Dattajirao Gaekwad, India’s oldest Test cricketer, passed away in Vadodara on Tuesday at the age of 95. He was also the father of former India cricketer, coach and administrator Anshuman Gaekwad.
Dattajirao, who played 11 Tests between 1952 and 1961, was a cricket lover all his life and had a unique style and charisma. Former India all-rounder Irfan Pathan remembers how DK Sir, as he was known, used to park his blue Maruti car under a banyan tree at the Motibaug ground. It was only DK sir’s car that was allowed to be parked there and when he used to arrive, everyone became quiet. From groundsmen to players to coaches, there used to be pin-drop silence.
“He had a great personality and was very stylish. At the age of 70, he used to come daily wearing a neat T-shirt and trousers, with his blue Maruti car parked there. At that age, he used to give catching practice to each player. For us, playing at Moti Bagh used to be a big thing and he was our first big coach, who had great experience and passion for the game,” Pathan recalled.
The BCCI expresses its profound grief at the passing away of Dattajirao Gaekwad, former India captain and India’s oldest Test cricketer. He played in 11 Tests and led the team during India’s Tour of England in 1959. Under his captaincy, Baroda also won the Ranji Trophy in the… pic.twitter.com/HSUArGrjDF
— BCCI (@BCCI) February 13, 2024
Those who know Gaekwad Sr remember how he loved talking about the game. After every match, he used to share his experience with youngsters around the block. In the nets though, he got angry with those playing cross-bat shots. Pathan recalled how his elder brother Yusuf was punished whenever he played an aerial or cross-bat shot.
“He used to tell Yusuf, ‘seedhe batting karo aur neeche se khelo (play straight and along the ground). If anyone disobeyed him, he had to stand behind the nets. He would not get any batting practice for one week. Such was his terror. Once when I had got to bat after a few days, out of fear, I even played bouncers straight and not with a cross bat. His eyes would be on each one of us. After the session, he would talk about cricket and what it means. He just used to love Baroda cricket,” Irfan said.
Under the shade of 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.… pic.twitter.com/OYyE2ppk88
— Irfan Pathan (@IrfanPathan) February 13, 2024
Love for the game
Former India wicketkeeper Kiran More said he had seen Gaekwad play on matting wickets for Bank of Baroda. A year ago, he had gone to meet Gaekwad at his residence and the letter was still talking about the game at the age of 94. He appreciated the finer aspects of the game and was fond of the old days.
“He was a strict disciplinarian. We were young when he used to come at around 5 pm daily and used to talk about the game till 7 pm. There were days when he gave us catching practice under the stars. One couldn’t be late for his net session or else be ready to take multiple rounds of the ground. He was passionate and the only one to play for both Mumbai University and Baroda University. I didn’t appreciate what he was talking about until I began to play international cricket. His words helped me in the latter half of my career,” More said.
Pathan recalled what winning against Mumbai meant to Gaekwad as DK sir loved Baroda till his last breath.
“It was an under-16 Vijay Merchant Trophy game. I had about 12 stitches on my hand but scored a crucial 74 to help Baroda beat Mumbai. He was so excited that he himself told a newspaper about me. He felt it was a huge thing to beat any Mumbai team. He praised me a lot and gave me the confidence which I needed at that age,” Pathan adds.