Vijay Merchant: The Indian cricketer whom British wanted to take in their team by painting him “White”


  • Oldest cricketer who scored a century
  • Nobody broke records even after 68 years

On 12 October 1911, a child is born in Mumbai. Born in a very elite and wealthy family, this child’s name is Vijay. The world first knows him as Vijay Thackeray, but when a small confusion in school days makes him a merchant from Thackeray, the whole story is still not known to anyone.

Merchants, who breathed last in 1987, would have been celebrating their 108th birthday if he were alive today. If someone saw this player called Don Bradman of India, the bowler would get nervous about bowling. Perhaps this is the reason why veteran players like Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar, who come from Mumbai, followed their footsteps by considering Merchant as the ideal.

The specialty of Vijay’s career that he played all the matches of his international career against England. His international career may seem quite long, but during that time he played only 10 Test matches. He started his career against England in 1933 and last played after 18 years in 1951, in which Vijay scored 859 runs at an average of 47.72. It also includes three centuries and three half-centuries. Even though Vijay was considered the best batsman, he could not win a match in his entire career. Yes, he played 10 Tests and lost all.

When the British wanted to paint him white

Vijay Merchant, who has been interested in cricket since college days, scored runs in those competitions. This form remained intact even in first-class cricket. Perhaps this was the reason that he was soon selected for the Indian team, but impressed by the spirit of patriotism and the thoughts of Gandhiji, he refused to play the match.

Actually, the England team was visiting India for the first time and Merchant was selected in the team for the same series, but many freedom fighters including Mahatma Gandhi were imprisoned at that time, in protest against this, Vijay Merchant protesting the game, he pulled himself out of the team.

Had Vijay Merchant played that match, he would have been a member of India’s first International Test match team. Four years later, when the Indian team toured England in 1933–34, he joined that team, because by then all the big leaders of the freedom movement in India had been released from prison.

When Vijay played the first match for India in 1933 at the age of 22, it was only the second Test match of the Indian team. Vijay Merchant scored a century against England in 1936 in Manchester. Seeing Vijay’s innings, English cricketer CB Fry had said, “Let’s paint him white (Vijay Merchant) and take him to Australia so that he can open for us.”

World War II put a break on career

Although the international career of Vijay Merchant was around 18 years, in the meantime, about 10 years of World War II were lost. Because of this, Vijay Merchant could play only 10 Test matches in his career. In 1951, he suffered a shoulder injury. For this reason, he retired. Vijay scored 859 runs in 10 Tests at an average of 47.72, including three centuries and an equal half-century. Unfortunately, the Vijay Merchants could not be part of any of India’s victories.

If Vijay Merchant is called Bradman of India, it will not be an exaggeration. He scored at an average of 98.75 in Ranji, the highest in first-class cricket after legendary batsman Don Bradman. According to data from Cricinfo, Vijay played a total of 150 first-class matches, with 13,470 runs at an average of 71.64. This includes 45 centuries and 52 half-centuries. Not only this, his highest score is 359 not out.

Vijay Merchant’s finest batting in the decade of 40s and 50s convinced the world’s greatest cricketers of his batting. A domestic tournament is also played in India under the name of Vijay Merchant. Under-16 matches are played in it.

The 154-run innings played at the Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium, Delhi, against England in 1951-52 is still the oldest Test century by any Indian cricketer. Rivalry with Vijay Merchant, who was awarded Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1937 and Vijay Hazare, the first captain of Azad India, is well known, but the two responded to each other only with the bat.

Between 1933 and 1960 there was ‘Vijay Raj’ in Indian cricket. Vijay Manjrekar’s trio with Vijay Merchant, Vijay Hazare, was showing India a new direction in this game from slavery.

Merchant did retire from cricket, but could not separate himself from the game. Joined the board. He was also made the head of the selection committee in 1960. The credit for finding legendary batsmen like Sunil Gavaskar, Eknath Solkar, Gundappa Vishwanath goes to Vijay Merchant. He also served as a commentator in Vividh Bharati.

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