Madhav Apte: Cricket’s shooting star

Mumbai: Former India Test opener and a resident of Aamchi Mumbai, Madhav Apte, aged 86, passed away at the Breach Candy hospital on Monday morning. Apte played seven Tests for India in the early 50s, five of which came against West Indies.

Among the 542 runs (at an average of 49.27) that he finished his Test career with, there were two fine centuries (with highest score of 163) in two Port of Spain matches, against a bowling attack that had Frank King, Gerry Gomez, Frank Worrell, Alf Valentine and Sonny Ramadhin. Despite a successful stint, Apte never played for India again.

Many find it difficult to explain why someone who scored three half-centuries and 163 against the deadly West Indies in their backyard in 1952-53 played only one Test after that.

Apte, despite his merit as a player, saw politics in his exit and believed that the legendary Lala Amarnath was behind his ouster. Years later, Apte wrote about it in his autobiography, giving his side of the story.

He wrote in his memoir, “My sudden disappearance from Test cricket, especially after an impressive record, was never explained.’’ And he went to add that Lala Amarnath had then presided over the selection committee.

He approached Apte, who belonged to an affluent family, with a request to meet his father, ostensibly because he wanted cloth distributorship of Kohinoor Mills in Delhi.

Apte’s father was shrewd enough to put two and two together. He politely declined Lala’s proposal. Lala continued to be chairman of the selection committee for a few years.

‘‘But I was never selected to play Test Cricket again,’’ Apte recounts in his autobiography.However, those who have chronicled Mumbai cricket prefer to remember him for his love for the game.

He played Kanga League for 50 years; in fact, he last played when he was 71 years old. Apte will forever remain a gentleman whom Mumbai cricket can never forget.

A cricketer who can never be judged by numbers. Apte also served as the president of the famous Cricket Club of India. During his tenure, he is said to have tweaked the strict age-limit rules to accommodate a 15-year-old Sachin Tendulkar, so that he could represent the club as a player.

For the record, Apte made his debut for India against Pakistan at the Brabourne Stadium in 1952 with his college coach Vinod Mankad as the other end. He played his last test against West Indies at Kingston in April 1953.

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