Those acquainted with the history of Indian cricket will tell you that being compared to the Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram or Vizzy as he was called, is both embarrassing and praiseworthy. But that is exactly what Sourav Ganguly who is set to become the next BCCI president, is likely to endure. If he sails through, he will be the first former India cricketer after Vizzy to head the cricket body of India. That is if you ignore Shivlal Yadav’s short innings as Interim President in 2014 and Gavaskar’s even shorter stint to oversee the IPL.
Vizzy was a poor cricketer but considered a good administrator. Former India cricket manager and cricket historian PR Mansingh calls Vizzy “a great patron of the game who put Kanpur on the cricket map”.
But talk Vizzy with the old-timers and it isn’t his innings as an administrator that you are likely to hear first. His exploits on the 1936 tour of England as captain, a post he reportedly secured after “lobbying and manipulation” have remained fodder for gossip through the decades. His treatment of Lala Amarnath is a story from the archives. Vizzy lost his shirt (no pun intended on Ganguly’s real act on the Lords’ balcony !) after Amarnath in a fit of anger threw his kit and sent him back from the tour without playing the First Test.
Mansingh recalls that Nawab Mohammed Hussain was also on the England tour as a player as was SM Hadi as Assistant manager and were witness to what transpired. Years later when Lala Amarnath would come to Hyderabad for the Moin-ud-Dowla tournament, the two would tease him by asking why he was sent back from England and the legendary former India captain would respond with the most colourful Punjabi expletives he knew.
But bygones were bygones by the time Vizzy got into cricket administration. As Vice President of the BCCI, he played his part to ensure Lala Amarnath was captain of the Indian team against Pakistan. And as BCCI president in 1954-56, he ensured the game spread to more cities and states.
Ganguly any day, is a more likeable guy and has done enough for Indian cricket, first as cricketer and then as administrator in Bengal. For one, you cannot even compare Vizzy’s 33 runs from three matches with Ganguly’s 7212 runs from 113 Tests. Even as a commentator, the Prince of Kolkata is astute and Vizzy who also did commentary, was considered bad behind the microphone.
True, Ganguly has had his share of controversies, the Greg Chappell episode being the most spoken-about. But given the mess that the cricket administration is in right now, with the CoA calling the shots and the BCCI reduced to an ineffective body, Dada will be the best person to lead the team.
“I would not compare Sourav and Vizzy simply because Maharaj is Ganguly’s nickname whereas Vizzy was a real Maharajah. Two, the game has completely changed in the last 85 years since Vizzy played,” says Mansingh.