The contribution of veteran first-class cricketer and author Vasant Raiji, who turned 100 on January 26, contribution to Indian cricket literature, particularly on the legendary Ranjitsinhji, Duleepsinhji, and CK Nayudu, is “very substantial” and deserves all the recognition, says well-known historian and author Ramachandra Guha.
Guha points out that Raiji, who wrote/edited 12 books on cricket, helped him write his popular book ‘A Corner of a Cricket Field: An Indian History of a British Sport’, published in 2004. The Bangalore-based Guha fondly remembers meeting Raiji at Mumbai’s Cricket Club of India (CCI) at the turn of the century when he was researching for his seminal book.
“His contribution to Indian cricket literature is very substantial. He was one of the first historians of Indian cricket. He worked very scrupulously and diligently. The important thing is that he didn't only write about Indian cricket -- as Gideon Haigh points out, he wrote on Victor Trumper [legendary Australian batsman as well] – he wrote the first solid book on Ranji, or the BCCI or the Cricket Club of India,” Guha, who has written five books on cricket, tells Outlook.
Guha says more than his cricket records – Raiji played only nine first-class matches – he would always be remembered as a “chronicler, a documenter, and a lover of the game”.
“He is also a very nice and helpful man. For younger writers like myself, he was always willing to help, guiding me with resources. I met him at the CCI a couple of times. When I was writing the ‘A Corner of A Foreign Field’, he was very, very helpful. His cricket record contains just a few matches, but his contributions are more as a chronicler, a documenter, and a lover of the game,” says the 61-year-old Sahitya Akademi Award winner.
Raiji formed an unbreakable partnership with late Anandji Dossa, a legendary statistician and a businessman who had a cotton ginning factory in Vidarbha, and his statistics added lustre to Raiji’s books. “He was a good friend of Anandji Dossa. Together they chronicled, as amateurs, the early history of Indian cricket when no one was writing about it. Out of love for the game, they chronicled the history when it wasn’t fashionable topic, or an academic topic, or a lucrative topic. So, we must be grateful to them being the pioneers [of Indian cricket literature],” points out Guha.
“And, of course, they have watched and played with the first generation of Indian greats like Vijay Merchant, Vijay Hazare, Lala Amarnath, CK Nayudu, and Syed Mushtaq Ali. So, they had a sense of tradition and would talk about them with great affection and reverence. I am delighted Raiji’s around. He is a very, very fine person. I am glad he is being recognised,” says the Padma Bhushan award winner.
Raiji represented Bombay, Baroda, and the CCI in the Ranji Trophy/first-class cricket between 1941 and 1950. According to Theo Braganza, proprietor of Mumbai-based Marine Sports, bookseller and publisher, Raiji wrote/edited the following books:
1. Ranji: The Legend and the Man
2. Duleep: The Man and His Game
3. Victor Trumper: The Beau Ideal of a Cricketer
4. Ranji: A Centenary Album
5. LP Jai: Memories of a Great Batsman
6. The Romance of the Ranji Trophy
7. India's Hambledon Men
8. CCI and the Brabourne Stadium, 1937-1987 (with Anandji Dossa)
9. C. K. Nayudu: The Shahenshah of Indian Cricket (1989)
10. Duleep: A Centenary Tribute
11. From Presidency to Pentangular (with Mohandas Menon)
12. Cricket Memories: Men and Matches of Bygone Days