Maharajkumar of Vizianagram

21 Nov 2017
21 Nov 2017
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Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Vijay Ananda Gajapathi Raju About this sound pronunciation (help·info) (28 December 1905 – 2 December 1965), better known as the Maharajkumar of Vizianagram or Vizzy, was an Indian cricketer, cricket administrator and politician.

Vizzy was the second son of Pusapati Vijaya Rama Gajapathi Raju, the ruler of Vizianagaram. His title Maharajkumar (prince) comes for this reason. After his father died in 1922 and his elder brother became the king, Vizzy moved to the family estates in Benares. He married the eldest daughter of the ruler of the zamindari estate of Kashipur.

He attended the Princes’ College in Ajmer and Haileybury and Imperial Service College in England. He excelled at tennis and cricket and was also a hunter

Vizzy organised his cricket team in 1926 and constructed a ground in his palace compounds. He recruited players from India and abroad. When MCC cancelled the tour of India in 1930–31 owing to political problems, he organised a team of his own and toured India and Ceylon. He succeeded in drafting Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe for the team, a considerable feat as Hobbs had previously refused offers for five such tours. Vizzy brought Learie Constantine to India a few years later. He brought Mushtaq Ali to Benares for training when he was still a high school student. “If Vizzy had been content with being such a cricket sponsor”, writes Mihir Bose in A History of Indian Cricket,”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”.

The organisation of the 1930–31 tour gave Vizzy a standing in Indian cricket that was second only to the Maharaja of Patiala.About this time, Patiala fell out with Lord Willingdon, the viceroy of India, and Vizzy got close with the viceroy. He donated a pavilion named after the viceroy in the newly constructed Feroz Shah Kotla ground in Delhi. When the national championship was started in 1934, he attempted to donate a gold ‘Willingdon trophy’ but Patiala beat him to it with his Ranji Trophy.

His wealth and contacts brought him great influence in Indian cricket, even though his cricketing abilities were not great. In the early thirties, he offered to pay the board fifty thousand rupees, forty thousand of it for Indian tour of England that happened in 1932. He was appointed as the ‘deputy vice captain’ for the tour but withdrew ostensibly on reasons of health and form.

Vizzy finally was named the captain for Indian cricket team for the 1936 tour of England, a post that he secured after lobbying and manipulation. Unfortunately, his desperately poor captaincy on the field resulted in even the normally reserved British press commenting on it. Some of the senior players in the squad, including Lala Amarnath, C. K. Nayudu and Vijay Merchant, were critical of Vizzy’s playing abilities and captaincy, and the team was split between those who supported and criticised the captain.

The low point in the tour occurred during India’s match against Minor Counties at Lord’s. Lala Amarnath had been nursing a back injury during the game. Vizzy had Amarnath pad up, but didn’t put him in to bat as a succession of other batsmen were sent in ahead of him, which prevented Amarnath from resting his injury. Amarnath was finally put in to bat at the end of the day. Visibly angry after returning to the dressing room, he threw his kit into his bag and muttered in Punjabi, “I know what is transpiring”. Vizzy took this as an affront, and conspired with team manager Major Jack Brittain-Jones to have Lala Amarnath sent back from the tour without playing the first test match. It is also alleged that in the 1st Test against the England, Vizzy offered Mushtaq Ali a gold watch to run out Vijay Merchant.

While India lost the series easily, Vizzy was knighted by King Edward VIII in the King’s Birthday Honours.He was the only cricketer to have a knighthood bestowed on him while an active Test cricketer, shortly after his test debut in June of that year, and prior to his last test in August of that year.Vizzy renounced his knighthood in July 1947, explaining in a letter to Lord Mountbatten that the knighthood “will not be in keeping with the ideals of Republican India”.MCC awarded him a membership without putting him through the customary waiting list. It was during this tour that he acquired the nickname Vizzy which was coined by Lord Hailsham, the Lord Chancellor, at a lunch given by the Royal Empire Society at Hotel Victoria.

Vizzy fared poorly in the post-tour enquiry especially in his treatment of Amarnath. In January 1937, the Beaumont Committee report described his captaincy as disastrous. It stated that “he did not understand field placings or bowling changes and never maintained any regular batting order.” On team selection, the report stated that “the good players remained idle for weeks together.” The report found Amarnath not guilty of any of the charges alleged by Vizzy and Major Jones, and completely exonerated him.

Vizzy never played another cricket match for India again.

Vizzy maintained a low profile thereafter for almost two decades. He made a comeback as a cricket administrator and was the President of BCCI from 1954–1957. As the vice-president of the BCCI in 1952, he had played a role in bringing back Lala Amarnath as the Indian captain. He successfully promoted Uttar Pradesh’s cricketing profile, making Kanpur a centre for Test cricket.On his invitation, C. K. Nayudu, at the age of 61, captained Uttar Pradesh in the 1956–57 season. He worked for the development of cricket in South India and was asked to be President of Mysore cricket association.

From the 1948–49 series against West Indies, Vizzy became a radio commentator and was the guest commentator for BBC during the Indian tour of England in 1959. He was not a particularly good commentator. According to Dickie Rutnagur, when Vizzy had just finished describing how he had hunted tigers, Rohan Kanhai responded: Really? I thought you just left a transistor radio on when you were commentating and bored them to death.

He was awarded Padma Bhushan, in 1958

Vizzy was the member of the Lok Sabha from Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh in 1960 and 1962.The Benares University conferred him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1944.He died aged 59 in Benares (now Varanasi).

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