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Datta Gaekwad

Meet Datta Gaekwad Face to Face as part of CricInfo's video/audio interview series.

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"They were like enemies... I remember one year there was a final between Holkar and Baroda. I had to appear in my BA exams, so I told them it was not possible for me to play. I went there in the morning just in civil dress... " (On the rivalry between Baroda, Bombay and Holkar)

[ Complete profile of Datta Gaekwad ]

CricInfo: I would like to start by asking you about the environment you grow up in, since you are connected with the royal family in Baroda and the Maharaja himself is a keen follower of the game and was also a patron of the game in fact. How did that help you in developing interest in the game?

DG Gaekwad: Well, the Gaekwads have a very big family tree and our forefathers come from a small village in Nasik district of Maharashtra state and are settled down here. One of our forefathers became the ruler of Baroda. That was in the 19th century. Then most of the Gaekwads migrated to Baroda. Actually I am not directly connected with the ruling family but our forefathers had connections with the forefathers of the ruling family. So we had some relation with the present and past rulers and had a close relationship with late Fateh Singh Rao, the Maharaja who was a good cricketer and keen follower of the game. He had a good knowledge of the game as well.

Talking about the benefits which I got from the ruling family, as a boy of 11 years I was a companion of the late Maharaja of Baroda and stayed with him in the palace for nearly 12 years. During that period we used to play cricket and used to talk about cricket and in the 1940's we had a team called the Prince's team and I used to play for the team at the age of 11. We used to participate in the under-14 and 16 tournaments. In 1940 he got some well known cricketer like CS Nayudu and Vijay Hazare. I had the great privilege of getting coached by these great cricketers. That is how i got my initial coaching. The coaching was not to that level as it is now as it is more professional, scientific and technical. But I had the feel of these cricketers and though they might not have had that much knowledge of coaching, their way of playing and thinking made a lot of difference to me. I watched Hazare bat against CS Nayudu whom I would rate as one of the greatest leg spinners and learnt a lot by watching them. This is how my cricket started. We had the prince's team and used to play local matches, local tournaments and friendly matches.

I was playing cricket in school and college and then I played for Bombay University and later for the Maharaji Sayajirao University in 1951. I was playing cricket right from the age of 8 or 10 and in 1940 and later in 1945-46, the trend of importing players from outside started and at one time, even when I was scoring 100's in my school days and 200's in my university days I was not able to find a place in the Ranji team. At one stage, the Baroda team had 9 to 10 Indian players - there was CS Nayudu, Nimbalkar, Hazare, Gul Mohammed, Amir Elahi, Sohoni, Sadashiv Shinde, Hemu Adhikari and Kishenchand. So one can imagine how difficult it was for me to get into the Ranji team even after my good performances. You want to reach a higher level and achieve your goal by working hard and persisting with that. This is how I continued playing cricket. It was in 1947 that I got my first break which was after the merger of states. Most of players left and by 1949 there were only five or six players. Finally I got a chance to play in the Ranji Trophy. I started playing first class cricket in 1947 in the knockout tournament. [Audio]

CricInfo: You are talking about rivalry between Bombay, Baroda, Holkar. Do you remember any particular encounters which are still in your memory. Any particular contest which was really exciting?

DG Gaekwad: It's not an encounter in the real sense as there was rivalry between the teams as each one of them wanted to win. I remember the big record 577-run partnership between Gul Mohammed and Vijay Hazare. Though I played in the 1947-48 season, I did not make much runs and we lost in the very first matches in the two seasons. In 1948-49, I got scored consecutive centuries - hundred in each innings against Gujarat and 108 against Bombay.

The next year for the Baroda versus Holkar game, I said I would not play the match as I had my BA exams that year. But they insisted that I should play and they got the whites from my home and made me put on the clothes. I was not satisfied with my form for I had not practiced and wouldn't do justice, but they forced me to play. I usually go at number three for I had made big scores and was sent in the same position, but this time I made a duck. In the second innings, I did not come at number three and Holkar's captain CK Nayudu came to me and asked if I was afraid of getting a second duck. [Audio]

CricInfo: Let me just fast forward to 1952 when you were first selected for India on the tour of England. Did it come as a surprise or did you expect the call up that time?

DG Gaekwad: No, I was not surprised. My selection in 1952 tour was based on my Ranji performance. I had scored a number of centuries in the national championship. In 1951, in an inter-university match, I scored a double century for Poona against Bombay. SK Gurunathan who was a great follower of mine, gave the scores and photographs of mine in the papers. So, I don't think so it was a surprise selection as far as the 1952 tour was concerned. [Audio]

CricInfo: You made your debut in the first Test at Leeds. It was marked the debut of Fred Trueman. Do you recall the second innings when the score board read 0/4 and could you tell us what was the reason for such a dramatic collapse?

DG Gaekwad: When I went to England in 1952, I was never an opening batsman. I was always going at number three in the Ranji Trophy matches and never opened for Baroda either. But on the 1952 tour, I was asked to open the innings. I was surprised when I was asked to open in a tour game against Essex, for I had not opened even for my state side. But I accepted and scored 75 odd runs and since then I became an opening batsman.

Talking about 0-4, you know in those days they never covered the wicket. Even if it drizzled one had to continue playing and the wickets were so different from our Indian wickets. For England, Trueman was just coming up and he wanted to prove himself. He was really very quick with genuine pace and it was very difficult for us to cope up with him.

CricInfo: It was also Trueman's First Test match

DG Gaekwad: It was Trueman's first Test match but I didn't give my wicket to him. [Audio]

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