Madhav Apte, the former India Test opener, died in Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital on Monday, aged 86.
In his seven Tests for India in 1952-53, Apte averaged 49.27, the highlight being a match-saving, unbeaten 163 against West Indies in Port of Spain. Five of his seven Tests were played on that tour of the Caribbean, where it seemed he was the next big thing in Indian cricket, averaging over 50 and finishing second on the runs charts for India.
Shishir Hattangadi, the prolific Mumbai run-getter from the 1980s, confirmed the news of Apte’s death and paid tribute to him. “I hadn’t met him for a couple of months, he hadn’t been keeping well,” Hattangadi told ESPNcricinfo. “Age-related complications. I was told that he suffered a cardiac arrest this morning. The memories are of a lovely human being, he embraced sports romantics, a lovely man to spend time with.
“He would tell you stories of people and events you have only heard of. Never spoke about his own career. Very dignified, he didn’t want to talk about it. He was a senior that you respected, someone you could spend a lot of time with. A very simple man. A great loss, but he lived his life well.”
In all, Apte’s first-class career ran 17 years, from 1951-52 to 1967-68. He scored a first-class ton on debut for Mumbai in 1952, and promptly went on to make his Test debut as a 20-year-old during Pakistan’s tour of India later that year. Next up was the tour of the Caribbean.
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Against a West Indies attack that included Sonny Ramadhin, Alf Valentine and Frank King, Apte struck 64 and 52 in the first Test, 64 again in the second, and followed that up with that unbeaten second-innings 163 in the third Test to secure a draw for India. Despite his tour average of 51.11, Apte never played another Test.
Following the tour of the West Indies, India had no Tests scheduled in 1954. He was part of the “Silver Jubilee Commonwealth XI” match in 1954, playing for India against West Indies, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the BCCI. But his form was on the downslide by the time India’s next Test assignment came about, and so he was overlooked.
He had begun his career as a legbreak bowler before intervention from the great Vinoo Mankad – his coach at college – turned him into an opening batsman. Apte later confessed that he learnt the art of batting by observing Vijay Merchant bat in the nets every morning in Mumbai. It was Merchant’s subsequent injury in 1952 that handed Apte a first-class debut for Mumbai.
After his first-class retirement, Apte moved to Malaysia on work but continued to turn out in the Kanga League in Mumbai, representing the club side Jolly Cricketers. He played over 50 seasons of the Kanga League, last featuring in a game at the age of 70. Between 1948 and 2002, Apte made more than 5000 runs in that league.
In 1989, Apte became the president of Cricket Club of India in Mumbai, one of the oldest clubs for the sport in the country. He was also instrumental in bringing a 14-year-old Sachin Tendulkar into the CCI side. Recalling what he thought of Tendulkar’s talent back then, Apte once said: “One sees a hell of a lot of talent at the age of 14, 16, and so on. Not all of that talent really matures because the future, no one can predict. [But] at that time, my comment in the dressing room was, ‘If this boy keeps his head on his shoulders, he will play for India sooner than later.’ But even the lord almighty could not have seen that he would go on to get hundred hundreds and so on.”