Vasant Raiji, India’s oldest first-class cricketer, passes away at 100

Vasant Raiji, a right-handed batsman, played nine first-class matches in the 1940s, scoring 277 runs with 68 being his highest score.

Cricket historian Vasant Raiji passed away on Saturday.   -  VIVEK BENDRE

Vasant Raiji, who was India’s oldest first-class cricketer at 100, died here in the wee hours of Saturday.

Raiji is survived by his wife and two daughters. He had turned 100 on January 26 this year.

“He (Raiji) passed away at 2.20 am in his sleep at his residence in Walkeshwar in South Mumbai due to old-age,” his son-in-law Sudarshan Nanavati told PTI.

Raiji, a right-handed batsman, played nine first-class matches in the 1940s, scoring 277 runs with 68 being his highest score.

Raiji, also a cricket historian and chartered accountant, made his debut for a Cricket Club of India team that played Central Provinces and Berar in Nagpur in 1939.

His Bombay (now Mumbai) debut happened in 1941 when the team played Western India under the leadership of Vijay Merchant. The match ended in a draw with Bombay securing a first-innings lead. Later in his career, Raiji also played for Baroda.

Raiji was 13 when India played its maiden Test on home soil but managed to catch the action at the Bombay Gymkhana in 1933.

Cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar and former Australian skipper Steve Waugh had paid a courtesy visit to Raiji at his residence in January when he had completed a “century“.

Vasant Raiji

Cricketing legends Sachin Tendulkar and Steve Waugh had visited Vasant Raiji on his 100th birthday.   -  PTI

Tendulkar condoled Raiji’s demise and fondly recollected their meeting six months ago.

“I met Shri Vasant Raiji earlier this year to celebrate his 100th birthday. His warmth and passion for playing and watching Cricket was endearing. His passing away saddens my heart. My condolences to his family & friends,” tweeted Tendulkar.

The Indian cricket board (BCCI) too paid its tribute.

“It is with profound sadness that BCCI has learnt of the passing of Vasant Raiji, a former first-class cricketer and historian, who had turned 100 earlier this year on 26th January,” the Board said in a note on its website.

As per the note, Raiji was also a founding member of the Jolly Cricket Club in Mumbai and wrote books on Ranjitsinhji, Duleepsinhji, Victor Trumper, CK Nayudu and LP Jai.

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