Polly Umrigar

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Polly Umrigar
Personal information
Full namePahlan Ratanji Umrigar
Born(1926-03-28)28 March 1926
Solapur, Bombay Presidency, British India
Died7 November 2006(2006-11-07) (aged 80)
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
BattingRight-hand bat
BowlingRight-arm offbreak
International information
National side
Test debut (cap 47)9 December 1948 v West Indies
Last Test13 April 1962 v West Indies
Career statistics
Competition Tests First-class
Matches 59 243
Runs scored 3631 16155
Batting average 42.22 52.28
100s/50s 12/14 49/80
Top score 223 252*
Balls bowled 4725 25297
Wickets 35 325
Bowling average 42.08 25.68
5 wickets in innings 2 14
10 wickets in match 2
Best bowling 6/74 7/32
Catches/stumpings 33/- 217/-
Source: [1]

Pahlan Ratanji "Polly" Umrigar About this soundpronunciation  (28 March 1926 – 7 November 2006) was an Indian cricketer. He played first-class cricket for Bombay and Gujarat, and Test cricket in the Indian cricket team, mainly as a middle-order batsman but also bowling occasional medium pace and off spin. He captained the Indian team in eight Test matches from 1955 to 1958. When he retired in 1962, he had played in more Tests (59), scored more Test runs (3,631), and recorded more Test centuries (12), than any other Indian player. He scored the first double century by an Indian in Test cricket against New Zealand in Hyderabad.

Early life[edit]

Polly Umrigar was probably born in Bombay but his place of birth is often cited as Solapur, Maharashtra (see [1]). His father ran a clothing company. He grew up in Solapur and his family moved to Bombay when he was at school.

He was a Parsi (from the Zoroastrian community in India), the community that dominated Bombay cricket in the early decades of the twentieth century.[2] He made his first class debut for Parsis at the age of 18 in the Bombay Pentangular in 1944, and studied for a BSc at St Xavier's College. He captained the Bombay University team. He also played hockey and football competitively.

As a cricketer[edit]

Early Test career[edit]

He scored 115* for Combined Universities[3] against the touring West Indians in October 1948. This performance brought him to national attention, and earned him a single appearance in the 2nd Test against the same team in Bombay seven weeks later.

By the time two Commonwealth teams visited India in 1949–50 and 1950–51, Umrigar had become a regular in the team. He scored 276 runs in the unofficial Tests against the first team and 562 runs against the second. In the Madras Test, he moved from 90 to 102 with two successive sixes off Frank Worrell.[4]

He scored only 113 runs in the first four Tests against a weak England side at home a year later. He was dropped from the fifth Test but was included in the last minute due to an injury to Hemu Adhikari. Going in at No.7, he made 130 not out as India won their first ever Test match. Though the bowling was not of a very high quality, Umrigar considered it the best innings of his life.[5][6]

England in 1952[edit]

In England in 1952, Umrigar scored heavily outside Test matches, but in Tests he was a complete failure. His aggregate of 1,688 was the highest in the season for the Indian team. He made more than 800 runs in May and double hundreds against Oxford University, Lancashire and Kent, but seemed to struggle against the fast bowler Cuan McCarthy [7] of Cambridge. However, he made only 43 runs in seven Test innings, at an average of 6.14. But more than the lack of runs, it was the way that he batted that was disturbing. While facing Fred Trueman, time and again he backed away towards square leg and "(held) the bat out to each ball, missing it like a beginner".[8] Bedser dismissed him twice; Trueman dismissed him four times, and on three occasions he was bowled backing away.[9]

More has perhaps been written about this series than any other phase of Umrigar's career.[10] But it must also be noted that Umrigar had far more success in his other encounters with fast bowlers. He scored a hundred at Manchester in his next meeting with Trueman in 1959; he topped the aggregate for India in all his three series against West Indies who at various times had Frank King, Wes Hall, Roy Gilchrist and Charlie Stayers. It was off the bowling of Hall and Stayers that he played one of the finest innings of his career.

He returned to form against Pakistan at home in 1952–53, and scored 560 runs in West Indies in early 1953 with two hundreds and four fifties.[11] He reached his hundred at Port of Spain with a six off Sonny Ramadhin.[12] His innings of 223 against New Zealand at Hyderabad in 1955–56 was the first double century scored for India.

Test captain[edit]

Umrigar had led India in two unofficial Tests against the Commonwealth XI in 1953–54 winning one of them. From the second Test match against New Zealand in 1955–56 till the first Test against the West Indies three years later, he captained the side in eight successive Test matches. India won two of the New Zealand Tests by an innings.

After one Test against the West Indies in 1958–59, he was replaced as captain by Ghulam Ahmed who then announced his retirement from Test cricket after two successive defeats. Umrigar was again picked as captain for the fourth Test at Madras, but a confusion developed about the replacements for Ghulam Ahmed and Vijay Manjrekar, who was injured. Umrigar wanted another batsman, Manohar Hardikar, to replace Manjrekar, but Ratibhai Patel, the President of BCCI insisted on the off-spinner Jasu Patel to play in his place.[13] Umrigar resigned the captaincy on the night before the Test.[14] He represented India for three more years but never again captained the country. His 337 runs in the five Tests of the series was the highest for India.

Late Test career[edit]

During the tour of England in 1959, he again scored heavily outside Test matches, but struggled in the Tests again Trueman and Brian Statham until the fourth Test. He scored three double hundreds in tour matches, the 252* against Cambridge University was then the highest by an Indian abroad.[15] He made 230 runs in four Test matches, including 118 in the Old Trafford Test in his last meeting with Trueman.

Umrigar's off-spin played a significant supporting role to Jasu Patel in India's first win over Australia at Kanpur in 1959–60, but his batting remained below par, and he missed the last two Tests in the series with a back injury. He scored three hundreds in the series against Pakistan in 1960–61 and another against England at home in 1961–62 (his third century in as many Test innings).

Polly Umrigar's career performance graph.

A few weeks later, India lost every match in a five Test series in West Indies. In the fourth Test at Port of Spain, Umrigar scored 56 and 172 not out and took 5 for 107 in the West Indian first innings.[16] His fifty in the first innings came after India had lost their first five wickets for 30. India followed on and Umrigar reached his hundred in 156 minutes and 150 in 203. When Wes Hall took the second new ball, Umrigar hit him for four fours in an over.[17] The last two Indian wickets added 144. Umrigar's 172* in 248 minutes were scored off India's last 230 runs. He finished the series with 445 runs and nine wickets. His chronic back trouble made him announce his retirement from Test cricket after he returned home.

Umrigar continued to play first-class cricket for Bombay for another season and played his last first class match in 1967–68.

Analysis of cricket career[edit]

Umrigar was a powerfully built man who stood just under six feet.[18] An attacking player especially strong in front of the wicket, he was capable of destroying anything short of extreme pace.[19] In this attitude towards the bowling, he was different from most of his contemporaries. "He was a link between two generations", wrote K. N. Prabhu. "Theoretically he belonged to that assembly of cricketers of the thirties, but in practice his cricket was conditioned by the hard, professional approach of the immediate post-independence years".[20] From the early 1940s, Indian cricket had been dominated by the Merchant-Hazare school of batsmanship which put stress on preserving one's wicket. Umrigar's batting combined the tall scores of this era with the adventurous spirit of the thirties.

Umrigar's bowling improved over the course of his career. He bowled off-cutters, hardly flighted the ball and moved it in off the seam.[21] Occasionally he used to bowl medium pace and open the bowling, as at Bahawalpur in 1954–55 when he took his career-best 6 for 74 against Pakistan. Umrigar rarely bowled for long spells at medium pace. At Bahawalpur he only bowled about six overs "at the maximum pace that he was capable of, which would be about Ramchand's" (the wickets were taken in later spells), according to Sujit Mukherjee. (See the article on G. S. Ramchand for Mukherjee's opinion about Ramchand's bowling.)

Umrigar's aggregate of 3,631 Test runs and 12 Test centuries were India's best until bettered by Sunil Gavaskar in the late seventies. He led the victorious Bombay sides in Ranji Trophy in 1959–60, 1960–61 and 1962–63. In 59 Ranji matches, for Bombay and Gujarat, he scored 4102 runs with fifteen hundreds at an average of 70.72 and 140 wickets.[22] His highest Ranji score of 245 was made against Saurashtra in 1957–58. He twice scored 1,000 runs in an Indian domestic season. He also spent a few years for Church in the Lancashire League.

Later life[edit]

Umrigar was the manager of Indian touring sides to New Zealand, West Indies and Australia in the late 1970s. He was the chairman of the national selection committee between 1978 and 1982, Executive secretary of the BCCI and the Mumbai Cricket Association Secretary. He wrote a book on cricket coaching and, for a time, he was the curator of the pitch at the Wankhede Stadium. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1962 and the C.K. Nayudu Trophy in 1998–99 for his contributions to the game. The national Under-15 championship is contested for the Polly Umrigar Trophy.

Umrigar was diagnosed with lymph cancer and underwent chemotherapy in mid-2006.[23] He died in Mumbai from the illness on 7 November 2006[24]

He married his wife, Dinu, in 1951. He was survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.


  1. ^ A majority of the references cite S(h)olapur as Umrigar's place of birth. But in the interview A chat with midwicket explorer in Sportstar, 14 October 1989, p.49, Umrigar said : "Let me correct the notion that I was born in Sholapur and not in Bombay. The fact is I was born in Bombay, but learnt my cricket in Sholapur till pre-metric days". Another dissenter is Richard Cashman, Patrons, Players and the Crowd, p.76 : "For years Polly Umrigar was listed as 'born in Sholapur' whereas it is now known that he was born in Bombay."
  2. ^ Cashman, Patrons, Players and the Crowd, p.81. Of the early Test cricketers from Bombay, Dattaram Hindlekar and Janardan Navle were the only Marathi speakers. Others – Sorabji Colah, Jenni Irani, Rustomji Jamshedji, Khershed Meherhomji, Rusi Modi, Phiroze Palia, Vijay Merchant, L. P. Jai and Ramesh Divecha – were all Gujarati Parsees or Gujarati Hindus.
  3. ^ Partab Ramchand, Great Indian batsmen, p.63
  4. ^ Great Indian batsmen, p. 104. Vijay Hazare, in his autobiography My story states that the sixes took Umrigar from 88 to 100.
  5. ^ Polly Umrigar, "Oh, the first sight of clear skies", Outlook Special issue on the 75 years of Indian cricket (2005), p.69 : "This innings ranks as the best of my life, though the 170-odd that I got in the Caribbean in 1961–62 was perhaps my best in terms of quality."
  6. ^ In its December 2004 issue, Wisden Asia Cricket conducted a poll among cricketers and cricket writers to select the best innings by an Indian. The 130* was ranked 29th while Umrigar's 172* at Port of Spain in 1961–62 came 45th
  7. ^ Partab Ramchand, Great Feats of Indian Cricket, p.102
  8. ^ Great Feats of Indian Cricket, p.101, quoting S. K. Gurunathan's report from Manchester
  9. ^ John Arlott in his biography of Fred Trueman tells of Umrigar "who at one point retreated so far back that (Tony) Lock, at backward short-leg, said "I say, Polly, do you mind going back. I can't see the bowler when you stand there" ".
  10. ^ Some writers have gone further on the impact of Umrigar's failures," but it was the deeper wound that Trueman had inflicted on Indian cricket that could never be healed. Trueman became an ogre India could not cope with and a whole generation of Indian batsmen were branded as cowards, men who ran away to square-leg at the first sight of a fast bowler. Not all Indian batsman ran away from Trueman and it is a canard to suggest that. However, one man did. " etc. (Mihir Bose, A History of Indian Cricket, p.181)
  11. ^ Umrigar's 560 runs in the 1952–53 series equalled Rusi Modi's identical tally against West Indies at home in 1948–49. This stood as an Indian record till Vijay Manjrekar scored 586 runs against England in 1961–62, and the highest abroad till Dilip Sardesai and Sunil Gavaskar made 642 and 774 runs in West Indies in 1970–71.
  12. ^ Umrigar was the first Indian batsman to reach a century with a six, a feat that has since been emulated by Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammad Azharuddin, Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag.
  13. ^ While the BCCI President certainly went beyond his brief in insisting for Patel, Rajan Bala in The Covers are Off places some part of the blame in Umrigar's insistence on a Bombay man (Hardikar) as the replacement for Manjrekar.
  14. ^ Most sources agree that Umrigar resigned that night but Rajan Bala quotes Umrigar (The Covers are Off, p.71) as saying that he does not remember whether the decision to quit was taken during the night or in the morning after discussion with the selection committee chairman Lala Amarnath.
  15. ^ Excepting Duleepsinhji and Ranjitsinhji who are English for cricketing purposes. Duleep scored 333 for Sussex against Northamptonshire in 1930 while Ranji's highest was 285* for Sussex v Somerset in 1901. Umrigar's score was the highest by an Indian abroad till Navjot Sidhu made 286 against Jamaica at Kingston in 1988–89. As of 2015, it is still the highest by an Indian in England.
  16. ^ The only other Indian cricketer to score a century and take five wickets in an innings was Vinoo Mankad who scored 72 & 184 and took 5 for 196 against England at Lord's in 1952. In 2011/12 v West Indies at Mumbai, Ravichandran Ashwin scored 103 and took 5/156 to become the third.
  17. ^ Great Feats of Indian Cricket, p.117
  18. ^ Cashman, p.84, quotes The Sunday Times, 30 April 1978, which in turn quotes Umrigar as stating that he was 5' 11½" but six feet in cricket boots
  19. ^ The opinion of Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Who's who of Test Cricketers (1986), p.481.
  20. ^ K. N. Prabhu, in Mid-day.
  21. ^ Sujit Mukherjee, Playing for India, p.156
  22. ^ 140 wickets as per Indian Cricket 2004 p.461 and 138 according to Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Who's Who of Test Cricketers (1986) p.482, but a manual count of his wickets shows the Indian Cricket's tally to be correct. 134 of the wickets were for Bombay, 6 for Gujarat.
  23. ^ Hindu report on Umrigar's illness
  24. ^ .Former India skipper Umrigar dies bbc.co.uk, accessed 7 November 2006


  • Partab Ramchand, Great Feats of Indian Cricket, Rupa & Co
  • Partab Ramchand, Great Indian Batsmen, Rupa & Co (2005)
  • Sujit Mukherjee, Playing for India, Orient Longman (1988)
  • Mihir Bose, A History of Indian Cricket (1990)
  • Rajan Bala, The Covers are Off, Rupa & Co (2004)
  • Richard Cashman, Patrons, Players and the Crowd, Orient Longman(1980)

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Ghulam Ahmed
Indian national cricket captain
1955/6 – 1958-9
Succeeded by
Ghulam Ahmed