A royal tribute to the prince of cricket

Then, his nephew KS Duleepsinhji followed in the footsteps of his famous uncle.
As a tribute to the great batsmen who served England with distinction, a major section of the Sussex Cricket Museum is dedicated to chronicling the exploits of the duo that transports one to a bygone era. The museum, which operated till only last month in a small room in front of the County Cricket Ground here, has been provided with more space within the premises of the ground, enabling the trustees to display rare memorabilia in a presentable manner.

Rob Boddie, the honourary librarian here, and four other cricket enthusiasts with an interest in history, mooted the idea of a museum to exhibit the numerous pictures, paintings, scorecards, bats, pads, caps and blazers which they have collected over the last 30 years. “Sussex has a very special connection with India and its cricket, not least because of Ranjitji and Duleepji,” says one of the trustees, Roger Packham.

Ranjit, points out another trustee Nicolas Sharp, was immensely popular not only in Sussex but in the whole of England. “There was just so much craze about this Indian prince playing for England,” he says. “He used to play with silk shirts and his leg glance was just amazing to watch. When he went to Australia, he became an instant hit with the crowd there as well. He was perhaps the most popular cricketer of his time. Perhaps only WG Grace commanded as much respect and love.”

After retiring, Ranji spent his time in a castle in Ireland during the summer, and travelleed to India during the winter. “He didn’t marry but all long, he had this parrot called Popsie, which outlived him; it died at 90!” informs Packham. Ranji passed away aged 60 in India.
There is a small section devoted to Duleep as well among, which includes tributes from English great Sir Jack Hobbs and Aussie legend Sir Donald Bradman. ‘Duleep was an artist’, says Hobbs while Bradman refers to him as ‘one of the greatest batsmen I ever saw and (there has been)âno finer gentleman to trod the turf.’

Because of his frail frame, Sharp says, Duleep used lighter Harrow bats (used by school children). “After Kent defeated Sussex in an away tie at Madestone, Duleep promised skipper Arthur Gilligan that he would score two centuries in the next match against Kent at home in     Hastings. And the man went on to score 100 in the first innings and 200 in the second!” he recalls, pointing to the bat used by Duleep in the match. The museum is also celebrating 100 years of the first visit to Hove by an official Indian team, in 1911. However, the first Indian team, the Bombay Parsees, came here in May 1886. They could win just one match out of 28 and lost 19 games.

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