Deepak Shodhan, who was the first Indian to make a Test century in his debut innings, has died aged 87. He had been India’s oldest living Test cricketer. Shodhan passed away at his residence in Ahmedabad. He had been suffering from lung cancer, which detected in February this year. The funeral was scheduled for 11 am on Monday. An attractive left-handed batsman who bowled left-arm pace as well, Shodhan was given his first India cap at 25, against Pakistan at Eden Gardens in 1952, and made an immediate impact. He walked in at No. 8, with the score on 179 for 6 and no specialist batsman left, and he walked out with 110 against his name. India claimed a lead of 140 runs, but the match ended in a draw.
“I was in the reserves for the series against Pakistan in 1952-53, the historic first Test series between our two newly independent nations,” Shodhan had said of his origins in a recent interview. “In the final Test match, at Calcutta, I was drafted into the playing XI after our captain Vijay Hazare pulled out unwell. It was Lala Amarnath, who was captaining India in Vijay Hazare’s absence, who asked for me to be brought in – ‘that tall Gujarati boy who had done so well in the trials and other matches’.” Despite that bright start, he played only two more Tests, on a tour of West Indies in 1953. The team had journeyed to the Caribbean by a small boat, which kept tossing and turning.
Everyone got sick at some point or other and Shodhan remembered being the last man standing. However, he picked up an injury after the first Test in Port-of-Spain and was taken ill when he returned for the fifth one in Jamaica. That didn’t stop him from walking out at No. 10 to try and salvage a draw. “I loved playing cricket. My first-class career stretched on to 1962, ten years after I played my last Test match,” Shodhan had said. He played for Gujarat and Baroda in the Ranji Trophy and was a title-winner in 1957-58.