury, he nevertheless scored four centuries, including one against the touring Australian team. At times, his form briefly touched that of his best years but most of his cricket was played in the South of England. He scored 1, runs at Possibly prompted by embarrassment at his performance, he later claimed his sole motivation for returning was to write a book about batting with one eye; such a book was never published.
In total, Ranjitsinhji scored 24, runs at an average of He scored 72 hundreds. Despite the discovery of an assassination plot on his life, in which Ranjitsinhji was implicated,  Jassaji took over the administration of Nawanagar from the British in March Roland Wild later described it as "the shattering of [Ranjitsinhji's] dreams". Immediately afterwards, he chose to miss three Championship games at short notice and visited Edith Borrisow in Gilling for 10 days; Simon Wilde suggests that Ranjitsinhji had at this point chosen to leave for India after the cricket season.
On 9 October , Ranjitsinhji departed for India, accompanied by Archie MacLaren, with whom Ranjitsinhji had developed a close friendship on the tour to Australia in —98, and who now became his personal secretary. Ranjitsinhji tried unsuccessfully to arrange an official meeting with Curzon to discuss the succession to Nawanagar and then chose to remain in India to cultivate his relationships with British officials, although there was little chance he could achieve much with regard to Nawanagar.
Instead, Mansur Khuchar discovered that Ranjitsinhji had attempted to trick him into providing more money and had repeatedly lied to him; in May he took Ranjitsinhji to Bombay High Court, insisting Ranjitsinhji repaid the money lent to him. This action kept him in India throughout and most of and prevented his return to England, where his absence was noted but could not be explained.
Although he had been in good health, Jassaji died on 14 August after developing a fever two weeks previously. Although no surviving papers suggest foul play, according to Simon Wilde there is circumstantial evidence that Jassaji may have been poisoned; at least one later ruler of Nawanagar believed that Ranjitsinhji had plotted Jassaji's murder.
The three major claimants who presented a case were Ranjitsinhji, Lakhuba and Jassaji's widows. Ranjitsinhji's claim once again rested on his claim to have been adopted by Vibhaji; Lakhuba claimed the throne through his position as Vibhaji's grandson, and like Ranjitsinhji, his prior claims had been rejected. Jassaji's widows claimed through precedent that they should chose a successor as Jassaji had not done so. Taking advantage of being in India, Ranjitsinhji quickly persuaded Mansur Khachar to withdraw his court claim in return for paying him in full upon his succession.
He also secured declarations of direct or partial support from several other states. He also used British newspapers to further his claim.
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Simon Wilde points out that the decision explicitly contradicted the evidence provided by the widows and seemingly ignored Vibhaji's abandonment of Ranjitsinhji as heir. Nevertheless, Ranjitsinhji's popularity as a cricketer, his close connections with many of the British administrators and the fact that he was westernised from his time spent in England may all have been major factors in the decision according to Wilde. An appeal from Lakhuba, which was eventually unsuccessful, delayed proceedings but Ranjitsinhji was installed as Jam Sahib on 11 March Security was heavy and shortly after the ceremony and in unfamiliar surroundings, Ranjitsinhji secretly adopted a nephew as his heir.
Ranjitsinhji faced many challenges upon assuming control of Nawanagar. The state, following a drought several years before, was poor, suffered poverty and disease. In , approximately thirty people were dying from disease each day in the capital city, Jamnagar. When he first saw it, Ranjitsinhji described Jamnagar as "an evil slum". To provide funds, most of the state's jewellery had been sold off. Possibly prompted by his difficulty adjusting, Ranjitsinhji made little progress in his first four months.
He made enquiries into improving the collection of his land revenue, began to build a cricket pitch and went on shooting expeditions. He recovered well, but his doctor reported to Fitzgerald that Ranjitsinhji needed a year in England to recover. Fitzgerald had misgivings about the level of expenditure involved and was concerned that opponents may plot while the ruler was away, but had to accept the decision. Upon arriving in England, Ranjitsinhji hired a country house at Shillinglee and spent much of his time entertaining guests, hunting and playing cricket. Such a lifestyle was expensive, but there is no evidence he paid many bills and ran up considerable debts.
However, he made no attempt to pay for his lifestyle and ignored any requests for payment sent to him. Mansur Khachar came to England in an attempt to recover his loan, and contacted the India Office. He claimed Ranjitsinhji repeatedly misled him, although he could not provide evidence for all of his statements. Ranjitsinhji denied many of the claims but agreed to repay the initial loan to prevent embarrassment if the story got out. He offered to repay half of the sum, but in the event gave back less than a quarter.
Ranjitsinhji became increasingly uncooperative and when the finished work arrived two weeks afterwards, he eventually returned them, stating that he was dissatisfied with the likeness.
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In response, Tayler issued a writ for guineas. By August, after a delay of seven weeks, Tayler was told that the matter could not be settled as MacLaren, Ranjitsinhji's secretary and a vital witness, was injured. But when Tayler discovered that this was untrue, [note 8] she wrote to the India Office. Ranjitsinhji had his name taken out of the claim on the grounds that he was a ruling sovereign, a view which was supported by the India Office. During his visit Ranjitsinhji resumed his first-class cricket career in the season,  and also visited the Borrisow family in Gilling East.
At the time, he was contemplating marriage and locals believed he was in love with Edith Borrisow. While he may have pursued the matter, objections from her father and the potential scandal in both British and Rajput circles at a mixed-race marriage prevented anything coming of it.
By the end of the season, Ranjitsinhji was under pressure. At a farewell dinner to celebrate his cricket feats, some notable figures from cricket and the India Office were absent.. Rumours spread over his financial unreliability and stories appeared in the press that he was considering abdication.
Concerned and embarrassed by the negative publicity, the India Office advised Ranjitsinhji to be more careful with money. In December , he returned to India although two months remained on his lease at Shillinglee. Ranjitsinhji returned from England to find that many of his staff had left and several assassination plans had been uncovered. Rumours spread that he was about to abdicate. He tried to reclaim land given away by previous rulers and although he reduced revenue taxation, he imposed an additional land rent which, coupled with severe drought, led to rebellion in some villages; Ranjitsinhji ordered his army to destroy them in retribution.
He did so at the earliest opportunity in Ranjitsinhji resumed first-class cricket in but also had to face his many debts in England; his solicitor, Hunt, was questioned by the India Office, although Hunt reassured the officials that Ranjitsinhji's debts were in hand.
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Lord Winterton once again asked questions in the House of Commons, this time about money Ranjitsinhji owed to the Coupe Company for architectural designs. However, it is possible that Edith Borrisow stayed regularly at the palace. When the First World War began in August , Ranjitsinhji declared that the resources of his state were available to Britain, including a house that he owned at Staines which was converted into a hospital. In November , he left to serve at the Western Front, leaving Berthon as administrator.
Ranjitsinhji went to France but the cold weather badly affected his health and he returned to England several times. While on foot, he was accidentally shot in the right eye by another member of the party. After travelling to Leeds via the railway at Scarborough, a specialist removed the badly damaged eye on 2 August. Ranjitsinhji's presence on a grouse shoot was a source of embarrassment to the authorities, who attempted to justify his presence in the area by hinting at his involvement in military business.
He spent two months recuperating in Scarborough and after attending the funeral of W. Grace in Kent, he went to India for his sister's marriage and did not return to England before the end of the war. Her father died in and she and her sister moved away from Gilling, eventually settling in Staines where Ranjitsinhji had a house. Sewell , to whom Ranjitsinhji told the story, Ranjitsinhji asked Edith to marry him following her father's death. However, she refused as she had fallen in love with someone else, and the engagement ended after 18 years.
Sewell also claimed that her father had come to approve of the proposed marriage. However, the story may not be reliable and Simon Wilde speculates that Borrisow had simply tired of waiting and broke off the engagement. It is likely the pair remained friends, but Ranjitsinhji was deeply affected by the end of the relationship. While Ranjitsinhji was in Europe at the start of the war, Berthon remained in Nawanagar as Administrator and began to implement modernisation programmes.
He organised the clearance of slums in Jamnagar and new houses, shops and roads were built. Berthon's improvements in irrigation meant that dry weather in was inconvenient but not disastrous like previous droughts. He also improved the state's finances to the extent that the railway was finally extended as the British resident had suggested in Ranjitsinhji disagreed and threatened to abdicate if he was forced to retain Berthon.
As a compromise, Berthon remained in Nawanagar but in an ostensibly more lowly position; in return, Ranjitsinhji was given more outward displays of favour, including the upgrading of Nawanagar to a gun salute state and the centre of its liaison with the British was transferred from the Government of Bombay to the Government of India. Furthermore, Ranjitsinhji personally was entitled to a gun salute [note 11] and officially granted the title of Maharaja. Nawanagar's finances were improved further by the construction of a port at Bedi.
Encouraged by the British, the port was successful and thanks to favourable costs and charges it was used by many traders. As a consequence, Nawanagar's revenue more than doubled between and He acquired many properties in India, and while retaining his property in Staines in England, bought a castle in Ballynahinch on the west coast of Ireland. From , he once more visited England but could now do so regularly and subsequently split his time each year between India and the British Isles.
However, according to journalist Simon Wilde , Ranjitsinhji was never happy. Possibly, he felt more at home in England and in the company of his British friends, and never felt a connection with Nawanagar. Although Ranjitsinhji had no children, he was very close to his nephews and nieces; they lived in his palaces and he sent them to Britain to study. He encouraged his nephews to take up cricket and several of them had minor success in school cricket. The most effective was Duleepsinhji; critics spotted a similarity to Ranjitsinhji in his style and he had a successful county and Test career until he was forced to give up the game through illness in However, he felt pressured by Ranjitsinhji and said that he only played to keep Ranjitsinhji happy.
For much of the remainder of his life, Ranjitsinhji devoted his time to supporting the interests of the Indian Princes. He attempted to unite his fellow princes against the advance of democracy, the Independence Movement and the growing hostility of the Indian National Congress. He was instrumental in the formation of the Chamber of Princes.
Providing extravagant hospitality to other delegates, Ranjitsinhji's delegation was popular and, according to Simon Wilde, "managed to acquire influence beyond its real status in Geneva". Fry, who wrote his speeches. One such speech in , made on behalf of the British Empire, was partly responsible for the withdrawal of the Italians from Corfu, which they had occupied. He also made a controversial speech in against the limits placed on the immigration of Indians into South Africa. In , Ranjitsinhji came under attack from the All India States Peoples Conference which accused him, among other things, of being an absentee ruler, high taxes and restricting liberties.
He responded through supporting published works by different authors, including Jamnagar and its Ruler in , Nawanagar and its Critics in and The Land of Ranji and Duleep in Although not entirely accurate, they attempted to answer some of the criticisms. While there, he was well received by former cricketers and saw Duleepsinhji score against Australia in a Test match at Lord's. At the request of Sussex, he was president of the county for the year.
He was chancellor to the Chamber of Princes in , shortly before he died.
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Ranjitsinhji died of heart failure on 2 April after a short illness. McLeod recounts that "many" contemporary observers attributed Ranji's death to an angry comment made publicly by Lord Willingdon , the Viceroy of India in the Chamber of Princes. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered over the River Ganges. In his day, Ranjitsinhji's batting was regarded as innovative and history has come to look upon him as "one of the most original stylists to have ever played the game".
Fry commented on Ranji's "distinctiveness", attributing it to "a combination of perfect poise and the quickness peculiar to the athletic Hindu". Bateman's work on cricket and the British Empire identifies Ranjitsinhji as an important figure in helping build "imperial cohesion", adding that his "cultural impact was immense".
The 29 year old lefthander is an elegant batsman who pursued his aspirations through the rough and tumble of Hyderabad cricket over the past decade. His story is one of remarkable perseverance and single minded purpose, a narrative that could serve to inspire a much needed renaissance in Hyderabad cricket. After yet another insipid performance this week against the Services, Hyderabad is lying ahead of only Tripura in Group C.
They have collected just 5 points off their six matches so far and are set to complete yet another disappointing season on the domestic circuit. Danny is an example worth emulating for the team, if they are to revive their fortunes and reclaim glory. It is not often that a cricketer survives eight years in the wilderness between a much awaited debut match and the next, especially at the state level. Danny made his Ranji Trophy debut at the age of 21 in , but scores of 8 and 0 against Andhra rendered his place vacant soon after the match.
Relegated to the sidelines, Danny lost his place in the state team and was consigned to go back and play the local leagues to hone his skills, waiting for the next call up. As it turned out though, the young man was destined for a long wait, a very long one.
Back to the capricious world of league cricket, Danny pursued his passion in the hope that he can earn a spot in the Hyderabad team again. Perhaps even represent India one day, but it was an arduous task laced with the dusty grind that accompanies being a player in the unheralded leagues. Meanwhile, dealing with the disappointment of not playing for the state team and the rigmarole of local cricket started to take a toll on the young man. Soon he was going through the motions, not knowing if he would ever be able to regain a taste of domestic cricket and inch closer to an international future.
After drifting sideways with his cricket for a while, Danny rediscovered his soul and spirit a couple of years ago. Playing with renewed purpose in the HCA leagues, the elegant leftie rediscovered his touch. Danny scored heaps of runs, nearly 2, of them to top the charts and push himself into the reckoning again. Danny scored 62 in the second innings of the drawn match to reward the faith shown by the selectors in recalling him after a lengthy absence. Unfortunately, injury to his hand while fielding prevented him from batting against the Services side in the match that ended in a draw on Wednesday.
The city, known for its long romance with cricket, is struggling to rediscover its glorious connection with the game. Politics and inept administration have caused immense damage to cricket in the region and all the off field shenanigans are taking a toll on the performance of the team this season. The good thing about being at the nadir is that the team can only go one way — upwards.