Monday, August 26, 2013

Excerpts from Indra Vikram Singh's book 'Don's Century' ..... 27 - Chapter 7 : PEERLESS RUNGETTER AND OTHER MASTERS OF THE WILLOW (32. Sachin Tendulkar)

With the spread of the One-day game, wickets got flatter and conducive for batting. Moreover, with the covering of the wickets from the late seventies onwards, the ‘sticky dog’ was put in the kennel, leaving batsmen more secure. Better protective gear, including more refined helmets with grills, gave greater confidence to batsmen. More and more batsmen began scoring freely in the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the present one, and like the 1920s and 1930s, averages in the 50s are not a rarity. This is not a reference to any particular batsman, or batsmen, but a general observation, for there are several top-class batsmen on the scene today.

Of these, Sachin Tendulkar has been around the longest, and is perhaps the most debated since Bradman. The Don himself in that famous interview to Sydney’s Channel Nine television network in May 1996, paid Tendulkar the ultimate accolade as he said, “I asked my wife to come and have a look at him because I said, I never saw myself play, but I feel this fellow is playing very much the same as I used to. She had a look at him on television and she said yes there is a similarity between the two.” In the same programme, the then Australian captain Mark Taylor observed that Tendulkar was “probably the closest at the moment to the perfect player. Beautiful straight bat, takes his time if he has to, can be explosive if he needs to be, a very good all round player.”

A child prodigy, Tendulkar scored hundreds on debut in all three of India’s first-class competitions, at fifteen years of age, in the Ranji Trophy for Bombay versus Gujarat at Mumbai in 1988-89; in the Irani Trophy for Rest of India pitted opposite Delhi at Mumbai in 1989-90; and in the Duleep Trophy for West Zone against East Zone at Guwahati in 1990-91. At 16 years 201 days, he became the youngest Indian to make his Test debut, against Pakistan at Karachi in 1989-90, and at 17 years and 212 days, the youngest Indian to score a Test century, against England at Manchester in 1990. By 1991-92, during the arduous tour of Australia, Tendulkar became India’s best Test batsman at 18 years. In 1993-94 he secured his position as the country’s no. 1 in the One-dayers as well when, asked to open, he was explosive in the series in New Zealand, and continued in the same vein thereafter. Soon he was rated the best in the world along with Brian Lara. That was all by the time he was 21.

During the first stage of his career, till the winter of 2000-01, Tendulkar wanted to dominate the bowlers. He wished to show that he was the boss. Fast bowlers did not worry him, and the spinners did not tie him down. He would blast the bad balls, and often the good, driving on the rise through the gaps, cutting ferociously when the ball was not even discernibly short or wide, pulling contemptuously off the front foot. Anything on his pads, or hips, would be whipped to the fence. He would not allow the bowler to get on top even if he had to slog-sweep a great leg-spinner like Shane Warne.

All the while Tendulkar showed the straightest of bats to anything pitched up and on the stumps, which has been evident right through his career, in his driving - along the ground and in the air - between mid-off and mid-on. He was sure where his off-stump was, and would show perfect judgement in easily leaving those enticing and sinister deliveries leaving him sharply. Neither did the short-pitched ball bother him as he swayed away with ease, and well clear. He expressed himself with abandon, allowing his instincts to dictate his actions.         

That Tendulkar was oozing with talent, and eager to show it off, was never in doubt. What he lacked was Bradman’s ruthlessness. Having blown apart the bowling to smithereens, he seemed to get bored with the lack of challenge, lose focus as well as his wicket with the opposition on their knees. The joke was that Tendulkar had a huge weakness in the 170s. He had six scores between 165 and 179 (three 177s), besides his other hundreds, before he got his first Test double century, against New Zealand at Ahmedabad in 1999-2000, a decade after his debut.

Brian Lara, on the other hand, made his Test debut in 1990-91, hit up a brilliant 277 against Australia at Sydney in 1992-93, and the record 375 against England at St. John’s in 1993-94. A few weeks later he took away the first-class record by becoming the only batsman to score 500. Astonishingly, a decade after his Test high, Lara wrested back the Test record against the same opposition at the very venue, with an unprecedented 400 not out, just months after Matthew Hayden had grabbed it. Tendulkar is yet to score 250 either in Tests or at the first-class level.

But then that is Tendulkar; he cannot be Lara, and vice versa. By 2001 Tendulkar was so good that opposing teams felt it was not possible to dismiss him before he got a big score, by bowling at him. His Test average at that stage was close to 60. It was reckoned that the way to ensnare him was to bowl wide of the off-stump. Frustrated at having to repeatedly let the ball go, he would reach out and cut, hopefully in the air into the hands of fielders at point or gully. If that did not work, then he should be thwarted by bowling down the leg-side.

That is what the canny England captain Nasser Hussain did during the 2001-02 series, with limited success. In one Test he instructed his fast bowlers to pitch way outside off to Tendulkar. In the next he got his left-arm spinner Ashley Giles to keep landing the ball outside leg. But by then Tendulkar himself had changed. Perhaps stung by criticism that he was incapable of playing big and defining innings, he decided to play the Gavaskar way, watchful and cutting out the risky shots.

It had been pointed out that at Bridgetown in 1996-97, when Tendulkar was captain, he was unable to guide India to a target of only 110 in the fourth innings, the team folding up for 81. Then in the Chennai Test against Pakistan in 1999-2000, he was in command, chasing a target of 271. He had put on a stirring 136 for the sixth wicket with Nayan Mongia. But just when it seemed that Tendulkar would pull off a dramatic win, he fell for 136. India lost by 12 runs. It might smack of ingratitude, or even naivety, but had the likes of Bradman, Steve Waugh or even Rahul Dravid been in his place, they might have carried their team to victory in that game.

To be fair to Tendulkar, the Bridgetown wicket had worn off completely and the tall West Indies fast bowlers exploited it to the hilt. And in Chennai, it was a lone battle with a bit of help from Mongia. It was also the first time that he was hit by injury, his back giving way during the later stages of his innings.

Whatever view one might take, Tendulkar was stung. He yearned to play the really big innings that his friend and rival Lara churned out so effortlessly. He also wished to correct the impression that he had not played enough match-winning innings for India, at least in the Tests. More likely as a result of the back trouble, his belligerent pull shot off the front foot was gone forever. He now adopted a more cautious approach.

The first symptom of that was when he was uncharacteristically strokeless against ordinary trundlers like Zimbabwean Raymond Price and West Indian Mahendra Nagamootoo during that 2001-02 season. Physically also he seemed to have slowed down a bit, for during the tour of the West Indies he was dismissed for a succession of low scores, the ball often finding the outside edge of his bat. A succession of injuries dogged him and Tendulkar searched for a reincarnation. Things came to such a pass that in the Sydney Test of the 2003-04 series, Tendulkar did not play a single shot on the off-side - and still scored an unbeaten 241 with 33 boundaries. That, however, is also the genius of Tendulkar, carving out such a big score at a time when his technique needed to go back to the drawing board urgently.

In One-day cricket Tendulkar is, along with Vivian Richards, arguably the greatest there has ever been. He has slammed the best bowlers around the world, scoring by far the highest number of runs - 18,111 - 48 hundreds at last count and the only double century, averaging 45.16 at a strike-rate of 86.32, for an astonishing 62 man-of-the-match prizes. In two World Cups - 1996 and 2003 - he was top rungetter, and is way ahead of the others in terms of overall aggregate in the premier event, with an unmatched nine man-of-the-match awards, crowning it all with the 2011 World Cup. Just as Gavaskar created new statistical benchmarks in Test matches in the period 1983-87, so is Tendulkar doing in One-day Internationals now.

Since the summer of 2007, Tendulkar has been in wonderful touch, having found the perfect blend of attack and defence for this stage of his career. He is now a mature, complete master, tailoring his game to the conditions and the needs of his team. He took on the responsibility of blunting the swing and seam in England, attacking Australian pacemen on their bouncy tracks, and in between was his sublime self at home, finally exorcising the ghost of Chennai 1999 with his impregnable match-winning fifth-day hundred off the English attack at that venue in 2008.

Tendulkar has constantly re-invented himself in view of these factors, and in order to stay ahead of the opposition. He keeps reappearing in new avtaars to confound the critics. He still has the tendency, though, of getting a bit ahead of himself, at times playing pre-determined shots. That is why we have seen a profusion of dismissals in the nineties in the last few years. Bradman and Lara would never allow themselves to be denied a hundred, let alone bigger landmarks.    

If Tendulkar takes his mind off the scoreboard, and focuses solely on the ball, he is still capable of playing a few of those really big innings that his legion of fans is waiting for, and which he so terribly yearns for himself. That is perhaps the only accomplishment left for the little champion to achieve. By surpassing Brian Lara’s record Test aggregate and poised to overhaul the milestone of 15,000 runs, Tendulkar is now easily the most prolific batsman in both forms of the game. With an unprecedented 51 hundreds and an average of 56.25, Tendulkar continues to justify Bradman’s faith in him. After all, he is the only middle-order batsman The Don chose, apart from himself, in his dream XI to bat at no. 4. Next in the batting order is the allrounder Sobers. Ultimately, that is what must sum up Tendulkar. If he was good enough for Bradman, he should be good enough for anyone.

(Sachin Tendulkar’s statistics in 'Don’s Century’ are updated till 27th August 2011, the 103rd birth anniversary of Sir Donald Bradman. This excerpt, co-incidentally, is being posted on The Don’s 105th birth anniversary).

Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email

Indra Vikram Singh’s latest books published by Sporting Links :
A Maharaja’s Turf  ISBN 978-81-901668-3-6
The Big Book of World Cup Cricket  ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3
Don’s Century  ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0
Crowning Glory  ISBN 978-81-901668-6-7

Distributed in India by :  
Variety Book Depot 
AVG Bhawan, 
M-3, Middle Circle, Connaught Circus,
New Delhi-110 001, India. 
Tel. + 91 11 23417175, 23412567.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Rolls-Royce cars of the Rajpipla royal family of India

(Governor of Bombay Presidency Sir Frederick Sykes and Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla in Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost 1921 (chassis 32 UG) RAJPIPLA No. 1, at Rajpipla in December 1929. They are followed by two other Rajpipla cars, Rolls-Royce 1922 20 hp (chassis 40 GI) RAJPIPLA No. 25, and Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost 1913 (chassis 16 CA) RAJPIPLA No. 3).

The Rajpipla royal family owned a fleet of cars of all top makes in the first half of the 20th century. Maharana Sir Chhatrasinhji of Rajpipla was a pioneer, being the first to import an Armstrong-Siddeley into India. Among his several cars were a Wolseley, and Clement Bayard, the factory of which was taken over during the First World War to manufacture military vehicles and later purchased by Citroen.

His son Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla, apart from being a lover of horses and a famous racehorse owner, was a car enthusiast who owned all the top brands like Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Daimler, Riley, Jaguar, Ford and Buick among others, bought eleven Rolls-Royce cars which were driven in Rajpipla, Bombay and the UK, where he had an estate at Old Windsor.

The Maharaja’s collection of Rolls-Royce cars comprised :

1.    Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost 1913, 40/50 hp (chassis no. 16 CA). Barker torpedo phaeton tourer coachwork, as depicted on page 37 of the Barker sales catalogue. Purchased second-hand from an owner in Calcutta. British registration R-1956.

2.    Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost 1921, 40/50 hp (chassis no. 32 UG), Hooper tourer coachwork (design no. 5498). Registered in Rajpipla State as Rajpipla No. 1.

3.    Rolls-Royce 20 hp model 1922, (chassis no. 40 G1 engine. no. 101) with Windovers three-quarter landaulette coachwork fitted and finished in claret with black wings. Registration Rajpipla No.25. The first production 20 hp of 1922.

4.    Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost 1924, (chassis no. 103 EU, engine no. U 195), Maythorn tourer coachwork. On test 15.12.1924, sold when new to J.A.Venn in Cambridge, then to the Maharaja of Rajpipla in February 1933.

(Rajpipla Rolls-Royce Phantom I 1927, chassis no. 55 EF at Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji’s estate ‘The Manor’ on the banks of the River Thames in Old Windsor, England).

 5.    Rolls-Royce Phantom I 1927, (chassis no. 55 EF) Elkington Carriage Co. cabriolet de ville coachwork, registration number YF-8389. It was painted royal blue and black, and trimmed in gold figured damask, the steering wheel being ordered in ivory white, quite a common feature with cars supplied to the Indian market. Delivered to the Maharaja at the Savoy Hotel in London. The car was sold in May 1929 via Messrs. Windovers.

(Rolls-Royce Phantom I 1929 (chassis no. 27 WR) of Maharaja Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla discovered in a garage in the UK. It was shipped from India in the 1950s, and was dry stored there since 1975. The top of the Windovers Brougham body was cut and converted into a tourer, the PI engine was replaced by a 4 litre Rolls-Royce engine. Sold on e-bay in 2012).

6.    Rolls-Royce Phantom I January 1929, (chassis no. 27 WR) Windovers Brougham limousine coachwork (design no. 5583).

7.    Rolls-Royce Phantom II 1930, (chassis no. 154 XJ) Windovers enclosed limousine coachwork (commission no. J7940, design no. 5690).

(Indra Vikram Singh at Udaipur on 25th January 2014 with Rolls-Royce Phantom II 1934, chassis no. 181 RY, earlier owned by his grandfather Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla).

8.    Rolls-Royce Phantom II 1934, (chassis no. 181 RY, engine no. TT 65), Windovers Sedanca de ville (design no. 6168). It is mentioned in the book "The History of Windovers" (though the caption says chassis no. 181R4). Now in the Mewar royal cars collection. 

9.    Rolls-Royce 20/25 hp 1934, (chassis no. GMD 73) Windovers tourer coachwork (design no. 61920). This car was specified to have louvres to the bonnet and continuing to the dash (bulkhead) sloping at 11 degrees. Car last known to be in Ludhiana, Punjab.

(Rolls-Royce Phantom II 1935, chassis no. 171 TA, earlier owned by Maharaja Sir Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla at his estate ‘The Manor’ in Old Windsor, England).

10.  Rolls-Royce Phantom II 1935, (chassis no. 171 TA) Windovers saloon with division coachwork (design no. 6277). This car soon passed to the Rt. Hon. Lady Scarsdale in November 1935. 

(Rolls-Royce 20-25 hp 1936, chassis no. GBK 42, ordered by the Maharaja of Rajpipla, but sold without taking delivery).

11.  Rolls-Royce 20/25 1936, (chassis no. GBK 42). Engine No. J 28 R. Windovers Sedanca de Ville coachwork (design no. 6341). Registration No. CFX 325. Cream and brown with black leather and fawn cloth interior. Ordered but cancelled in May 1936 because just as this car was ready, the magnificent Rolls-Royce Phantom III was launched. So the Maharaja asked for the 20-25 hp to be sold, and instead ordered the Phantom III 1937 3BU 198. The 20-25 hp was bought by Mr. R.J. Mackenzie in Elgin, Scotland. This car still survives having been restored by the Holton family in Northamptonshire.

(Rolls-Royce Phantom III 1937, chassis no. 3BU 198, of Maharaja Shri Sir Vijaysinhji of Rajpipla).

12.  Rolls-Royce Phantom III 1937, (chassis no. 3BU 198). Windovers Sedanca de Ville coachwork (body no. 56), specified with a radio and ‘Philco Rola’ loud speakers and Marchal headlamps.

I may place on record that a lot of this information is courtesy Mr. John Fasal, who has been researching Rolls-Royce cars for many decades. His book on Rolls-Royce cars of the Indian princes is due to be published shortly. There is also a chapter by him on the Rajpipla Rolls-Royce cars in the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts' Club UK Yearbook 2014.

Many of the Rajpipla Rolls-Royce cars are still in existence around the world.

(Indra Vikram Singh, erstwhile Prince of Rajpipla and grandson of Maharaja Vijaysinhji, can be contacted on email

Monday, August 12, 2013

Excerpts from Indra Vikram Singh's book 'Don's Century' ..... 26 - Chapter 7 : PEERLESS RUNGETTER AND OTHER MASTERS OF THE WILLOW (31. Aravinda de Silva)

Sri Lanka’s Aravinda de Silva, on the other hand, was a gifted batsman. During the early stages of his career he would play brilliant cameos before throwing his wicket away through poor shot selection. For this he was called ‘Mad Max’. Gradually he learnt to temper himself and matured into one of the most exciting strokeplayers of modern times. In many ways, one felt, he was a more aggressive version of Gavaskar.

In fact the Indian maestro was initially an attacking player, with a penchant for the hook shot. But after the first flush of his memorable maiden series, when success became harder to come by, Gavaskar developed into an accumulator of runs, rather than a destroyer of bowling. De Silva retained the sparkle, though it has to be said that he was a middle-order batsman who could indulge in strokeplay with greater freedom than Gavaskar whose primary task was to see off the new ball and take away the sting from those menacing pacemen. Gavaskar and de Silva were of similar stature, maybe the latter was even a wee bit shorter, both compact and well balanced and similarly correct in strokeplay.

De Silva would drive in glorious fashion through the covers, or cut off the back foot, and was quick to hook or pull the short ones. When he got into the groove he was liable to pull off a string of big scores. His highest Test score of 267 came against New Zealand in 1990-91, the same match in which Martin Crowe registered his personal best of 299. De Silva scored centuries in each innings of a Test twice, against Pakistan at the Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo in 1996-97, when he was unbeaten in both innings, and against India on the same ground the next season.

His most prolific year was 1997 when he amassed 1220 runs at an average of 76.25 with 7 hundreds, the most since Vivian Richards got as many 21 years earlier. In his 93 Tests, de Silva logged up 6361 runs at an average of 42.97 with 20 centuries.

The 1996 World Cup was memorable for de Silva’s superb strokeplay. His 91 against Zimbabwe was followed by 145 versus Kenya, the highest for Sri Lanka in a One-dayer. In the semi-final he hit 66 of the 85 runs scored while he was in, against India. In the final he brought up victory with his unbeaten 107. That was in addition to his stint of three for 42 with the ball. He was man-of-the-match in the semifinal as well as final. If the player-of-the-tournament award had not been decided before the semi-finals, it would surely have gone to de Silva. In the latter half of the nineties, de Silva was doubtlessly one of the three best batsmen in the world, the others being Tendulkar and Lara. There is nothing more to be said.

(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email

Indra Vikram Singh’s latest books 
published by Sporting Links:
A Maharaja’s Turf   ISBN 978-81-901668-3-6
The Big Book of World Cup Cricket   ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3
Don’s Century   ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0
Crowning Glory   ISBN 978-81-901668-6-7

Available online on several websites.

Distributed in India by :  
Variety Book Depot 
AVG Bhawan, 
M-3, Middle Circle, Connaught Circus,
New Delhi-110 001, India. 
Tel. + 91 11 23417175, 23412567.