Former India Test cricketer Madhav Apte passes away

Madhav Apte, India opener for seven Test matches in the early 1950s, passed away on Monday morning. He was 86 and would have turned 87 next month.

For many years, Apte was the President of the Cricket Club of India and and the Legends Club.   -  Vivek Bendre

For six and a half decades India's cricketing fraternity with a sense of history wondered why Madhav Apte was not capped more than seven times. After a decent Test debut against the Abdul Hafeez Kardar-led Pakistan at the Brabourne Stadium in the winter of 1952, Apte scored three fifties and a century in his first overseas Test series against the West Indies.

Despite a remarkable run, Apte, the right-handed opener did not find a place in the Indian team another time. His friends among the cricketing fraternity and outside of it have asked him a thousand times as to why he did not play for India again after the tour of the West Indies.

Apte did not point a finger at anyone and on Monday morning at 6:09am, he breathed his last at the Breach Candy Hospital after ailing for a few months. He is survived by his wife Sheela, a son and two daughters, Radhika and Janhavi.

Apte was admitted to the hospital last Saturday when his sugar count shot up. "He lived a full life," said his son Vaman, an accomplished squash player. Apte’s younger brother, Arvind, who played one Test against England at Headingley in 1959, passed away five years ago.

According to those who have seen him bat, he was affectionately known as Madhavrao — was a solid and stylish opening batsman. Although, he had to make a choice between cricket and tennis. After he had won a tennis tournament, chief guest and one of India’s finest opening batsman, Vijay Merchant, asked him: "What are you going to choose as a career sport." Apte opted for cricket and chose to be an opener after being urged by his college team coach, Vinoo Mankad.

Apte scored 542 runs at 49.27 and most of his runs came against the likes of Frank King, Gerry Gomez, Frank Worrell, Alf Valentine, Sonny Ramadin. He played 67 first class matches (46 Ranji Trophy for Bombay and three for Bengal) scored 3336 runs, with six centuries and 16 half-centuries.

After retirement, Apte followed Indian cricket closely. He held Vinoo Mankad in high esteem as an all-rounder, but at a number of public functions said that Kapil Dev had to be India’s greatest all-rounder after independence. He was reluctant to make a choice between Merchant and Gavaskar as India's best opener, but may have confided to his close friends.

A close friend of Sharad Pawar, Apte became the chairman of the Mumbai Cricket Association’s Cricket Improvement Committee. He was the President of the Cricket Club of India in the early 1990s and was also the President of the Legends Club.

Chandu Patankar, Vasu Paranjape, Sunil Gavaskar, Jatin Paranjape and many cricketers were present at the Shivaji Park crematorium. "Madhavrao was a real friend, he gave me a job," said a very emotional Patankar.

Gavaskar fondly remembers the cricketing get-togethers at Apte's place. "Extremely sad at the passing away of Shri Madhavrao Apte. He was a true aficionado of our beloved game and just couldn't have enough of it.

"The cricketing get-togethers at his house made for memorable evenings with enlightening cricket talk with the who's who of cricket. I will miss those evenings, listening to him along with some of the greatest names in Indian cricket."

Apte got along well with different generation of cricketers and he was a raconteur par excellence. He loved to watch cricket, visit England every summer, and talk about Raman Subba Row, Dattajirao Gaekwad, C.D. Gopinath, Bapu Nadkarni, Merchant, Subhash Gupte, Mankad and of course a lot from the subsequent years, notably Gavaskar and Kapil Dev.