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Mumbai’s Oldest Cricket Clubs

Mumbai's oldest cricket clubs


Photos by Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

In 19th-century Mumbai, the gentleman’s game was often used to show that one’s community was superior to another’s

Dustin Silgardo
“The Parsee owes his cricket prosperity as much to the civilizing and inspiring influence of British Rule as to his own innate vigour and adaptability. He is a fine product of Persian pluck and English culture—a strong combination, indeed, which may account for his all-round and rapid progress, like the Japanese, in many fields of human activity.” This is from Stray Thoughts on Indian Cricket, written in 1905 by J.M. Framjee Patel, an early Parsi cricketer from Mumbai. A lack of modesty in Indian cricket, it would seem, predates Virat Kohli.
Unlike Kohli, who recently declared himself the most important member of the Indian team, Patel and other 19th-century Mumbai cricketers chose to take pride not in themselves but in their religious communities. Cricket was used as a means of proving one’s community superior to another’s, and on par with the imperialist British.
In A Corner of a Foreign Field, Ramachandra Guha posits that it was because cricket in India was built on the base of communal pride that the sport has achieved its enveloping popularity. The stories of India’s oldest cricket clubs provide an insight not only into how cricket developed in India but into the desires, grouses and insecurities of religious communities at that time.
The Parsis, a community from Iran that had immigrated to India and one of the first to be Westernized, were proud of their close business relations with the British, so it is logical that they were the first community to play cricket in Mumbai. A schoolteacher named Mr Boswell taught Parsi boys the game in the school he ran in Mumbai’s Fort area. “In the 1830s, Parsi boys began imitating white soldiers… using hats as wickets, umbrellas as bats, and old leather, stuffed with rags and sewn up, as balls,” Guha writes in a research paper titledCricket and Politics in Colonial India in Oxford University Press’sPast and Present. It helped that the Parsis were already acquainted with the concept of playing with a bat and ball—the ancient Persian sports chugan gui and gooye bazi bore some resemblance to cricket.
The first Parsi cricket club was the Oriental Cricket Club, started in 1848. The club existed for just two years, and not much is known about it, though those familiar with Parsi names may be able to guess what the club’s Devecha Lamboo looked like or what N.P. Daruwalla did for a living. During the 1850s and 1860s, a whole spate of Parsi clubs were started. Interestingly, many were named after Roman and Greek mythological figures, such as the celebrated Mars Club, Jupiter, Spartan and Herculeans.
Framjee Patel writes that it is likely these clubs were formed from the remnants of old Sadri Fanas (mat and lantern) institutions, where a game of dice called chopat was popular. The Parsi cricket clubs began playing matches, sponsored by writer and social reformer Shapoorji Sorabjee Bengali, against each other. While wanting to appear gentlemanly, like the British, was a part of the Parsis’ motivation to play cricket, it did not, apparently, curb their enthusiasm for winning. Patel writes of a cricketer who during a game between two Parsi clubs disguised himself in order to bat again for his side.
While playing cricket was, in a way, an attempt by Mumbai’s communities to emulate the British, the game also caused conflict between the imperialists and the locals. Famously, in the late 19th century, the Parsi, Hindu and Muslim communities came together to appeal to the governor to stop the members of the all-white Bombay Gymkhana playing polo on the portion of the Esplanade maidan, or parade ground, where the locals played cricket.
But the reason the cricketers were even there is because the early Parsi cricketers had been pushed out of the Oval maidan because a “random cricket ball struck, not in the least injuriously, the wife of a European police constable whilst enjoying a stroll round about the cricket field”, as Shapoorji Sorabjee writes in his 1897 book A Chronicle of Cricket Amongst Parsees. Despite the support of British judge Joseph Arnauld and the English newspaper Bombay Gazette, the Parsis were told the Oval was not a safe place to play cricket.
In 1876, a significant club was founded by a patron named Ardeshir B. Patel, who, though never a cricketer himself, contributed significantly to Parsi cricket. The club was called The Parsi Cricket Club, and when Patel managed to arrange the first match between the Parsis and the Europeans, in 1877, most of the players in the Parsi team were, expectedly, from his club. When the Parsee Gymkhana was formed in 1885, with the backing of leading industrialists such as J.N. Tata and N.N. Wadia, it became the centre of Parsi cricket. The gymkhana had been allotted a space of land on the Esplanade and was the first Parsi club with its own pavilion.
Once the gymkhana was built, few of the clubs that had sprouted in the 1800s survived long. One exception was the Young Zoroastrians Club. A club called the Zoroastrian Cricket Club had existed since 1850, but in 1869, the wicketkeeper, Hiraji Costa—who M.E. Pavri, one of the first Parsi cricket stars, describes as the best keeper of the day in his 1905 book Parsi Cricket—decided to form a new club called Young Zoroastrians. This was, presumably, a club of younger cricketers and it exists to this day.
The team now plays in the Plate division of Mumbai’s Kanga League, and its players practise at Azad Maidan. It is no longer run by Parsis, though. The club’s authorized signatory is now Nitin Dalal, who is also the joint honorary secretary of the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA).
Divide et impera
The Hindu community had a long-standing social and business rivalry with the Parsis and were not going to let them be the only local group playing the British at their own sport. That the first Hindu club was called the Bombay Hindu Union Cricket Club, founded in 1866, was ironic, as the Hindus were anything but united. Clubs were usually restricted to people of a specific caste or from a particular region, as names such as the Gowd Saraswat Club, Kshatriya Cricket Club, Gujarati Union Cricket Club and Maratha Cricket Club suggest. In fact, even the Bombay Hindu Union Club was formed by and for members of the Prabhu caste.
The exclusion of players based on caste from Hindu club sides proved an impediment to their development. In a prologue to Framjee Patel’s book, Lord Harris, the governor of Bombay from 1890 to 1895, who is remembered as one of the most influential Test cricketers by virtue of the work he did to further the game both in England and India, writes that Hindu clubs had very few members because their patrons only let people of their own caste play.
“It has been charged against British Administrators that their policy in India is divide et impera (divide and rule); but there is no need for the British Raj to try to divide; the natives of India do that most effectively of their own motion,” he writes.
The Parsis had established a strong tradition of school cricket. The Parsi students of Elphinstone High School had formed a cricket club that later became an open club called the Elphinstone Cricket Club, one of the top Parsi teams of the 1870s. Hindu students at Elphinstone High School learnt cricket from their Parsi classmates and started the Hindu Cricket Club in 1878. Their side practised at the Esplanade maidan and played matches against Parsi sides.
In Bombay, the Muslim community was the slowest to take to cricket. Badruddin Tyabji, a reputed lawyer and member of the Indian National Congress, and other community leaders attempted to popularize the game, and in 1883 the Mohammedan Cricket Club was established.
When Lord Harris granted the Parsis a space on a plot of reclaimed land on Kennedy Sea Face, now Marine Drive, to start their Parsee Gymkhana, the Muslims requested they be offered the same. They founded the Islam Gymkhana next to the Parsee Gymkhana in 1892. Two years later, the row of gymkhanas on the sea face was completed when the Hindu Cricket Club that had been founded in 1878 became the P.J. Hindu Gymkhana. It was named after Parmanandas Jivandas, whose son Gordhandas had contributed Rs10,000, a fortune in those days, to help build the gymkhana.
Awards displayed at the P.J. Hindu Gymkhana in Mumbai. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Awards displayed at the P.J. Hindu Gymkhana in Mumbai. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

The three sea-facing gymkhanas became nurseries of Bombay and Indian cricket. They were in charge of selecting the Parsi, Hindu and Muslim teams in the famous Quadrangular and Pentangular trophies and played a role in the formation of the Bombay Presidency (Proper) Cricket Association, which is today the MCA, one of the most powerful sports bodies in India.
Cricket commercialism
The gymkhanas still occupy prime property on Marine Drive, for which, by the way, they pay all of Rs12 annually as rent, courtesy Lord Harris’s generosity and Mumbai’s complex property laws. The status of the three gymkhanas in modern Mumbai cricket, however, is somewhat less than prime.
Once the Pentangular Trophy was abandoned in 1946, in the face of growing protests that it promoted divisive communalism, the Ranji Trophy became the premier Indian domestic tournament. The gymkhanas, over the years, tried to move with the times by becoming open clubs that embraced all communities. Their premises and facilities ensured they did well in Mumbai’s premier competition, the Kanga League, till the 1990s, but they then began to struggle as commercialism gushed into Indian cricket.
“The gymkhanas have an old way of thinking. They don’t want to hire professional cricketers to play for their sides,” says Arman Mallick, who has been the secretary of the Islam Gymkhana for the past 17 years. Other sides, he says, pay cricketers in excess of Rs1 lakh to represent them in the Kanga League, while in the gymkhanas, members protest when outsiders are hired to play for the club. “I have managed to arrange funds myself for our Islam Gymkhana team, which is the only reason we are in the B division of the Kanga League. But if I was president of the club and had freedom to run it the way I wanted to, I could construct a team that would rule Mumbai cricket.”
The Parsee Gymkhana has managed to stay in the A division of the Kanga League, having contracted well-known first-class players such as Suryakumar Yadav, who briefly captained Mumbai’s Ranji team, to play for them. The P.J. Hindu Gymkhana finished first in the D division last year and will be promoted to the C division in 2015.
The grounds of the Islam Gymkhana.

The grounds of the Islam Gymkhana.

The influence of the gymkhanas on administration has waned. There are no longer reserved seats in the managing committee of the MCA for representatives of the three gymkhanas, explains Mallick, who is on the managing committee because he was elected to it.
From a historian or archivist’s point of view, the most disappointing thing about the three gymkhanas is how little documentation they have maintained of their interesting histories.
The P.J. Hindu Gymkhana and Islam Gymkhana have brochures that were created for their centenaries but these contain only basic details; the MCA has no records of the histories of its member clubs either.
“I don’t think any of the current members or players know much about the history of this gymkhana,” says Ramesh Panchmatia, president of the P.J. Hindu Gymkhana.
The coach of the Young Zoroastrians Club laments that none of his pupils know how old the club they represent is.
“These days, players are only interested in money, not history or prestige,” says Islam Gymkhana’s Mallick.
The more positive outlook would be to attribute the disinterest in the clubs’ legacies, which are tied inextricably to the communal pride they were built to display, to the secular nature of modern cricket. The Parsee Gymkhana has no Parsis in its Kanga League side, the Islam Gymkhana has more non-Muslim players than Muslim ones, and the P.J. Hindu Gymkhana makes no distinctions on the basis of caste, unlike the Hindu clubs of old. If India’s cricket history is a revelation of the communal tension that existed, perhaps its current state is a celebration of the country’s secularism.

IBF Scholarships – Education


Indiabulls Foundation Scholarship Program aims to encourage and promote quality higher education among meritorious students from economically challenged families to nurture their careers. Indiabulls Foundation understands that a large number of deserving students who have an urge to pursue their higher education are unable to do so owing to mainly financial constraints. In view of this, Indiabulls Foundation offers scholarships to deserving students to pursue their education after 12th standard and launch a sustainable career in the field of Engineering, Medicine, Law, IT, IIT, ITI, Management courses or any other stream of the students choice.

In the first year of the program, 100 deserving students have been provided scholarships for their complete course. In the second consecutive year, IBF will be awarding 400 scholarships to deserving students Pan India. This will completely be on a first come fist serve basis.


Who can apply?

• 1st year students of any professional full time graduation course from anywhere in India.

• Annual Family Income: Not more than 2 lakhs

• HSC or equivalent result: Minimum 50% aggregate


Eligibility criteria:

The criterion for selecting the student in the first year would completely depend on the financial challenge of the student. However, from the second year onwards the scholarship will continue only on merit basis. Students who do not fulfill the merit criterion at the end of the first year or semester will not be eligible to receive the scholarship in the subsequent year or semester.


For further details please contact:

Parama Deb

Phone: 022 61891577 (10 am to 6 pm)

12 Things you can do with an Egg

I am sure Parsis can think of more !!

Tribute to Irani Cafes

Tribute to Irani Cafes

Published: 20th May 2015 06:01 AM
Last Updated: 20th May 2015 06:01 AM

“SodaBottleOpenerWala is a concept restaurant with a bar. For my wife Sabina and me, Mumbai is an integral part of the journey of our lives. The Bombay Irani cafe is a rich part of the Mumbai tapestry, and sadly, a dying legacy. We delved deep within its unique world to bring alive the nuances- both for cuisine and its atmosphere. The familiarity of Irani cafe is key to the experience and Sabina brought that canvas to life,” says AD Singh, the MD of Olive Group, summarising the concept behind the venture.

Reminiscing about his life in Mumbai, Singh talks about how the place got its interesting name, he says, “Parsis often have surname related to their trade. When I was growing up in Mumbai, I knew a person with surname Haathikhanewala which was a source of constant humour for us. So the name SodaBottleOpenerWala draws its inspiration from that.”

Parsi classics

Coming to the food, the menu includes a prefect balance of classic Parsi dishes and the street foods of Mumbai. While Parsi classics like dhansak (mutton cooked with lentils and served with brown caramelized rice and kachumber) or patra ni machhi (pomfret steamed with chutney of coconut and mint) are obvious choices from the cuisine, dishes like Bombay raasta sandwich or bheendi bazaar sheekh paratha has Bombay written all over it. The Irani bakery menu consists of classic delights like berry and badam nankatais, mawa cake or lagan nu custard.

Pheteli Coffee (coffee and sugar beaten together for a frothy consistency), raspberry soda or parsi choy from the Irani Chai bar completes the experience. The place also has a bar that will be operational from July.

After Gurgaon, Delhi and Bangalore AD Singh, is expecting a warm response from the denizens as well. “The food here is mostly Indian, which has the potential to reach all the cities in the country and even abroad. Hyderabad was an obvious choice since Olive Bistro & Pub gives us a significant presence in the city and a good understanding of its people who are well travelled and curious about new cuisines,” he says.

With a lively vibe and good food, SodaBottleOpenerWala has all the potential to attract the foodies to the place who are either chased by the nostalgia of Irani cafes or are keen to take the first bite of the legacy.

Courtesy : Parsi Zoroastrian Anjuman of Secunderabad and Hyderabad

XYZ activities

Back to their roots

The Xtremely Young Zoroastrians (XYZ) a Parsi non-government organisation (NGO), has organised a week-long educational summer camp for Parsi children. The camp started on Monday, May 18 and will go on till the end of the week. The camp is open to children between the 5 to 15 years of age.

The children show off their art work as they spread the ‘Clean India’ message

The children show off their art work as they spread the ‘Clean India’ message

Set to have various activities like treasure hunt, quiz, sports and games, cooking competition, storytelling, and the camp will also include lessons on how to speak and write Gujarati. The aim of the camp is to get the children closer to their Parsi roots.

The camp had the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan’ as the theme for a poster making competition which saw 300 children create posters and charts to inculcate the importance of cleanliness and hygiene yesterday on Day 2 of the camp.

Located at four different venues in the city Cusrow Baug at Colaba, Rustom Baug at Byculla, Tata Blocks at Bandra and Salsette Colony in Andheri the camp has seen a total of 300 children attending in the last two days. The camp is from 11 am to 6 pm with ‘make-learning-fun’ games through the day.

“We live in a headphone-driven society where kids of all ages are depend on their smart phones, laptops and flat screens for knowledge and entertainment. Seldom do we think that we are eroding their fertile minds with misinformation and western ideals.

It’s time we take the baton into our hands and preserve and nature our future rightfully”, said Hoshaang Gotla, founder of XYZ, explaining why his NGO has started the camp. “People keep complaining that the Parsi community is shrinking day by day, but what are they doing to curb it?

We young Zoroastrians feel it’s our responsibility to take matters into our hands so that our rich culture doesn’t die a slow death,” said Bazyan Mistry, a volunteer with XYZ.

By Maleeva Rebello, Sadaguru Pandit, Waleed Hussain  

Adil Dalal presented ‘Zero Defects’ Medal

Adil F. Dalal, CEO of Pinnacle Process Solutions International, Presented With the American Society of Quality’s Crosby ‘Zero Defects’ Medal

Adil F. Dalal was presented with The Crosby Medal by American Society of Quality on May 3rd, 2015 for his book ‘The 12 Pillars of Project of Excellence: A Lean Approach to Improving Project Results’. This is the third significant recognition awarded to Dalal for his book.

Adil Dalal receiving the Crosby Medal presented by Cecilia Kimberlin (ASQ Chair), Stephen Hacker (Past-Chair) and Mike Nichols (Awards Board Chair)

As the impact of The 12 Pillars book spreads globally and the importance of this work is recognized, I hope Adil Dalal will be recognized as the Guru of Leadership. ~ William Scherkenbach

Adil F. Dalal was presented with The 2015 Crosby Medal by American Society of Quality on May 3rd, 2015 for authoring ‘The 12 Pillars of Project Excellence: A Lean Approach to Improving Project Results’. The medal is named after the quality and business philosophy guru and legend Philip B. Crosby, whose book ‘Quality is Free’ launched the zero defects philosophy and is credited for the quality revolution world-wide for organizations seeking to achieve greater efficiency, reliability and profitability. The award ceremony was held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conference Center in Nashville, TN, at the ASQ’s Annual World Conference.

ASQ, a leading authority on global quality, recognizes recipients for their innovative contributions and exemplary achievements that are representative of the ideas and tools that make our world work better. The medal was presented to Dalal by ASQ Chair, Cecilia Kimberlin, Awards Board Chair, Mike Nichols, and past Chair, Stephen Hacker, for advancing Crosby’s legacy by authoring a book which focuses on leadership and organizational culture as keys to successful project leadership. The book provides a formula, case studies and cultural assessments to practically achieve ‘Zero Defects’ outcomes in projects, programs, thus leading to overall operational excellence in organizations world-wide.

Dalal’s book is also the winner of the prestigious 2014 Shingo Research and Publication award, and the 2013 Axiom Business book medal. In addition, Dalal is also the recipient of the Global award for outstanding Contribution to Quality and Leadership. This success was predicted by some initial reviewers of this 700-page book. The Foreword of this book includes prophetic words by William Scherkenbach, a protege of Dr. Deming and a Deming medal winner, who wrote, “Adil Dalal’s The 12 Pillars of Project Excellence can be described in one word – ‘Enlightening!’ Just as Deming’s concepts have universal applications far beyond the field of quality; Dalal’s concepts will reach far beyond the field of project management. As the impact of this book spreads globally and the importance of this work is recognized, I hope Adil Dalal will be recognized as the Guru of Leadership”. This book was recently adopted as a Leadership Body of Knowledge by the Human Development & Leadership division of ASQ.

Dalal is the CEO of Pinnacle Process Solutions, Intl®, LLC, past-Chair of ASQ’s Human Development & Leadership division, and Co-founder and Chairman of the Board for Patriots4Our Heroes, a non-profit serving veterans with PTS and TBI. He is also a distinguished global keynote speaker and radio show host. Dalal has also authored ‘A Legacy Driven Life’, co-authored ASQ’s ‘Lean Handbook’ and ‘Changing Our World’. Dalal is currently pursuing a PhD in Performance Psychology from GCU.

WZCC Global AGM in Goa – December 2015


12th May 2015

Dear Members,

Sub : WZCC Global Meet | GOA – 18th to 20th December 2015
In the past, we had successful Global Annual General Meetings (AGM) in far off places like Singapore and Dubai.

In order to have a much more pleasant ambience, we will be having our next Global Meet in a vibrant and exotic place – GOA.

In view of our close association with the Goa Chamber of Commerce & Industry and The International Centre in Goa, we have managed a good deal to stage a very lively program. Click on the links below for more details.


>> Program Schedule
>> Stay & Travel
>> Interntional Centre Goa – Brochure


Best wishes,

Mr. Minoo R. Shroff
Global President


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