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Umrigar was the perfect all-rounder
November 08, 2006 00:14 IST
Polly Umrigar, who passed away on Tuesday following a brief illness, was a heroic figure for India as well as fans abroad from the late forties to the early sixties, almost always shining in a losing cause.
When he retired, he held the most important records for India: most Tests, most runs, most hundreds. His records stood from 1962 to 1978, when they were broken by Sunil Gavaskar.
A burly six-footer, Umrigar was a commanding figure at the crease, whether batting, bowling, directing operations as captain or standing in his usual position at first slip. He excelled in full-blooded drives, but could also hook and pull powerfully.
As a bowler, he was an accurate off-spinner and could even open the bowling, sending down out-swingers. He was also a brilliant versatile fielder.
Whether as batsman, bowler or captain, he helped shape the few Indian triumphs of his time.
For 30 years, he held the record of the highest score by an Indian on tour -- 252 not out against Cambridge University in 1959.
As a bowler, his finest hour was when he took four for 27 to help India defeat mighty Australia at Kanpur in 1959.
A shrewd captain, he led India in eight Tests, winning two and losing two before giving up the captaincy at Madras, against the West Indies in 1959 following a misunderstanding with the selectors.
He is only one of two Indian cricketers (Vinoo Mankad being the other) to score a century and take five wickets in an innings -- a feat he achieved against the West Indies at Port of Spain in 1962.
Umrigar was also the first Indian to hit a Test double century.
After retirement, he continued to serve Indian cricket as chairman of the selection committee, tour manager and BCCI executive secretary.
He was born on March 28, 1926 at Solapur in Maharashtra as Pahlan Ratanji Umrigar and made his first class debut in 1944. His Test debut came four years later, against the West Indies at Mumbai, and his 59th and last Test was also against the West Indies, at Kingston in 1962. He retired from first class cricket a year later in 1963.
He played a 59 Tests, scoring 3631 runs, with a best of 223 and inclusive of 12 centuries at an average of 42.22; he claimed 35 wickets, and had best bowling figures of six for 74 at an average of 42.08.