Lieutenant Colonel Sir Vijayananda Gajapathi Raju (28 December 1905 – 2 December 1965), better known as the Maharajkumar of Vizianagram or Vizzy, was an Indian cricketer, cricket administrator and politician.
Vizzy was the second son of Pusapati Vijayarama Gajapathi Raju, the ruler of Vizianagaram. His title Maharajkumar (prince) comes for this reason. After his father died in 1922, Vizzy moved to the family estates in Benares and married the eldest daughter of the ruler of the zamindari land of Kashipur.
He attended the Princes' College in Ajmer and Haileybury College in England. He excelled at tennis and cricket in the Princes' College. Vizzy was a fine hunter and claimed to have bagged over three hundred tigers.
Vizzy organised his cricket team in 1926 and constructed a fine ground in his palace compounds. He recruited players from India and abroad. When MCC cancelled the tour of India in 1930-31 owing to political problems, he organised a team of his own and toured India and Ceylon. He succeeded in drafting Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe for the team, a considerable feat as Hobbs had previously refused offers for five such tours. Vizzy brought Learie Constantine to India a few years later. He brought Mushtaq Ali to Benares for training when he was still a high school student. "If Vizzy had been content with being such a cricket sponsor", writes Mihir Bose in A History of Indian Cricket, "like Sir Horatio Mann in the eighteenth century, or Sir Julien Cahn in the twentieth, his name would be one of the most revered in Indian cricket. But he was consumed with the ambition to be a great cricketer".
The organisation of the 1930-31 tour gave Vizzy a standing in Indian cricket that was second only to the Maharaja of Patiala. About this time, Patiala fell out with Lord Willingdon, the viceroy of India, and Vizzy got close with the viceroy. He donated a pavilion named after the viceroy in the newly constructed Feroz Shah Kotla ground in Delhi. When the national championship was started in 1934, he attempted to donate a gold 'Willingdon trophy' but Patiala beat him to it with his Ranji Trophy.
His wealth and contacts brought him great influence in Indian cricket, even though his cricketing abilities were not great. In the early thirties, he offered to pay the board fifty thousand rupees, forty thousand of it for Indian tour of England that happened in 1932. He was appointed as the 'deputy vice captain' for the tour but withdrew ostensibly on reasons of health and form.
He led the Indian tour to England in 1936, a post that he secured after lobbying and manipulation. The tour was very acrimonious, with team splits, and Vizzy even felt the need to send home one of his strongest players, Lala Amarnath. India lost the series easily, but Vizzy was knighted by King Edward VIII in the King's Birthday Honours. He is the only cricketer to have had a knighthood bestowed on him while an active test cricketer, shortly after his test debut in June of that year, and prior to his last test in August of that year. He renounced his knighthood in 1947 after India became independent. MCC awarded him a membership without putting him through the customary waiting list. It was during this tour that he acquired the nickname Vizzy which was coined by Lord Hailsham, the Lord Chancellor, at a lunch given by the Royal Empire Society at Hotel Victoria.
Vizzy fared poorly in a post-tour enquiry especially in his treatment of Amarnath, and took a low profile thereafter for a few years. He made a comeback as a cricket administrator and was the President of BCCI from 1954-1957. As the vice-president of the BCCI in 1952, he had played a role in bringing back Lala Amarnath as the Indian captain. He successfully promoted Uttar Pradesh's cricketing profile, making Kanpur a centre for Test cricket. On his invitation, C. K. Nayudu, at the age of 61, captained Uttar Pradesh in the 1956-57 season. He worked for the development of cricket in South India and was asked to be President of Mysore cricket association.
From the 1948-49 series against West Indies, Vizzy became a radio commentator and was the guest commentator for BBC during the Indian tour of England in 1959. He was not a particularly good commentator which, according to Dickie Rutnagur, provoked Rohan Kanhai to ask: How do you kill these tigers?. I shoot them, Vizzy was said to have replied. Kanhai responded: I heard that you leave transistors lying around and the tigers listen to your awful commentary and drop dead.