In December 1948, Maharashtra and Kathiawar met in a Ranji Trophy contest. Held at the Poona Club ground, the match has now gained cult status for being a dark moment in the history of Indian cricket.
Kathiawar managed to score a mere 238 before being bowled out on the first day itself, and the day ended with Maharashtra registering an impressive score of 132-1. By the end of the second day, the score stood at a mammoth 587-2, with B.B. Nimbalkar standing strong at 301.
As the third day approached its end, Nimbalkar had already broken the record of the highest first-class score by an Indian cricketer, eclipsing the legendary Vijay Merchant's 359 for Bombay against Maharashtra in 1943-44.
At this point, he was at 443, and just ten runs short of breaking Sir Don Bradman's record of the highest individual score in first-class cricket. Bradman had achieved this feat in 1929-30, while playing for New South Wales in a match against Queensland in Sydney.
The captain of Kathiawar, Thakore Sahib, immediately called Raja Gokhale, the captain of Maharashtra. In one of the most disgusting moments in all of cricket, he gave an ultimatum to Gokhale: they needed to either declare the innings or the Kathiawar players were going home.
Nimbalkar recalled that the opposition didn't want to get recorded in the history books as the team to be on the receiving end of this legendary record.
They kept saying that you have already scored so many runs, why do you want to get more. Their skipper felt that the name of the Kathiawar team would figure in the record books for the wrong reasons. I was left stranded in the middle of the ground. I didn’t like the approach of the Kathiawar team. How could they be so unsporting? Once I came to know that I was just 10 runs short of a world record, I was desperate to achieve it because it would have put Sir Don’s name behind me. But this didn’t happen.
Sir Donald Bradman himself spoke to Thakore Sahib on wireless, and urged him to let Nimbalkar break the record, but the captain didn't budge. The Kathiawar players didn't come back from the tea break and left to catch the train.
The long-standing record of The Don was broken by Hanif Mohammad a decade later, when he scored 499 against Bhawalpur. On that dark day in 1948, an Indian batsman had come incredibly close to breaking Bradman's world record. Although Thakore Sahib prevented this from happening to make sure that he wouldn't be mentioned in the history books for being on the other side of the record, his legacy has been marred forever for denying an opportunity of a lifetime to a fellow Indian batsman.Published 07 May 2019, 13:06 IST