Sledging can be fun. As long as the right spirit and right humour is there, sledging can add up to the fun of the game. Parsi Cyclist was a team whose players were never short of a fun-foul word. It is as if that was their only vocabulary. Yet these words, though jeering, were said in good humour and not to hurt anyone but to have fun together and enjoy as they played.
By Makarand Waingankar | TNN
What’s more, they sledged their own players more than the opposition. Bad words flew every ball and missed no one! The motto for these jovial Parsees was to ‘enjoy the maximum and to win with minimum effort.’
Each person in this team was a specimen. Nowhere will one find such colourful people together at once. Polly Umrigar, Nari Contractor, Behram Irani, Farokh Engineer, Rusi Surti, Mehli Irani, Hoshi Amroliwala, Behram Gowadia, Salim Durrani, Abbas Ali Baig, Noshir Tantra, Homi Mehta, Karsan Ghavri and many others.
Wicket keeper batsman Mehli Irani, who is now 82-year-old, played Kanga League non-stop for 57 years! No one is as witty as Mehli in the entire Mumbai cricket circle. 20-year-old Karsan Ghavri joined ACC in 1970 and Polly Umrigar directed him to play for the Parsi Cyclist.
He narrates an incident. "Since I came from Kathiawad, I had the habit of chewing ‘eksobees paan’. After bowling the first over, I was asked to field at long leg. I saw a paanwala on the road right outside and I rushed immediately to him. For one over, I wasn’t on the field and nobody realised it. When I didn’t go to bowl the second over, there was panic. When I ran in with paan in my mouth, Mehli asked me: "Aree dicra where were you". When I told him I went to get paan, the language Mehli used still makes me laugh."
Later, when Ghavri kept bowling short, Mehli shouted "Gadhero, Batsman na pag pakad (You donkey! Catch the leg of batsman)". Not knowing what it meant, Karsan walked towards the batsman and held his leg tight. Seeing this Mehli said, "Arre Gadhero, I told u to bowl on his leg."
Humour and fun withstanding, Parsi Cylist, like Dadar Union and Shivaji Park, made no compromise on discipline, especially when Nari Contractor was the captain.
Says Contractor, "The most habitual late comer was Farokh Engineer. Once I warned both him and Rusi Surti. When the next day, they still came late for the game, I dropped them. There was hue and cry and unfortunately we lost the match. I quit the captaincy. Mehli was captain for the next game and Farokh didn’t turn up. We fielded with 10 players."
But obviously, this didn’t mean there was no team spirit. In the early days, the cancellation of a Kanga League match was not announced on the previous day as it is done now. The players would all gather at the venue and go to Taloja to have the famous biryani after the umpires called off the game.
Rohinton Iranpur once got figures of 5 – 5 – 0 – 5 (inter-zonal university) in the Vizzy Trophy final against South Zone. He now lives in Los Angeles but without fail comes down to Mumbai every single monsoon to play the Kanga league, even at the age of 59! Once a gem of Mumbai cricket, a team which was so jovial and brilliant, is now languishing in the F division. There are no Parsi boys keen on playing cricket, and the talented boys amongst the non-Parsis do not want to play in the lower division. At this stage, where many will give advice to the team in the hope of resurrecting it, I would remind them that "Laughter is the medicine".