Aurangzeb Road, Akbar Road, Albuquerque Road, Baird Road, King George’s Avenue, Clive Road, Curzon Lane- what is common among these? They were named after invaders and colonial rulers. While the name of some these avenues has been changed, some are still named after the people who looked down upon India, Indian nationalism, and oppressed the common people.
However, the naming of some of greatest monuments and achievements after such people is not limited to roads and monuments, even sports tournaments are not left behind. Sports competitions like Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy need immediate renaming.
Founded in July 1934, Ranji Trophy has completed 85 years of its existence. The competition, modelled after County Championship in England and the Sheffield Shield in Australia was named after Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji, an Anglophile ruler of the princely state of Nawanagar.
The first match of Ranji Trophy was played on 4 November 1934 and the first match was played between teams from Madras and Mysore. The first Ranji Trophy was donated by Sir Bhupendra Singh, the Maharaja of Patiala, in memory of Ranjitsinhji. Ranjitsinhji was born on 10 September, 1872, in Kathiawar in modern-day Gujarat. He was the first person of Indian origin to play Test cricket when he made his debut for England in 1896. Popularly known as Ranji, he died on April 1934 due to heart failure.
No doubt, Ranjitsinhji was a good batsman, he played for Cambridge University team, Sussex County, and English national team. However, naming the most prominent trophy of Indian cricket after a person who had such a controversial past is insane.
Duleep Trophy- the other major first class cricket competition is named after Duleepsinh, nephew of Ranjitsinhji, who also went on to play for Cambridge University, Sussex County, and English national team. Like his uncle, Duleepsinh was also a good batsman, but he chose to play for English team instead of playing for the Indian side which had got test playing nation status by that time.
Ranjitsinhji was many steps ahead of Duleepsinh in terms of Anglophilia and Indophobia. In 1907, a year after he was declared ruler of the princely state of Nawanagar, thousands of people died in Jamnagar- the capital city of his state due to poverty and disease, and he was cruel enough to describe the city as “an evil slum”.
He enjoyed lavish lifestyle in England, entertained guests, played cricket and often went for hunt, while the people in Jamnagar suffered from high taxes imposed by his administration. In the absence of ruler, the revenue officials got a free hand in exploitation of poor farmers and traders.
In the First World War, he declared all his resources are available to British government for war purpose. During his reign, the living condition of common people worsened because he was not interested in administration. According to British journalist Simon Wilde, Ranjitsinhji felt more at home in the company of British friends than handling administrative duties in Jamnagar.
After Indian Independence movement gained currency in Jamnagar, he dedicated more time to interest of princely states. He was instrumental in formation of Chamber of Princes, which voiced their needs and aspiration the colonial administration of British India. His regime was criticized for absentee rule, high taxes and restriction of civil liberties.
He has been severely criticized for failure to support Indian cricket despite having resources and talent. He did not play a single match for Indian national cricket team and the most prominent first class competition is named after him. Similarly him nephew did not played a single match for Indian national team, despite the fact that India got test playing status when he active. And yet Duleep Trophy, second most prominent first class cricket competition is named after him.
Ranji Trophy is most prominent domestic first class cricket title in India, and currently 37 teams participate in the competition, with every having at least one team and a few having more than one. The idea was to organize regular competition between different province and regions, to promote cricket.
BCCI must rename Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy; there are hundreds of cricketers who contributed a great deal to Indian cricket.