BB Nimbalkar: The Don Bradman that never was
Bhausaheb Babasaheb Nimbalkar was the name on everyone's lips at the Poona Club Ground in 1948 after an eventful Ranji Trophy game between Maharashtra and Kathiawar. His highness Thakore Sahib of Rajkot brought an age old rivalry between the Marathas and Gujarat on the cricket field. Playing the villain, His highness made sure Nimbalkar stayed just of reach of conquering Don Bradman's 452*.
A glimpse into Nimbalkar's career
A quotidian name in domestic cricket, Nimbalkar was an astonishing batter. Having a 26 year long career, the right hand batter was a buttress for Maharashtra in First-class cricket.
The domestic legend batted with an average of 47.93 and amassed a tally of 4,841 runs in his domestic career, including 3687 runs at an average of 56.72 in the Ranji Trophy.
A transposing cricketer by nature, Nimbalkar could bowl as a medium-pacer and would also take on the role of a wicket-keeper whenever necessary.
Out of luck
The Maharashtra batter never had his time in the sun wearing the Indian whites. Nimbalkar never received an official call-up to play for India, even after establishing a conspicuous legacy in the domestic sphere.
“It was sheer injustice that I did not get to play Test cricket. I played an unofficial `Test’ and they should have given me a second chance. I might have done something. It was not in my luck, I don’t know why the selectors side-lined me all the time. What really hurt me was that some of the less talented players got a chance to represent the country.” - BB Nimbalkar
He made history by scoring the highest ever run-score in First-class cricket. His 443* came as a blessing and a curse, catapulting him into fame but overshadowing the runs scored before and leaving them to catch dust on a shelf.
The day Nimbalkar almost became Don Bradman
December 1948, Poona Cricket Ground. As the third day of the Test between Maharashtra and Kathiawar approached, Nimbalkar broke Vijay Merchant's record for the highest run score in First class cricket (359). Still showing no signs of slowing down, the batter kept treading towards Don Bradman's greatest 452*.
Nimbalkar was just ten runs short of breaking Bradman's record.
The villain and the story
Anticipation was in the air, Nimbalkar was about to surpass the greatest batter to have lived, but His highness Thakore Sahib of Rajkot, afraid of scripting his team's name in the history books for the wrong reason, played a dark and scornful hand.
When His highness realised that Nimbalkar creating history against Kathiawar might be humiliating for the state, Thakore immediately threatened Raja Gokhale, the Maharashtra captain, that if he doesn't declare the innings, he and his team would abandon the match.
The Don was on call with His highness, asking him to let Nimbalkar break the record but Thakore Sahib had made his mind.
The Kathiawar team never made it back from the tea break and in a move so sneering and scathing, left to catch the train.
His highness may have prevented his name from being scripted against Nimbalkar's possible record but the name Thakore Sahib of Rajkot still echoes of ignominy and dishonour. One of the darkest days in cricket history and His highness Thakore Sahib of Rajkot was the reason behind it.