His talent was realised very early when he scored twin centuries in a match when he was only 15. Soon he went on to represent Bombay in the Ranji Trophy, doing so from 1933 until his retirement in 1952. Among his 44 first-class centuries 11 were in excess of 200.
The Mumbai batsman had a short international career, playing only 10 Tests spread over 18 years before a shoulder injury cut short his playing days. Merchant was on course to debut for India in the 1932 tour of England but Bombay prohibited his selection on political grounds. He eventually won a Test cap in the first home Test series in 1933-34 and scored 54 at Calcutta, which was his highest score of his six innings in that series.
In the 10 Tests he played, all of which were against England, he made 859 runs at an average of 47.72.
In India’s 1936 tour of England, he topped the scoring charts with 1745 runs at an average of 51.32 – a performance which earned him Wisden Cricketer of the Year award. His display on that tour prompted CB Fry to say: "Let us paint him white and take him with us to Australia as an opener."
Later on, he became an administrator, a writer, a broadcaster and was also a Test selector before he passed away on 27th October 1987 at the age of 76 in Bombay, and still stands as one of the greatest batsmen produced by India.
First Published: October 12, 2018, 11:27 AM IST