Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Origins of Ranji Trophy - Part II

Posted by Soulberry
The social ascension of HH The Maharajkumar Sir Pusapati Gajapatiraju Vijaya Ananda "Vizzy"

When we broke off for the first drink's break, the narrator had introduced us to the scene, climes, and some of the characters who unwittingly ended up creating the Ranji trophy. The narrator also introduced us to the two main protagonists responsible, documenting their rivalry, and the declining influence of the powerful Maharajah of Patiala, due to recorded scandalous misdemeanours, in the court of the Viceroy, Lord Willingdon, which was matched by the sudden concurrent rise in prestige of his bête noire - Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram. He had left us there, tantalizingly poised to see Vizzy rise in court from his remarkable challenge. Before we go on, let us briefly understand Vizzy.

HH The Maharajkumar Sir Pusapati Gajapatiraju Vijaya Ananda Vizzy

Unlike the powerful and ruling Maharajadhiraj Bhupinder Singh ji of Patiala, Vizzy was the second son of Maharaja Sahib Pusapati Chittibabu Vijayarama IV Gajapathi. Thus he was not in direct line of power, and hence a Mahrajkumar. Then, he had a disagreement with his nephew, following which, he had to shift base from his southern Kingdom of Vizianagaram to Benares (Varanasi) where he married Maharajkumari Bhagirath Devi of Kashipur and settled down. However, it is said, he was an ambitious man, determined to cultivate his own power and influence through the plough of cricket.

Mihir Bose has famously written in his book, A History of Indian Cricket, "If Vizzy had been content with being such a cricket sponsor like Sir Horatio Mann in the eighteenth century, or Sir Julien Cahn in the twentieth, his name would be one of the most revered in Indian cricket. But he was consumed with the ambition to be a great cricketer".

It is a famous quote, often seen on the web, included on Vizzy's page at Wiki, and perhaps summarizes what, or sets the tone for how, most authors may feel about Vizzy. It is true perhaps that Vizzy dreamt of leading India as captain, in what was merely a sport otherwise, but had assumed far different dimensions then as it continues to wear now.

So here is a young man, born into monarchy, and with an inclination to rule, living in a period when power and patronage were still tantalizingly near, even though these essentials were slipping away swiftly and certainly from the grasp of traditional rulers, with great organizational skills, and some lesser ones in the most useful of places - on the cricket field of colonial India. He used them both to replace the firmly entrenched Patiala from close proximity to Lord Willingdon, Chief Patron of cricket in India and also the Viceroy of that time. At least for a while Vizzy was King.

Vizzy organized and led a team on a tour of Ceylon versus Dr. J Rockwood's Europeans in 1930-31, and cricket playing centres of India such as Delhi, Calcutta (now Kolkatta), Madras(now Chennai), Bangalore ( now Bengaluru ), Secunderbad and Benares ( Varanasi). ( More related stats - here and the controversies thereof re: Hobbs and Sutcliffe) The Indian part of the contingent included senior players such as CK Nayudu, Mushtaq Ali, and Prof. D.B Deodhar.

Getting Hobbs and Sutcliffe to play was no mean feat, we are told, for Hobbs had spurned five previous offers. Fans of Kevin Pietersen in India hoping to see him play in the IPL, therefore, still have four hopes to go! Vizzy spent his own money in setting up this team and organizing the tour, the success of which, not only drew apprecation from Sutcliffe (who went on to record it the Daily Express of that time), but also catapulted his stock in the cricket establishment of India to dizzy heights.

Our narrator tells us that Times of India reported then that Nawab Liaquat Ali Khan, the President of the Cricket Control Board, en route attending the second round table conference at Bombay, disclosed th convening of an emergency board meeting at Simla in which issues relating to office bearers, th proposed tour of England and the visit of Ceylon were discussed. He also diclosed that Vizzy had announced a purse of Rupees 50,000 towards the forthcoming tour of England. Anthony S D'Mello, RE Grant Govan, and CE Newham (who was acting president) were said to be sitting in the meeting.

The seed for captaincy of the Indian team was clearly being tended to vigorously.

At this point I may need to digress a little and discuss a point with our narrator for I am confuse about the Liaqat Ali Khan involved with both round tables and cricket besides being a Nawab in the bargain.

Extensive research on the net ( please refer to the difficulties I mentioned earlier in the absence of a BCCI website ) by me on Nawabzada Liaqat Ali Khan for his affiliation and association with cricket adminstration of that time revealed nothing.

The BCCI list of presidents also dos not reveal the name of the Nawab. However, our narrator has quoted Times of India and I do not have access to their archives of that period. There are however Sikandar Hayat Khan and Mohammed Hamidullah Khan on the list approximating that period. Well, that's one for our narrator to clarify. I welcome anyone who points me in the right direction.

We are told, Vizzy upon reaching Delhi after being invited for a meeting with the powers that be, issued a stirring statement of aims in which he claimed he had ndertaken the journey for the sake of cricket, endeavoring for the materialization of the proposed tour of England, and that he was willing to sacrifice wealth and much for the sake of the game and the tour.

News reports of that time, we are told, in the light of the successful organization of the Ceylon and India tour and generosity, concluded their articles with a declaration that Vizzy's appointment as captain to England was a certainity.

The viceregal doors opened and Vizzy was at discussions with Lord Willingdon over the proposal and details of the tour of England. Willingdon is said to have been deeply interested in favour of the project. Clearly Vizzy had closer to the seat of power while the colourful Patiala had slipped away from it.

Not so...things are not so clear-cut in princely thrusts and parry's.

Patiala decided to redeem his eroding status by offering to cover the expenses of the trials involved for the team's selection and a month's expenses on tour. The hitherto impoverished Board was truly overwhelmed by the windfalls of rivalry.

Also, with the rivalry no longer covert, it gave opportunity to others to shape things along. The Jama Saheb Nawab of Nawanagar, who invented a delicately cruel stroke to survive and thrive in competitive counties saw a chance to create an impresion in India as well. Similarly, there were those, who through correspondence with newspapers, anonymously or otherwise, threw in the crown of the Nawab of Pataudi - Iftikhar Ali Khan, and others' as well into the captaincy stakes.

-- End of Part II --


  1. The Origins of Ranji Trophy - Part I



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