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Duleepsinhji: Prince of Cricketers by Barry Rickson

Release date: 20th May, 2005
Publisher: Parrs Wood Press

List Price: £15.00
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Duleepsinhji: Prince of Cricketers
By Barry Rickson price: £10.50 (saving 30% on cover price)

It is a pity that authors of books whose subjects sometimes trade solely on their 'celebrity' do not take heed of the advice given to Barry Rickson by David Frith, author of a wonderful volume dealing with the 1932/33 'Bodyline' series between Australia and England. Before writing this book, Frith told Rickson that biographies only appeal "if there is something a little different about the subject." On that basis alone, this carefully crafted and well researched biography of Kumar Shri Duleepsinhji, known to everyone as Duleep, was always likely to succeed.

How could it fail given the richness of the basic material? Born into a princely family in 1905, Duleep's father was the younger brother of another outstanding cricketer, Ranjitsinhji, who was sent to one of the four boarding schools established for the Indian nobility in order that they could prepare, "physically, morally and intellectually for the responsibilities that lay before them." Six years later, Duleep arrived at Cheltenham College, home to the Cheltenham cricket festival where, the following year, he scored 149 from a total of 222 for the college's Colts team. Soon, even The Cricketer magazine noted he could become as good a player as his famous uncle - and this before he was 16!

By the time Duleep had reached Clare College, Cambridge in October 1924, his cricketing prowess ensured he had already made his first class debut (for the MCC against Oxford University) although he had also 'failed' in his first outing for Sussex. As a number of Sussex officials wondered what all the fuss had been about this young Indian prince, the following day Duleep turned out for the MCC and scored his maiden first class century - 120 in three hours, an innings which Wisden described as "the feature of the match."

Within three years, following a series of remarkable performances including a rapid-fire 101 against a powerful Yorkshire side in a little over two hours, Duleep was being talked of as the cricketer who, "in a few years, may be the greatest batsman in England." This was the season when he scored an incredible 254 out of a total of 362 for Cambridge against Middlesex inside four hours, a record score for the University which remains to this day.

But 1927 was the year which witnessed the onset of an incurable disease which meant Duleep, plagued by ill-health, was forced to abandon his cricketing career at the age of 27. This most charming of men had contracted pulmonary tuberculosis which resulted in him missing virtually a whole season as he attempted to recuperate in a Swiss sanatorium. Although he returned to cricket to captain Sussex, he was frequently affected by fatigue and chest problems.

The man who became affectionately known as "Smith" while at Cambridge played on for as long as he could for Sussex, scoring what is still the county's record individual score, an astonishing 333 against Northamptonshire at Hove. Ironically, the score beat the previous record of 285, established by his uncle Ranji in 1901.

Sadly, within two years of this achievement, Duleep collapsed on the pitch at Taunton playing for Sussex against Somerset. Despite having been selected for the England tour to Australia in 1932/33, he was never to play first class cricket again.

Returning home, Duleep became involved in state politics and was eventually to spend three years in the Antipodes, although not as a cricketer, but as High Commissioner of India to Australia and New Zealand. He died at the age of 54, a cultured man of integrity about whom it could be said there was something 'a little different' and for that, readers should appreciate this attractive biography.

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