Cricket historian Vasant Raiji, 87, is a man of letters. Some of them very precious. Among them are eight letters written to him by the greatest of ’em all, Don Bradman. In one of the letters, dated January 14, 1985, Bradman wrote in glowing terms of the three princes of Indian cricket: “You make special reference to the three princes (K.S. Ranjitsinghji, KS Duleepsinghji and Nawab Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi). It was my good fortune to play against Duleep when he made his first century (indeed, I caught him out) and later we became friends. I saw Pataudi make his first century and I have the most vivid recollection of meeting and chatting with Ranji in 1930 in England. He was a most charming man.”
Raiji, who has played in the Ranji Trophy for Bombay and Baroda, also has letters from acclaimed cricket writers like Neville Cardus, John Arlott and former Australian Test cricketer Jack Fingleton. And currency notes featuring Don Bradman and Clyde Walcott.
Recalls Raiji, “My earliest recollection of the game is the 1933 Test at the Bombay Gymkhana, where India played its first home Test against Douglas Jardine’s English team. Lala Amarnath scored a defiant 118, which was the first Test century scored by an Indian. It was one of the finest innings ever played by an Indian.”