By Madeeha Khan
Vasant Raiji, born on 26th January 1920, was an Indian first-class cricketer and a cricket historian. He played his debut match representing a cricket club from India in 1939 and from 1941 he started playing for Baroda and Bombay. His contribution didn’t end on the field. He became a writer and is author of several important works of early Indian cricket. He wrote and edited 12 books on cricket.
Raiji’s dedication towards Indian cricket literature is humongous. Mr. Ramachandra Guha a notable historian and author in an interview with Outlook said, “Vasant Raiji’s contribution to the Indian cricket literature is very substantial. He was one of the first historians of Indian cricket. He worked very scrupulously and diligently. The important thing is that he didn’t only write about Indian cricket but also about the legendary Australian batsman Victor Trumper. In addition, he helped me to write ‘A Corner of a Cricket Field: An Indian History of a British Sport’ published in 2004.”
On 26th January 2020, Raiji celebrated his 100th birthday and was gifted a Ganesh Idol by the President of Mumbai Cricket Association Dr. Vijay Patil, followed by a visit from Sachin Tendulkar and Steve Waugh. Furthermore, Sachin tweeted, “ Wishing you a very special 100th birthday, Shri Vasant Raiji. Steve and I had a wonderful time listening to some amazing stories about the past. Thank you for passing on a treasure trove of memories about our beloved sport.” As a result of his age he was losing his memory but still made it a point to watch live cricket on television.
Alas, Raiji expired due to old-age on 13th June 2020 at 02:20 a.m. in his sleep at his house in Walkeshwar, South Mumbai. His cremation took place on Saturday afternoon in Chandanwadi crematorium, South Mumbai. The entire cricket fraternity mourns the loss of Vasant Raiji. Acknowledged cricketers like Yuvraj Singh and Sachin Tendulkar have shown their grief via Twitter. The BCCI also paid a tribute on Twitter and wrote, “ BCCI mourns the sad demise of Vasant Raiji. The former first-class cricketer and historian who turned 100 this year in January, passed away in his sleep.”
Undeniably, the cricket fraternity has lost its gem. The amount of respect and love that Raiji has earned is incomparable. As said by Mr.Ramachandra Guha, “His cricket record contains just a few matches but his contributions are more as a chronicler, a documenter and a lover of the game.” Raiji would still be around us in the form of his work, as he did actually hit a century in life.
Image Credits: Times of India