Oldest surviving cricket film featuring K. S. Ranjitsinhji

The British Film Institute (BFI) has unearthed a video that shows Ranjitsinhji playing a selection of strokes in the nets during England’s 1897-98 tour of Australia. The video is the oldest surviving cricket film and probably the first ever made.

Ranjitsinhji, who revolutionised batting with his unique style, played 15 Tests for England and scored 989 runs at an average of 44.95.

Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji, who later became the Maharaja Jam Saheb of Nawanagar, gave the world a glimpse of his unique batsmanship while playing for England between 1896 and 1902.

The Indian prince played first-class cricket for Sussex and made his Test debut against Australia in July 1896.

The British Film Institute (BFI) has now unearthed a video that shows Ranjitsinhji playing a selection of strokes in the nets during England’s 1897-98 tour of Australia. The video is the oldest surviving cricket film and probably the first ever made. With the camera positioned at silly-mid-off, it is one of four films shot during the tour by Henry Walter Barnett.

The video can be accessed on the youtube channel of BFI: >https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loiE0IuWCHo

During the 1897-98 tour Down Under, England and Australia battled it out in a five-match Ashes series. England won the first Test in Sydney by nine wickets, largely due to the heroics of Ranjitsinhji, Jack Hearne and Tom Richardson. Ranjitsinhji scored 175 despite being ill. In the process, he also emulated Australian batsman Harry Graham — who had scored a century in his first Test in England — by scoring a hundred in his first Test in Australia.

Australia went on to win the next four Tests, thus claiming yet another Ashes. However, Ranjitsinhji had a memorable tour, scoring 457 runs from five matches (10 innings) at an average of 50.77, with a century and three half-centuries.

Ranjitsinhji played 15 Tests and scored 989 runs at an average of 44.95. He played 307 first-class matches, scoring 24,692 runs before retiring.

After Ranjitsinhji's retirement, Sir Neville Cardus wrote: “...when Ranji passed out of cricket a wonder and a glory departed from the game forever.”

The BFI, founded in 1933, is a charitable organisation governed by a Royal Charter. The institute promotes and preserves film-making and television in the United Kingdom.