World’s oldest first-class cricketer Vasant Raiji passes away
NEW DELHI [Maha Media]: Vasant Naisadrai Raiji, the world’s oldest first-class cricketer and author who turned 100 on January 26, passed away on Saturday in Mumbai, aged 100 years and 139 days, with his son-in-law saying that he was “tired” had “lost the will to live on”.
A few days ago, when the Ahmedabad-based Sudarshan Nanavati, husband of Raiji’s daughter Brinda, asked him if he was experiencing any problems, the former Baroda and Mumbai cricketer said he wanted to “go”.
“The doctors saw him and his reports were all normal. But it was just age-related. And I think he lost the will to live kind-of-thing. He told me a few days that ‘I am tired and I want to go’. I asked him if he was uncomfortable in anyway. He said ‘no, but I am tired now’. Hundred years is a long time,” Nanavati, who along with his wife reached Mumbai from Ahmedabad to Mumbai on Saturday, told Outlook.
“Normally, he would go to sleep at around 9 pm daily. For the last few days, he was not having dinner; he had stopped eating. He was only on liquid. It was just the age factor. There was nothing wrong with him; he was just ‘tired’,” Nanavati informed.
Nanavati said Raiji passed away at around 2.20 am on Saturday, in sleep at his Walkeshwar Road residence in south Mumbai. Raiji leaves behind his 94-year-old wife Panna, two daughters and sons-in-law. Renuka, the other daughter who lives in Perth, Australia, had timed her visit to be with her father on his 100th birthday celebrations on January 26.
In January, Renuka had said that Raiji was having hearing problem. “He’s 50-50 deaf. You have to shout to make him hear you. But he, kind of, looks at you and makes out what you are saying. And if the topic is something he is familiar with, he figures it out. But on the phone he is not able to hear the caller,” Renuka had said in January.
She was, however, not with her father this time around, thanks to the Corona-enforced lockdown. “I am in Australia and can’t get to India because of lockdown in both countries. It’s physically impossible to go as there are no flights,” Renuka told Outlook on Saturday.
A former opening batsman, Raiji represented Bombay, Baroda, and the Cricket Club of India (CCI) in first-class cricket between 1941 and 1950. He played in the era when stalwarts like Vijay Merchant and LP Jai were the leading lights. Interestingly, Raiji when made his Ranji Trophy/first-class debut, for Bombay against West India at Mumbai’s Brabourne Stadium in November 1941, his younger brother Madan Naisadrai Raiji was also doing the same.
Raiji was an author as well and wrote several books, which are rare. According to Theo Braganza, proprietor of Mumbai-based booksellers/publishers Marine Sports, Raiji wrote 12 books on the game. They are:
1. Ranji: The Legend and the Man
2. Duleep: The Man and His Game
3. Victor Trumper: The Beau Ideal of a Cricketer
4. Ranji: A Centenary Album
5. LP Jai: Memories of a Great Batsman
6. The Romance of the Ranji Trophy
7. India's Hambledon Men
8. CCI and the Brabourne Stadium, 1937-1987 (with Anandji Dossa)
9. C. K. Nayudu: The Shahenshah of Indian Cricket (1989)
10. Duleep: A Centenary Tribute
11. From Presidency to Pentangular (with Mohandas Menon)
12. Cricket Memories: Men and Matches of Bygone Days