Ranjit Singh was the first Indian player to have played Test match cricket. He had begun his cricket career in England. In his honor, India’s first-class cricket tournament was named after him, the ‘Ranji Trophy’. He was an exceptional cricketer who played a significant role in the development of Indian cricket. He was widely regarded as one of the greatest batsmen of all time.
It was on this day when Ranji was born in Sarodar which is a small village that is located in the Western Province of Kathiawar on September 10, 1872. The right-hand batter was known for his sharp perception along with unconventional approach and rapid reflexes which were instrumental in pioneering the late cut and leg glance, along with the skill of back-foot defense.
In the year 1888, Ranji went to England and enrolled himself at St. Faith’s, Cambridge. Despite lacking a refined cricket technique, he was determined to improve. By 1893, meanwhile, he earned a place in the Trinity college team but faced exclusion from the university eleven due to his Indian origin. It was probably a decision that was later regretted by the Cambridge captain. Ranji’s dedication paid off, as he became the first Indian to earn a Blue in 1893, though his initial performances at Lord’s were modest, with notable fielding skills.
In 1895, Ranji made a dazzling debut for Sussex against MCC at Lord’s, scoring 77 not out and 150, while also taking six wickets and two catches in a high-scoring match. His remarkable season saw him amass 1,766 runs at an average of 50.16, with only WG Grace and Maclaren surpassing him in first-class averages.
In 1896, he continued to shine and should have played in the Lord’s Test, but he was initially overlooked due to Lord Harris’s reluctance. However, he later made his Test debut at Old Trafford, scoring a brilliant 154 and becoming the first Indian to play Test cricket and score a century on debut. Ranji finished the season with a record-breaking 2,780 runs and 10 centuries.
Wisden honored Ranji as one of the “Five Cricketers of the Year” and even described him as a cricketing genius who had emerged like a star from the East. Ranji’s unique style transformed cricket into an elegant Oriental poem of action, showcasing his exceptional talent and impact on the sport.
The illustrious right-hand batter accounted for a total of 24,692 runs across 500 innings that he played. Interestingly out of these 500 innings, Ranji remained unbeaten on 62 of them, maintaining an impressive batting average of 56.37. His remarkable career included a remarkable 72 centuries, among which 14 were double centuries.