First-class cricket is a bridge between amateur cricket and the international level. Some cricketers cross the bridge with ease, and some fail to walk across. While a noted few take such a gigantic first step that they leave a deep imprint. Madhya Pradesh’s Ajay Rohera did something similar in the Ranji Trophy as he became only the seventh Indian batsman to hit a double century on debut.
Ranji Trophy is India’s premier domestic first-class competition. It has been contested since 1934 and it has gone under numerous transformations over the years. The established records, however, have and will stand the test of time.
Scoring a century in your debut first-class game is a special feeling that many talented cricketers have enjoyed. However, only seven Indian batsmen have registered a double century in their first-ever first-class match. Here is the list of all seven batsmen who crossed the mark of 200 runs in their debut game:
#7. Gundappa Vishwanath - 230 (Mysore/Karnataka)
Vishwanath was India’s premier Test batsman whose batting was considered to be artistic. His timing and strokeplay were described as poetry in motion. In his 14-year long career, the Karnataka batsman featured in 91 Tests and scored 6090 runs for India which included 14 centuries.
Fondly known as ‘Vishy’, the right-hander made his first-class debut at the age of 19. Playing for Mysore (Now Karnataka) against Andhra Pradesh at Vijayawada in the 1968-69 season of Ranji Trophy, Vishwanath strode out to the pitch early as they lost their openers soon. Taking full charge, the debutant amassed 230 runs before he was out LBW. Mysore was all out for 460 and dismissed Andhra for only 181 runs in the first innings. The three-day affair ultimately ended in a draw.
Vishwanath, of course, went on to become a legend in Indian cricket. He crunched a century on his Test debut against Australia at Kanpur in 1969 thus completing a double of a century on both first-class and Test debut. He was the first Indian batsman to do so.
#6. Amol Muzumdar - 260 (Bombay/Mumbai)
Mumbai’s (formerly Bombay) success in the Ranji Trophy is unparalleled. Till date, the city has celebrated 41 Trophies while no other side has managed to win even ten times. The sight of six-seven Mumbai cricketers in the Indian team was commonplace for a long time. Hence when 19-year old Amol had to choose between playing for the Indian under-19 team and the Mumbai Ranji team, he preferred the latter.
In the 1993-94 season, Mumbai arrived at Faridabad to face Haryana in the pre-quarterfinals. Muzumdar was informed well in advance by Captain Ravi Shastri about his debut and the batting position, hence he was able to prepare better. Batting alongside Jatin Paranjpe and Ravi Shastri, Muzumdar carved his name in the record books with an overnight score of 245.
The debutant added 15 more runs to the tally and was stumped on the gigantic score of 260. Muzumdar was a proud owner of the world record of highest score on debut in first-class cricket. He later became a stalwart of Mumbai cricket and scored more than 11,000 first-class runs.
#5. Anshuman Pandey - 209 not out (Madhya Pradesh)
Amongst all the first-class debutants who scored a double century, Anshuman Pandey’s case remains the most curious. The wonder boy played only one season of first-class cricket after beginning with a stellar knock. The right-handed opening batsman was selected for the State under-19 team at the tender age of 16. Soon he received a call-up for the State senior team as well.
Anshuman Pandey opened the innings for Madhya Pradesh against Uttar Pradesh at Jayanti Stadium, Bhilai (then part of Madhya Pradesh) in the 1995-96 Ranji Trophy season. He was 80 not out by the end of day one. Next day, Pandey celebrated the milestone of 200 runs and the team declared straightaway.
After enjoying such a dazzling start, Pandey completely failed to sustain his form. In the following ten innings, he gathered only 95 runs with the highest score of 24. The dismal performance proved career-ending for the 20-year-old batsman and he disappeared from the scene never to return.
#4. Manprit Juneja- 201 (Gujarat)
The 21-year-old batsman from Gujarat made his first-class debut in an adverse situation. Confronting Tamil Nadu at the Motera Stadium, Ahmedabad, the home side was in a spot of bother in the 2011-12 season of Ranji Trophy. With four centuries (including 220 from Abhinav Mukund) the visitors piled up 698/8 in their first innings.
When the debutant Manprit Juneja walked out to bat at number six, Gujarat was struggling at 155/4. Batting alongside Pratharesh Parmar and Jesal Karia, Juneja staged a phenomenal recovery. The local boy etched his name in the record books as finished with a score of 201 with 26 fours and three sixes. The effort was not enough to save Gujarat though as the side fell 159 runs short of the required total.
The sparkling start helped Juneja to be drafted in the IPL squad of Delhi Daredevils. He enjoyed another tremendous season next year when he amassed 796 runs from eight matches with three centuries and three fifties. Juneja currently averages 49.92 in first-class cricket.
#3. Jiwanjot Singh - 213 (Punjab)
Punjab’s opening batsman Jiwanjot Singh had a watershed debut season in the Ranji Trophy. It all began with the four-day match between Punjab and Hyderabad at Chandigarh in the 2012-13 season. Hyderabad was all out for 258 and Punjab came out to bat early on the second day.
Debutant Jiwanjot Singh and Karan Goel raised a monumental opening stand of 288 runs, 30 runs more than Hyderabad’s team total. After Goel’s dismissal for 129, Jiwanjot carried on and celebrated his double century on debut. He was finally bowled for 213 runs which included 33 boundaries. With the massive lead of 307 runs, Punjab inflicted an innings defeat.
The 21-year-old Punjab batsman made most of the incredible start and immediately scored a 158 versus Bengal in the next match. Jiwanjot plundered 995 runs from ten matches in the season with five centuries and two half-centuries. He has not enjoyed such a stellar run since and currently averages 38.86 in first-class cricket.
#2. Abhishek Gupta - 202 (Punjab)
Believe it or not, Abhishek Gupta’s 202 while batting on debut at number seven was overshadowed by a spectacular knock from another batsman. Gupta, the 27-year old wicketkeeper, played his debut game versus Himachal Pradesh at Dharamsala in the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy season.
Batting first, Himachal Pradesh posted a gigantic score of 729/8 before declaring. Prashant Chopra smashed 338 runs and became the first triple-centurion for his state. Facing such a tall ordeal, Punjab crumbled to 265/5 as Abhishek Gupta made his way to the crease. The wicketkeeper stitched a 239-run partnership for the seventh wicket with Abhishek Sharma.
Abhishek Gupta was the ninth wicket to fall for Punjab with an individual score of 202. Gupta failed to deliver consistently with the bat and scored only 311 runs in the next 14 innings with an average of 22.21. Post his double-century, the wicketkeeper has scored only two fifties. He was also handed an eight-month ban by the BCCI for doping violation.
#1. Ajay Rohera - 267 not out (Madhya Pradesh)
Latest and the most spectacular entrant into the record books is the 21-year old wicketkeeper from Madhya Pradesh, Ajay Rohera. The boy now holds the record of the highest individual score in first-class cricket. He scored a magnificent 267 not out against Hyderabad at Indore on 8th December 2018.
Hyderabad was blown away for only 124 runs after a devastating spell of 7/24 from Avesh Khan. Ajay Rohera opened the innings and kept going strong till the end of the day. Overnight, he was not out on 255 runs. Rohera became aware of Amol Muzumdar’s record on the third-day morning. He added 12 runs to his tally and remained not out on 267 as the team declared. His mammoth score is also the highest individual score for Madhya Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy.
Captain Naman Ojha presented Rohera with a bouquet as the token of appreciation at the boundary line as the wicketkeeper returned from his marathon effort. The boy from Dewas broke the 24-year old record of Amol Muzumdar and is the current highest scorer on first-class debut.