One of the glamorous teams of Mumbai’s maidan cricket, Parsi Cyclists plan to celebrate their centenary in a unique way on October 10.
There will be a ˜jashan” a prayer early in the morning at their tent at Azad maidan followed by breakfast, then a 10-over match between the past and present teams and lunch. In the evening the members of different eras will get together at Wodehouse Gymkhana.
The club’s president, former India skipper and opener Nari Contractor, told a press meet that the team was nigh unbeatable in the 60s with a line-up boasting of Test and first-class players. They won the A Division Kanga league title for four years 1953, 1962, 1964 and 1966 (joint with National and Shivaji Park).
Contractor said the team’s slide (they are in the F Division) was because the feeder lines like Bharda New High School lost their pre-eminence. Nari paid tribute to the work of officials like Fali Shroff and Dadi Palkhiwalla. "Fali saw me play in Nasik and brought me here".
Established in 1909 by Muncherji Kapadia, the last player of note to emerge from its ranks was opener Zubin Bharucha who played for Mumbai in Ranji Trophy in the 1990s. Players like Salim Durrani, Karsan Ghavri, Abbas Ali Baig and Ghulam Parkar also played for the club in later years.
Former Mumbai batsman-keeper Mehli Irani, who played in the first 57 years of the Kanga league, said, "For us to produce players of note, Parsis need to produce kids first," a reference to the dwindling population of this sports-loving community. Irani said coach Homi Vajifdar licked the players into shape and "there were over 700 people watching our games at the maidan, such was our popularity."
Irani and Hoshi Amroliwala are two other former first class cricketers produced by the club, which also used to promote hockey and football before the authorities stopped these from being played at the maidan. One of the better-known multi-talented players the club produced was 1960 hockey Olympian Soli Poonawalla who played cricket and football also. In football he made his mark as a stylish central defender playing for the erstwhile Burmah Shell, Bombay and Maharashtra.
Rohinton Iranpur, who comes from California every year to boost the Parsi Cyvlists’ fortunes, said "in US there isn’t a fraction of the passions Indians have for the sport. I hope players from here go there and turn it around. As for Mumbai I plan to promote the game not only here but also at Parsi Gymkhana, which club I also played for."
Firdaus Shroff, who has played for Cyclists for 30 and is the father of international junior tennis star Kyra Shroff, said, "We hopes this centenary re-ignites the passion of Parsis for cricket."
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