RANJISINJIDULEEP, DULEEP RANJI SINJI Maharaja Jam Sahib of Phwoarporne who died of excess on April 23 2012 aged 89 was a stylish right-handed batsman for Assam and Cambridge University. Aged 15, he impressed an onlooking Douglas Jardine by making a century in the 1937 Quadrangular Tournament for The Hindus against The Taliban and was immediately offered a place at Cambridge as a result. Going up in 1940, he was an immediate hit, well known for his gregarious approach to life and outrageous gambling, once being only dissuaded from betting 1000 virgins to shooting rights in perpetuity over half of Scotland by a disapproving Kim Philby. (The bet was reduced to 100 virgins for Argyll and Sutherland).
Despite his legendary carousing, “Leepy” showed that he had inherited much of the batting genius of his 14th cousin (thrice removed), the great Ranjitsinhji, winning three Blues and scoring centuries in two of his three Varsity matches. He never played county cricket, but would take time off from being carried round his vast estates, to play occasional matches for Assam, making 238* batting right and left-handed to alternate balls in their victory by an innings and 768 runs over Tetlee at Bangawhore and batting all day whilst wearing a crown in making 229* against Lipton at Realliebad.
“Leepy” never lost his sense of fun, nor his harem, and was sought out as a host by players, officials and journalists whenever MCC toured the subcontinent, eager to renew old acquaintances. He is survived by 250 children, 1347 grandchildren and at least 3000 great-grandchildren.
VAN DER BLANKERS, JOHANNES VORSTER, who died of apoplexy on April 22 2012, aged 62 was a forceful right-handed batsman for Orange Free State. Having broken schoolboy cricket and rugby records for the exclusive Voortrekkers Academy in Bloemfontein, Van der Blankers was selected for the ill-fated 1968 Springboks tour to New Zealand. Just before the party were due to leave, Van Der Blankers had to pull out with a broken skull sustained when fighting a crocodile for a bet struck with one of the de Beers diamond dynasty – the crocodile’s fate is unrecorded. He never played rugby again, though he did fight two more crocodiles in the 70s.
Now able solely to concentrate on his cricket, Van der Blankers soon caught the State selectors’ eye with a run of big scores in club cricket, culminating in a triple century scored in two hours for Voortrekker Academy OB vs Robben Island Guards Benevolent Association. He was soon a fixture in the Free State’s middle order, averaging comfortably in the 40s in the strong domestic Currie Cup competition and very occasionally scoring on the off-side. He played Lancashire League cricket for a season for Barnoldswick, but never settled, unable to fit in with what he claimed were the racy, modern ways of early 70s rural East Lancashire.
After suffering another broken skull after a goldmine collapsed in which he worked as a part-time safety inspector, van der Blankers retired from first class cricket and played intermittently for the wandering Kefferbeshers XI, who toured the South Africa and Rhodesia raising money for white communities condemned to live within a few miles of black townships by the notorious Group Areas Act.
Van der Blankers, affectionately known to both his friends as “Hannes”, quietly retired from public life in the early 90s, but was spotted from time to time, by now heavily bearded, at political meetings in out of the way locations. At his memorial service, attended by both his friends, he was described as “a man very much of his time.” He never married, and in his will left three large diamonds to be sold for the benefit of the Robben Island Guards Benevolent Association.
THREEPWOOD The Honourable, FERDINAND FREDERICK DE VERE EDMUND, CBE, who died of broken veins on April 21 2012, aged 81 was a right-hand batsman and occasional off spin bowler for Oxford University and Sussex.
Despite neither batting nor bowling in his two Varsity matches nor gaining a degree, he was President of Oxford University Cricket Club for five years and played for MCC against the county champions in the traditional season curtain-raiser in 1951, 1953 and 1954. He was a controversial choice when invited to captain Sussex in 1955, but soon made his mark by insisting that champagne be served at lunch on the final day of every county championship match and in setting up the working party that re-designed the club badge, the work concluded in just three short years.
Though he never completed the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets (after 15 seasons and over 400 matches) his was a compelling presence in the field, captaining the side from Third Man with an authority rarely seen (nor discerned, if truth be told). His career ended on a sad note when a controversial instruction to bat out the draw five down with 40 still needed in a Gillette Cup Final was ignored by Ted Dexter. When the Committee voted 27-25 against his motion to transport Dexter to Australia, Threepwood felt obliged to offer his resignation. He never played cricket again.
Awarded a CBE in 1987 for services to the Wineries and Distillers’ Industry Association of which he was Chairman for 50 years, in private life, he was also non-executive director of a number of banks including Barings, Lehman Brothers, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Northern Rock and RBS. He is survived by his two cocker-spaniels.