Dattajirao Gaekwad India’s longest-living Test player passes away at 95

India’s cricketing tapestry dimmed as the nation bid farewell to its oldest Test cricketer, Dattajirao Gaekwad, who passed away on February 13. At the age of 95, this storied sportsman departed at his residence in Baroda, marking the conclusion of an iconic chapter in the annals of Indian cricket.

Dattajirao’s career in the national colors spanned close to a decade, during which he donned the Indian jersey in 11 Test matches. His role primarily as a batsman didn’t overshadow his capabilities with the ball; he was adept at medium pace and could turn his hand to leg spin. In his Test cricket journey, he faced the creases of international pitches 20 times to notch up 350 runs, with his top score being a well-compiled half-century.

Dattajirao’s significant contributions, however, lay in the domestic sphere. In a robust first-class career, the right-handed batsman played 110 matches, amassing 5788 runs at an impressive average of 36.40. His batting prowess was evident in his 17 centuries and 23 fifties, while also managing to take 25 wickets, showcasing his all-round skills on the field.

Tributes poured in from the cricket community, with former India all-rounder Irfan Pathan taking to social media to honor Dattajirao’s memory. Irfan expressed his deep respect and adoration for Gaekwad’s dedication to nurturing young talent for Baroda cricket. “Under the banyan tree at the Motibag cricket ground, from his blue Maruti car, Indian captain D.K. Gaekwad sir tirelessly scouted young talent for Baroda cricket, shaping the future of our team. His absence will be deeply felt. A great loss for cricketing community,” read Irfan’s heartfelt post, accompanied by an image of the late cricketer.

The beginnings of his international cricket innings trace back to a match against England in Leeds, June 1952, with his final appearance in India’s colors coming against their arch-rivals Pakistan in January 1961 in Chennai. As a leader, Dattajirao faced challenges head-on, including during the 1959 tour of England, where despite a series of defeats, he demonstrated resilience and character.

It was against the formidable West Indies that Dattajirao hit his highest Test score, which stood as a testament to his capabilities against the finest of cricketing opposition. His performance in the New Delhi match during that series is still recalled by aficionados of the sport for its skill and determination.

The cricketing fraternity viewed Dattajirao Gaekwad not merely as a player but as a dignified ambassador of the game. His contributions went beyond the boundaries of the cricket field and extended into coaching and mentoring. The legacy he leaves behind – one of dedication, skill, and an enduring love for cricket – is a touchstone for generations to follow.

Dattajirao’s story is one steeped in the ethos of cricket’s golden age, a time where valor on the field was matched by gentlemanly conduct off it. Today, as the cricket world stands in mourning, we are reminded that legends never truly leave us; they continue to inspire and live on through the feats they achieved and the lives they touched.

His passing signals not just an end but also a celebration of a life lived richly, passionately, and with an undying spirit for the gentleman’s game. The cricketing grounds may miss his presence, but Dattajirao Gaekwad’s name will forever be etched in the rich narrative of Indian cricket.

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