Cricket has been played in the Saurashtra region, which came to be known at that time as Kathiawar, since last nearly one hundred and fifty years or so. After the advent of British Authority in this region in 1822 it formed the part of the Bombay Presidency Government. It was first introduced by civil and military officers connected with British Agency here.
The Province, though, was generally known as Kathiawar, its original name in the official records of the Mughal Empire in Delhi was Saurashtra or its abbreviated name Sorath. The portion inhabited by the Kathi Clan was also known as Kathiawar but as Kathi Clan made themselves so prominent in the 17th and 18th century that gradually the name of their sub-division of the Province came to be applied to the entire peninsula.
The British Authority besides establishing many institutions in this region established Raj Kumar College, Rajkot, an erstwhile Princely School in the year 1870, the first of its kind in India. This was followed by Samaldas College, Bhavnagar in 1886 and Bahauddin College, Junagadh in 1900.
When these schools and Colleges were established it also introduced the game of Cricket in their curriculum and had their own cricket teams. The Principals of Rajkumar College, Rajkot, Mr. Chester MacNaghten (1871-1896) and Mr. C. W. Waddington (1896-1903) along with the renowned Parsee Cricketer Mr. N. C. Bapasola, the Cricket Coach, was instrument in introducing and teaching Cricket in Rajkumar College and in the Agency areas.
Many Princely students later on who became Rulers of their respective States took keen interest in Cricket which led to the further development of Cricket in this region. It is now history that Ranjitsinhji and Duleepsinhji, students of this Rajkumar College, Rajkot became Cricket Legends when they went on to play cricket for Cambridge University, Sussex and England. Other Princely students of this Rajkumar College, Rajkot went on to encourage Cricket in their respective State such as Nawanagar, Bhavnagar, Dhrangadhra, Rajkot, Wadhwan, Junagadh, Porbandar, Manavadar and Mangarole.
The arrival of on e Major Ashby, an officer in the Agency formed a land mark in the annals of Kathiawar cricket. A great cricketer himself, Major Ashby seemed determined to promote the growth of cricket in the region and through his untiring efforts he was able to form The Kathiawar Cricket Club. This new Club was well patronized by the leading Rulers of Kathiawar. Major Ashby also arranged matches for the club in and outside Kathiawar thus bringing its representatives players into direct touch with All India and County Cricketers of England like J. G. Greig, R. M. Poore, H. Cheetham and others and also with Indian Cricketers like H.D. Kanga, J.S. Warden, K.M. Mistry and others of Bombay Quadrangular fame.
The Institutions like Kathiawar Cricket Club, Rajkot Rajkot Gymkhana, Bhavnagar Cricket Club later on named Bhavsinhji Cricket Club, Bhavnagar, Gadhechi Club, Bhavnagar along with educational institutions like Kathiawar High School, Saurashtra High School, Alfred High School – Rajkot Wadhwan Talukdari Garasia School, Junagadh High School and Jamnagar High School to name the few that gave great impetus and push to the development of Cricket in Saurashtra. Hill Shield Cricket Tournament for schools was annually played.
The Political territories of the region were reorganized by the British Authority. The Western India States Agency was created in October 1924, when Political control of the Bombay Presidency ceased and direct relation to Government of India was established. The Agency comprised the State of Kutch and Kathiawar divided into the western and Eastern Kathiawar agencies and the Banas Kantha Agency.
The natural corollary was the formation of Cricket Association named after the region. The Western India States Cricket Association was formed around 1925 under the able guidance and initiative of Captain Hancock. This area was further divided for the purpose of administration into four agencies of Prants viz Halar, Sorath, Gohelwad and Jhalawad though these Prants existed before the formation of Western India State Agency and were many in number. These Prants had their own Cricket Teams and played Inter Prant Tournament annually known as Kathiawar Quadrangular Tournament from 1921 this tournament was started and conducted by Kathiawar Cricket Club and later on by WISCA. On the basis of performances in these Quadrangular matches teams for Kathiawar Cricket Club and WISCA were selected which at one time went on to play All India Tournament in Delhi for Roshanara Cricket Tournament in 1929,1930 and 1931. They had reached in the finals in 1930. On the performance of Kathiawar Quadrangular Tournament, the Cricketers were also selected to play for Hindus and Muslims in Bombay Quadrangular and Pentangulars like Ogadshankar Mehta, Ramji Nakum, Amarsinh Nakum, Saeed Ahmed, Manilal O. Mehta, Vinoo Mankad and others. Some outstanding players who played in Kathiawar Quadrangular were Ogadshankar Mehta, Ramji Nakum, Amarsinh Nakum, Velji Rathod, Prataprai Bhatt, Indravijayasinhji, Manilal Mehta, Akbar Khan, Faiz Ahmed, G.N. Kesari, Shantilal Gandhi, Sukhvanrai Mehta, Hari Mali, C.H. Chandarana, Ghanshyamsinhji and Khan Saheb of Manawadar.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India was formed in December 1929 and WISCA was one of the Association affiliated to it. They played in the then newly established Ranji Trophy in 1934 – 35. In 1936-37 this region has another team named after Nawanagar State as Nawanagar Cricket Association and thus this region had two Ranji Trophy teams till 1947 – 48.
The highlight of the Ranji Trophy Tournaments of that time was the winning of the Trophy by Nawanagar Cricket Association in 1936 – 37 the year when they first participated and by WISCA in the year 1943 – 44.
In 1946 – 47 with advent of independence this region was known as Kathiawar Cricket Association till 1949 – 50 when on the formation of union territory of the United States of Saurashtra. Saurashtra Cricket Association was established and since 1950 – 51 Saurashtra Cricket Association is functioning as Cricket Authority in this region of Gujarat.
WISCA played 29 Ranji Trophy matches between 1934-35 to 1945-46 and K.C.A. played 6 matches between 1946-47 to 1949-50. Thus with the inclusion of all three names of these associations Saurashtra Cricket Association has played 250 matches from 1934-35 to 2004-2005. Nawanagar Cricket Association has played 22 matches between 1936-37 to 1947-48.
Many foreign touring teams have played representative matches in this region which helped to boost cricket in the region and also gave ample opportunity for local cricket and people to play and watch the members of these touring teams. The first side to visit Saurashtra incidentally was Dr. C. H. Gunasekhara’s Ceylon Team in 1932-33 which played two day match at Rajkot against WISCA. Then came D.R. Jardine’s M.C.C. team in 1933-34 when they played against WISCA at Rajkot followed by a two day game at Jamnagar against Jamnagar XI in 1935-36 Jack Ryder’s Australian team on unofficial tour played at Rajkot against WISCA and a two day game at Jamnagar against Jamnagar XI. 1937-38 Lord Tenneyson’s team on unofficial tour played at Jamnagar against Jamnagar XI and at Ahmedabad they played against WISCA and Gujarat Combined team. In 1950-51 II Commonwealth team led by L.E.G. Ames played at Rajkot against Saurashtra.
The Ranji Trophy was played on knock out basis upto 1956-57 and from 1957-58 it was played on league basis and Saurashtra formed one of the teams for the West Zone.
In the annals of history of cricket, role, contribution, achievements and spirit of Saurashtrians have carved a glorious niche. Those were the days when Amarsinh and Ramji, though from an ordinary background, made an extraordinary contribution to cricket with an extraordinary game. Princely stalwarts Jam Ranjitsingh and Duleepsingh and thereafter Vinoo Mankad earned name and fame internationally. They were legendary cricketers and had added colourful feathers to the glory of national and international cricket.
It is a matter of pride, pleasure and privilege that even after the decades of that legendary era, Saurashtrians still continue to contribute significantly to the prestige and popularity of Indian cricket. In fact, cricket is the soul and spirit, a matter of pride and passion for Saurashtrians and enjoys a central place in their love for sports. It captivates the zeal and interest of the people of every age.
The regional body Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) has explored fully such spirit, such interest, such passion and an admirable talent to promote and popularise cricket at local, regional, national and international levels. SCA is fully committed to promote cricket and the budding cricketers in the best possible manner and to strengthen infra-structural facilities of all affiliated associations.
Niranjan Shah was first elected as Hony. Secretary of SCA in 1972-73 and thereafter has been re-elected continuously unchallenged for said office. He has been instrumental in enhancing the prestige and popularity of cricket of Saurashtra region.
With the efforts and endeavour of Niranjan Shah and with the help, support and co-operation of the members of governing body, SCA has successfully and efficiently hosted and managed prestigious International matches at Rajkot. Besides, SCA has been managing effectively on a regular basis several popular domestic tournaments and league matches.
With an ardent zeal of Niranjan Shah and his colleagues, SCA has accomplished a long cherished dream. SCA’s ultra-modern and state-of-the-art Cricket Stadium of international standard and Sports Complex is a unique and a very special gift to the sports loving people of Saurashtra. Stadium was inaugurated by then Hon’ble Chief Minister of Gujarat Shri Narendra Modi. So far, three prestigious International matches and many domestic matches have been played on this stadium. BCCI has declared Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium for all formats of Cricket, i.e. Test Match, One Day International, International T20 as well as IPL.