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Happy birthday Vijay Merchant :A wristy, light on his feet and technically impeccable batsman

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October 12 is the birthdate of the first great Indian batter, Vijay Merchant.He was wristy, light on his feet and technically impeccable.

At 5ft 7in, he set the standard for those little modern-day masters, Gavaskar and Tendulkar.

Merchant played only ten Tests, all against England between 1933 and 1951 before a shoulder injury forced him to retire, and despite never playing on a winning side he averaged 47.72.

His masterful displays in 1936 incited CB Fry to exclaim: “Let us paint him white and take him with us to Australia as an opener.”

In first-class cricket Merchant was irresistible: his average of 71.64 is second only to Don Bradman’s, and in the Ranji Trophy he averaged 98.75. He went on to become an administrator and writer .

“Cricket with Vijay Merchant” was a radio programme hosted by Merchant. It was broadcast on Sunday afternoons on Vividh Bharati, Anu D. Aggarwal quotes a survey, which revealed that it was one of the most listened to sponsored programmes

Although Vijay Merchant played only ten Test matches, he is widely considered to be one of the greatest batmen of his era. He was an attractive stroke maker, who “developed fine footwork, and built a stroke repertoire featuring a lovely cut, grasscutting drives, a delicate glance and late-cut, and, until later in his career, a brilliant hook stroke.” His batting average in first-class cricket was 71.64, putting him second only to Don Bradman of Australia. In India’s domestic Ranji Trophy matches, he fared even better, averaging 98.75 in 47 innings. His record is especially impressive as his runs came at a time of uncovered wickets. Merchant was one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 1937. Vijay Merchant is also the oldest Indian player to score a Test century. He scored 154 when he was 40 years 21 days in India vs England match in 1951–52 series.

During his career, he scored eleven double-centuries in first-class cricket, the most by an Indian batsman. The record stood until November 2017, when Cheteshwar Pujara scored his twelfth double-century batting for Saurashtra against Jharkhand in the 2017–18 Ranji Trophy.

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