Nimbalkar, the man who nearly beat Bradman, passes away

The Maharashtra cricketer still holds the record for the highest First Class score of 443 runs, scored against Kathiawar in 1948.

1946: Nimbalkar signing autographs for some fans.

Former Ranji Trophy cricketer Bhausaheb Babasaheb Nimbalkar, who was best known for his feat of scoring India’s highest First Class score of 443 runs, passed away today.

Nimbalkar was one day short of his 93rd birthday when he breathed his last at his Nagala Park Residence in Kolhapur, Maharashtra.

He was a right-hand batsman, seam bowler and wicketkeeper who represented Maharashtra, Railways, Holkar and Baroda in the Ranji Trophy.

He didn’t play Test cricket but played in an unofficial Test for India against the visiting Commonwealth XI at Mumbai’s Brabourne Stadium in 1949.

The greatest moment of his 80-match First Class career when he came within nine runs of beating Don Bradman’s world record of 452 runs in an innings. (See box for the top First Class scores.)

Nimbalkar was playing for Maharashtra against Kathiawar at the Pune Club Ground in December 1948.

In response to Kathiawar’s score of 238, Maharashtra had amassed 826-4. Nimbalkar struck 49 fours and a six in his innings. Kathiawar captain, Thakur Saheb of Rajkot, bowled every member of his team barring the wicketkeeper but failed to dismiss Nimbalkar.

On December 18, the final day of that three-day game, his highness the Thakur Saheb of Rajkot had had enough of Maharashtra’s batting. Kathiawar had already conceded the lead and thus lost the game. So Thakur Saheb told Maharashtra to declare or his team will forfeit the game.

Nimbalkar, batting on 443 at tea, was in sight of Bradman’s record. His captain Yeshwant Gokhale requested Kathiawar to allow him two more overs to get the world record. Kathiawar had none of it, forfeited the game and stormed off the ground leaving Nimbalkar stranded.

"They kept saying that you have already scored so many runs, why do you want to get more," Nimbalkar said later. "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."

Nimbalkar received a congratulatory note from Bradman for the innings.

"I remember that I had got a personal message from Sir Don Bradman that I should go for the record and he congratulated me as well. I still remember he ranked my innings above his own, such was the greatness of the Don. Even though he had the World record and I had only the record in India, he still rated my innings as better," Nimbalkar had said.