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27 Oct 2020 | 06:54 AM
authorAditya Bhushan
Former India Captain Datta Gaekwad: Hale and Hearty at 92
The cricket patriarch from Baroda and the oldest living Test cricketer from India turned 92 today.

Once, a ten-year old kid, playing cricket in the Laxmi Vilas Palace of Baroda had an ambition to represent the Indian cricket team. Not only did he fulfill that dream, but he also went on to become country’s tenth Test captain. Well, getting the post of captain wasn’t something that he had expected. Hemu Adhikari who had been originally named to lead the team on the tour of England in 1959 withdrew and thus a certain Dattajirao Krishnarao Gaekwad became the Indian captain. In an interview to Sportstar, DK (as he was called) had once said, “But all said and done, I never thought I would be named the captain.”

He led India in four of the eleven Tests that he played, losing all of them. The England tour of 1959 wasn’t a happy one for the Indians, but despite this DK kept his spirits high. “I thought he would be depressed as the team was doing so badly. But he never showed signs of it and was pretty optimistic”, said Abbas Ali Baig who had made a century on his debut in the fourth Test of that series.  

“He was a brilliant cover fielder and his underarm throw was superb.”

DK’s Test career may not have reached the heights that he would have expected, but he has been a stalwart for Baroda leading them to Ranji Trophy victory in the 1957-58 season. He had led from the front scoring a century in the finals against Services at the Moti Bagh Stadium in Baroda. Applauding his leadership skills, his former Baroda and India teammate Chandu Borde said, “He was never ruffled on the field. His acumen of the game is excellent. He is quiet person. People say Dhoni (MS) is quiet, I would say DK was quiet." (laughs) 

Borde still remembers the good times the two would spend on Marine Drive discussing the finer aspects of the game at the end of the Day in matches played at Bombay (now Mumbai).  Apart from his captaincy and batting, DK was also known for his fielding. As Borde said, “He was a brilliant cover fielder, his pickup and underarm throw was superb.” 

Given this vast knowledge and experience in the game, it is no surprise that he coached cricketers across age groups and level for many decades post his retirement. He is also distantly related to the Baroda Royal family and has been a patron for the game in the city. 

Today at the age of 92, he is the oldest living Indian Test cricketer. But he hasn’t allowed age to take a toll on his day-to-day life or memory. His son and former Test cricketer, Aunshuman Gaekwad stated, “Even today he doesn’t believe in taking any help. He wants to be on his own. At times, he makes the breakfast by himself even now. “ 

“Who said that I will not get a license?’’

In fact, till about three years back, DK also used to drive his car. Aunshuman had unsuccessfully tried to stop his dad from driving about a decade back. First, he removed the connections from the car battery, but DK managed to get a mechanic to repair the car. Next, he told DK that a new ruling had banned issuance of fresh driving licenses to people older than 75 years. 

Much to Aunshuman’s dismay, his father actually visited the Regional Transport Office (RTO) to enquire about the same. And upon return he rang up his son, “Who said that I will not get a license? I have got my license done and can drive now.” 

Post this Aunshuman made a last attempt of asking the traffic policeman to threaten DK that his car would be confiscated if he drove again. But instead of getting scared, DK actually fired back at the traffic policeman. “So, that’s him,” Aunshuman told with a laughter and added that at his age it is a blessing to have his parents around. 

As far as today’s cricket is concerned, DK is not too fond of the ODIs or T20s. He does discuss the game on and off with his son Aunshuman. However, the topic more often than not goes back to the era when DK played the gentleman’s game. 

Last year, on DK’s 91st birthday, Aunshuman had organized a meeting of few cricketers who had played alongside his father. The guests included Chandu Borde and Madhav Apte among others. One can just imagine how interesting that nostalgic drive would have been. As a side note, I sincerely hope that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) does make an effort to record stories from cricketer’s like DK in the form of documentaries or literature for the next generation to listen and learn from it. 

This year of course, the pandemic has prevented any such mega celebrations at the house of the Gaekwads. On our part, we wish him a hale and hearty 90s as he approaches the century which his teammates dearly want him to score. 

“He is a very good-natured chap. I hope he gets to his hundred.” - Abbas Ali Baig

“I wish him to get a century because he deserves it. I think he will get it, because the way he looks after himself and keeps fit." - Chandu Borde

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