Vasant Raiji, who had celebrated his 100th birthday earlier this year, was the world’s oldest living first-class cricketer. Legendary names like Sachin Tendulkar, Steve Waugh and Sunil Gavaskar alongw with others, had visited him on his birthday in January.
“I met Shri Vasant Raiji earlier this year to celebrate his 100th birthday. His warmth and passion for playing and watching Cricket was endearing. His passing away saddens my heart. My condolences to his family & friends,” tweeted Tendulkar.
I met Shri Vasant Raiji earlier this year to celebrate his 100th birthday. His warmth and passion for playing and watching Cricket was endearing.
His passing away saddens my heart. My condolences to his family & friends. pic.twitter.com/fi8dOP7EnI
— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) June 13, 2020
Born in 1920, Raiji played nine first-class matches in the 1940s, scoring 277 runs in his decade-long career. Soon, Raiji decided that he was not cut out for top level cricket, and hung up his the game to make a living as a chartered accountant. But the game never left him—all his leisure hours were spent watching, reading, talking or writing about cricket. He became an avid historian, with a barrage of stories to tell, from watching Col CK Nayudu play at Bombay Gymkhana in 1926, to Lala Amarnath scoring the first century by an Indian batsman in a Test to watching Virat Kohli score hundreds at will. He was a great friend of the late Sir Don Bradman.
“Cricket means a lot to me. I have played cricket, watched good cricket. I have written books on cricket, including one on Col CK Nayudu, my favourite cricketer. I am absolutely mad on cricket, you can say,” Raiji had said on his 100th birthday.
Raiji, who passed away in his sleep in the early hours of Saturday, lived a healthy life and retained a sharp memory till the end.
“Well, it is a feeling of joy that I am celebrating my 100th birthday. I am not bedridden, that’s why I am enjoying my 100th year. If the health is down and if you are bedridden then there is no point living. It is a gift from God.” he had said.
Raiji used to love cricket when he followed his father to a game at Bombay Gymkhana as a six-year-old, between a local team called “The Hindus” and the touring Marylebone Cricket Club (the first MCC tour to India in 1926–27). This was where he watched Nayudu score 153, smashing 11 sixes against a bowling attack then considered the best in the world.
“That would be my greatest cricketing memory,” Raiji had said.
Raiji was there for the first ever Test match played in India, at Bombay Gymkhana in 1933-34, in which Amarnath famously scored a century on debut against England. His passion for the game remained right till the end, and he described it as the key to his long and healthy life. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.