Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Cricketing History and New Year Celebrations at ZTFE in London

1886 Trophy Cricket Match Kia Oval Friday 23rd August 2019

&

Shahenshai Khordad Sal Zoroastrian Centre Thursday 22nd August 2019

A ZTFE Report

Not many outside the Zoroastrian community are aware that the first international cricket team from India to tour the United Kingdom was in 1886. The 15 man squad captained by Dr Dhunjishah Patel was entirely made of Parsees, 12 from Bombay and 3 from Karachi. They won one game, lost 19 and drew 8. The second tour was in 1888, which also was entirely made up of Parsees.

All photographs by Raj Bakrania

Having read the relatively unknown story of the first Indian cricket team to visit UK in 1886 comprising of all Parsees inspired Matt Greenwell, a former Captain in the British Army who served his country in Afghanistan and Iraq. Matt was living in Mumbai at the time and came up with the idea of creating the ‘1886 Trophy’ to commemorate the Parsee pioneers of 1886. He proposed the annual fixture in 2016 to the Parsee Gymkhana in Mumbai, which was met with enthusiasm by the committee and the fixture is played annually ever since, between the Parsee Gymkhana and the Surrey County Cricket Club’s Charles Alcock XI. This year is the first time the match for the coveted 1886 Trophy was played at the Kia Oval in Kennington, London, home of the Surrey County Cricket Club.

The Charles Alcock XI are named after the then Surrey County Cricket Club Secretary who organised the original tour of the Parsee pioneers to the UK in 1886. Alcock was an all rounder sporting personality who also played international football for England and was instrumental in establishing a number of sporting traditions including Football’s FA Cup and the Ashes.

It should be noted that in 1986, the then ZTFE – YZ President Rumi Y Jasavala of Wimbledon organised a Zoroastrian cricket team from Canada to visit the UK to play a series of matches against the Zoroastrians of UK, which they then reciprocated by visiting Canada. However, this year was the first time since the Parsee’s second tour of 1888 that an all Parsee cricket team from India toured the UK.

The Parsee Gymkhana 26 strong squad spearheaded by Khodadad Yazdegardi Vice President and Cricket Secretary of Parsee Gymkhana and captained by Kaizaad Wadia, visited UK and played 3 matches between 19th and 23rd August 2019.

The senior most member of the Parsee Gymkhana squad was Freddy Sidhwa of Dubai, a keep fit septuagenarian who plays for the Dubai Indian Cricket League. The youngest member was Binaisha M Surti, grand niece of the legendary Indian cricketer Rusi Framroze Surti and a budding journalist for Parsi Times.

Accompanying the Parsee Gymkhana squad was our very own Boman Irani, the well known A listed Bollywood Actor, theatre personality, actor extraordinaire, photographer and singer, who is their most avid supporter.

The touring Parsees played warm up fixtures at Chiswick CC, founded in 1853, on Monday 19th, which they lost and Lurgashall CC in Sussex, founded before 1863, on Wednesday 21st, which they won, before the big clash at the Kia Oval on Friday 23rd for the 1886 Trophy.

Friday 23rd August 2019 was a perfect English sunny day for the historic 1886 Trophy T20 cricket match played at the Kia Oval between the Parsee Gymkhana and Surrey County Cricket Club’s Charles Alcock XI. It commenced after 12 noon and concluded around 4.30pm. Attended by Boman Irani and over 250 Zoroastrians members and well-wishers, including Ron M Kalifa OBE of the England & Wales Cricket Board and Vice Chairman of WorldPay.

Prior to the match commencing, the Parsee Gymkhana squad was given a tour of the Kia Oval.

The Parsee Gymkhana batted first and set the target of 203 for 2 wickets in the T20 format. It was clear the tourers had prepared well for English conditions. Their openers were Shahen Mistry and Captain Kaizaad Wadia. Shahen retired after playing for 28 minutes and scoring 36 runs, including five 4s and two 6s, over 18 balls. Captain Kaizad retired after scoring 37 runs in 38 minutes, including five 4s and one 6, over 26 balls. Followed by:

· Reshad Dotivala retired after scoring 38 runs in 25 minutes, including five 4s and one 6, over 26 balls.

· Kersi Pavri was bowled out by Jim Lane after scoring 23 runs in 21 minutes, including two 4s and one 6 over, 12 balls.

· Rustom Sethna retired after scoring 36 runs in 29 minutes, including two 4s and three 6s, over 29 balls.

· Khushru Irani was caught by Jim Lane after scoring 2 runs in 6 minutes over, 4 balls.

· Soli Karanjia was not out after scoring 16 runs in 20 minutes, including one 4 and one 6, over 13 balls.

· Farshid Cooper was not out after scoring 2 runs in 4 minutes over 4 balls.

There were 13 extra runs added their score of 190, thus making a total of 203 for 2 wickets.

The following did not bat:

Eric Billimoria, Mehernosh Chhor, Maneck Daruwala, Fredun De Vitre, Vafadar Irani, Rony Iranpour, Ervad Behram F Kotwal, Vispi Mehta and Freddy Sidhwa.

The bowlers for the Charles Alcock XI were:

Lindsey Armstrong, Quinton Keeble, Jim Lane took 2 wickets, Andy Murphy, Barney McCauley, and Jim Owen.

Despite the best efforts of the home side’s batsmen, who managed to score only 135 for 7 wickets, the Parsees were victorious on the day by 68 runs, laying down the gauntlet for next year’s 1886 Trophy fixture in Mumbai which will see the Charles Alcock XI visit Mumbai.

Charles Alcock XI batsmen were:

· Josh Taylor retired after scoring 38 runs in 42 minutes, including six 4s and one 6, over 22 balls.

· Andy Murphy was run out by Captain Kaizaad Wadia for zero after 2 minutes over 2 bowls.

· Phil Walker, editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly UK, was bowled out over 2 balls by septuagenarian Freddy Sidhwa within 5 minutes after scoring one 4.

· Lindsey Armstrong was bowled out after 12 balls by Reshad Dotivala within 12 minutes after scoring 8 runs.

· Charlie Inglefield was caught by Shahen Mistry after scoring 14 runs in 40 minutes, including one 4, over 21 balls.

· Barney McCauley was bowled out by Shahen Mistry after scoring 18 runs in 44 minutes, including one 4, over 25 balls.

· Quinton Keeble was bowled out for zero after 2 balls by Shahen Mistry within 1 minute.

· Crispin Simon was LBW by Soli Karanjia after scoring 20 runs in 31 minutes, including two 4s, over 21 balls.

· Jim Lane was not out after scoring 18 runs in 12 minutes, including two 6s, over 8 balls.

· Jim Owen was not out after scoring 3 runs in 4 minutes over 4 balls.

There were 12 extra runs added their score of 123, thus making a total of 135 for 7 wickets.

Captain Matt Greenwell and Joe Holliday were the 2 remaining who did not bat.

The bowlers for the Parsee Gymkhana were:

Farshid Cooper, Reshad Dotivala, Khushru Irani, Soli Karanjia took 1 wicket, Shahen Mistry took 3 wickets, Kersi Pavri, Rustom Sethna and septuagenarian Freddy Sidhwa took 1wicket.

After the match, everybody gathered to hear the speeches and witness the awards ceremony. Awards were presented by the Parsee Gymkhana to all the players of both teams, the umpires, Kia Oval personnel and the sponsors. Captain Kaizaad Wadia lifted the 1886 Trophy which was presented by Boman Irani and Ron Kalifa OBE. Khodadad Yazdegardi thanked all, especially those who sponsored the Parsi Gymkhana squad to tour UK, Matt Greenwell and Charles Alcock XI, Boman Irani Ron M Kalifa, Farokh Engineer and Lord Bilimoria who were both abroad and the ZTFE for organising their parliamentary tour on 20th August and their warm hospitality on Khordad Sal, 22nd August.

Captain Matt Greenwell in his speech, thanked Khodadad and the Parsee Gymkhana for visiting UK, congratulating them on their victory and laying down the gauntlet for next year’s 1886 Trophy fixture in Mumbai which will see the Charles Alcock XI visit Mumbai. He thanked the sponsors, for their generosity as it enabled the entire Parsee Gymkhana Team to visit the UK, including for their flights and hotel accommodation. He also thanked Lord Bilimoria CBE, Ron M Kalifa OBE, RED Tours, ZTFE, SPF Private Finance for their assistance in the UK.

Ron M Kalifa spoke on behalf of the ZTFE and the UK Zoroastrians, highlighting that in 1886 the Parsees had sadly lost virtually all their matches in the UK, but in 2019 they were victorious. ZTFE President Malcolm M Deboo read out a congratulatory message from patron Lord Bilimoria who was abroad (see below). This was followed by a post match reception for both teams and invited guests, sponsored by SPF Private Finance, members of the Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe, while Cobra supplied the chilled beer.

During the rest days the Parsee Gymkhana Team were taken sightseeing by RED Tours who had also assisted them in obtaining their UK visas. The ZTFE had requested their patron Lord Karan F Bilimoria CBE DL to organise a tour of the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday 20th August, where he himself led the tour. There was also opportunity for the team to ask questions to Lord Bilmoria in the House of Lords Committee Room 1, after the tour, some questions were inevitably about the uncertainty of Brexit. The Parsee Gymkhana Team thanked Lord Bilimoria and presented him with a beautiful golden Fravashi trophy together with the Parsee gymkhana cap, tie and banner.

The Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe hosted a delightful pre-match dinner at their art deco grade II* heritage listed Zoroastrian Centre celebrating Khordad Sal, Thursday 22nd August. Over 310 Zoroastrians and inter faith guests, including The Worshipful The Mayor of Harrow Cllr Nitin Parekh, former Mayors Mrinal Choudary and Cllr Rekha Shah, Navin Shah AM for Brent & Harrow, father of Asian Journalism in the UK C B Patel Editor of Asian Voice and Gujarat Samachar, Sonoo Malkani Chair of Harrow Inter Faith, members of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, Ron M Kalifa OBE of the ECB and the celebrated and well known A Listed Zoroastrian Bollywood star Boman Irani. Faroukh Engineer and Lord Bilimoria send their apologies, as both had flown abroad that morning.

Our Ervad Sahebs remembered the late ZTFE Life Member Dr Homi Pithawala during the Jashan for his generous bequest, which enables the ZTFE to annually celebrate Khordad Sal for nearly 2 decades. Following the celebratory Khordad Sal jashan, everybody feasted on the celebratory meal prepared by Zoe Foods, comprising of keema cutlets, jeera chicken, lamb biryani with dal and phirni, while consuming Cobra Beer gifted by Lord Bilimoria. Kudos to the Parsee Gymkhana for their victory after the drinking Cobra Beer and the heavy meal they ate the previous night.

After the meal, the Charles Alcock XI and Parsee Gymkhana teams were invited onto the stage. The Worshipful The Mayor of Harrow was requested on behalf of the ZTFE, to present golden plaques with ZTFE logo to both teams celebrating their pre match visit to the Zoroastrian Centre. Ron M Kalifa OBE presented septuagenarian Freddy Sidhwa with the ZTFE Sesquicentennial Gold Medallion. The 3 Degrees; Vice President External Shenaz B Sadri JP, Special Projects Officer Jesmin Sorab and Iranian Community Engagement Officer Parivash F Kiani, presented the ZTFE Sesquicentennial Gold Medallion to the well known A Listed Zoroastrian Bollywood star Boman Irani.

In turn the Parsee Gymkhana requested Boman Irani on their behalf to present the beautiful Golden Fravashi Trophies to ZTFE, RED Tours, Ron M Kalifa OBE and Freddy Sidhwa.

Octogenarian Trustee Rusi K Dalal presented The Worshipful The Mayor of Harrow a ZTFE cheque to support ‘Akshaya Patra’, which is Cllr Nitin Parekh’s Special Appeal for his Mayoral Year. The Akshaya Patra Foundation is the world’s largest NGO run school meal programme and it is globally recognised as a benchmark organisation. Having served over 3 billion meals at an incredibly low cost, they have set remarkably new standard and serve nearly 1.8 million children daily. The Mayor Cllr Nitin Parekh was born in Aden and spent his formative years in Mumbai, before immigrating to the UK. Hence he is familiar with the Parsi community and cricket. In his speech, The Mayor welcomed the Parsee Gymkhana and the Charles Alcock Teams to Harrow, the most religious diverse borough in the UK, and wished them well for the 1886 Trophy march. He also thanked the ZTFE for their generous donation for the Mayoral Appeal and the Zoroastrian Centre for their support for community cohesion in Harrow.

The Mayor was then requested to draw the first winning raffle ticket, proceeds will be donated to the ZTFE Dadar Athornan Institute Appeal, which is very short of funds.

Similar to Shahenshai Navroze Saturday 17th August, ZTFE Social & House Secretary Gav D Buhariwala, together with the Staff Team, House Committee and numerous volunteers worked extremely hard to ensure the Khordad Sal function was successful and welcoming. The next day at the Kia Oval, many members of the Parsee Gymkhana Team were awed by the warm hospitality of the ZTFE and the UK Zoroastrians, because it boosted their moral, which contributed to them wining the 1886 Trophy. Also ZSCH-CZC volunteers for organising the return cab service, thus making it easier for senior Zoroastrians to visit the Zoroastrian Centre, thus enabling them to celebrate Navroze and Khordad Sal with their coreligionists.

Left to Right: Khodadad Yazdegardi, Vice President & Cricket Secretary Parsee Gymkhana; Zarir Shroff, Managing Director, RED Tours; Boman Irani, A listed Bollywood Actor, theatre personality, actor extraordinaire, photographer and singer; Malcolm M Deboo, President Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe

Boman Irani is the first Bollywood actor to visit the Zoroastrian Centre. He readily mingled with all, graciously posed with everybody, young and old, to take their photographs with him. He had flown to London early that morning, and had not developed the appetite to consume the heavy celebratory meal. However, he very kindly agreed to entertain us. His opening line was that; “Not a single person came up to me and inquired why I was not eating, instead 38 persons came to persuade me to eat something.” The evening concluded, by Boman Irani bringing the house down by singing ‘I did it My Way’, song previously sung by Frank Sinatra. The ZTFE video link is https://www.ztfe.com/boman-irani-sings-at-zoroastrian-centre-august-2019.html. You may wish to forward link to friends and family.

Left to right: Matt Greenwell – Captain Surrey County Cricket Club Charles Alcock XI; Boman Irani – A list Bollywood Zoroastrian Actor; Kaizaad Wadia – Captain Parsee Gymkhana Team, holding the 1886 Trophy; Ron M Kalifa OBE – English and Wales Cricket Board & Vice Chairman of WorldPay; Malcolm M Deboo – President Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe (ZTFE)

Professional photographer Raj Bakrania and many others took 100s of photographs and videos during Khordad Sal 22nd August and during the 1886 Trophy match on 23rd August. Similar to previous occasions, our Communications Officer Darius J Karkaria will upload Raj’s high resolution photographs on Flicker, avail to download to all free of charge.

C B Patel of Asian Voice has summarily reported on Khordad Sal and 1886 Trophy events on Tuesday 27th August 2019, under the heading ‘Touring Parsees meet in England for the ‘1886 Trophy’. https://parsikhabar.net/sports/touring-parsees-meet-in-england-for-the-1886-trophy/20638/

Parsi Khabar has also very kindly uploaded; ‘The Parsee pioneers of 1886’, printed in issue 16 of Wisden Cricket Monthly, February 2019. https://parsikhabar.net/sports/the-parsee-pioneers-of-1886/20621/

We in London had a wonderful sunny enjoyable August 2019. Metrological autumn will commence on Sunday 1st September. Thanking all for you continued support to the ZTFE.

Yours sincerely

Malcolm M Deboo

President

Message by Lord Karan F Bilimoria CBE DL

It was an enormous privilege for me to host members of the Parsee Gymkhana Cricket team touring the UK, in the Houses of Parliament on 20th August. I was so touched to have been presented by the team a beautiful Asho Faravahar trophy which I will proudly display in my House of Lords Office and which I will cherish as well as the Parsee Gymkhana cap, tie and banner. They are following in the footsteps in the Parsee Pioneers of 1886 who were the first Indian team ever to tour the UK. The Parsee Gymkhana was established in 1885. It is wonderful that the Surrey County Cricket Club Charles Alcock XI played the Parsee Gymkhana in India last year and today the Parsee Gymkhana team played against them for the 1886 Trophy here in the UK.

It is not surprising nor ironic that the Parsee Gymkhana were pioneers over 130 years ago. I have always said that per capita of achievement the Parsee’s are the most successful community in the world multi fold! Here is this tiny community with the population with less than 100,000 in the world a century ago and less than a 100,000 today which has, in spite of its tiny size, so many firsts to its name. And to think while I was showing the team members around Parliament I spoke to them of my maiden speech 13 years ago in 2006 and I told them how I had a photograph taken next to the portrait of Dadabhai Naoroji who was the first Indian to be elected to the House of Commons, a pioneer just 6 years after the Parsee pioneers in 1886.

The Parsee cricketing heroes continued down the decades including captains of India, over a dozen Parsees have played test cricket for India not least our very own Farokh Engineer who in his time was the very best wicket keeper batsman in the world – a childhood hero of mine and now not only a hero of mine but someone I am lucky to count as a friend. Then there were also the legends Polly Umrigar, Nari Contractor and Rusi Surti.

The Parsee community are true all-rounders excelling in every field imaginable from the time of the Parsee Pioneers a hundred and thirty year ago to today. Be it in sports, business, the law, accounts, the services in all 3 services – army, air force and navy and music both classical and rock, in science, politics… Pioneers all.

Most importantly the Parsees have achieved all this never with arrogance and always with humility. Magnanimous in victory and in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, in number beneath contempt, in contribution beyond compare.

I heartily congratulate the Parsee Gymkhana team for winning the 1886 Trophy today at the Kia Oval by 68 runs. My sincere commiserations to Charles Alcock XI. It seems the best team has won on the day.