Jamsheed Marker – first among equals

IT is unthinkable to talk about the cricket history of the sub-continent and not mention the contribution of the Parsi community to the game which we on both sides of the divide so passionately follow.

The Parsees were the first to learn the game by the sailors of the East India Company and by the British soldiers playing on the beaches of Calcutta (Kolkata) and Bombay (Mumbai) and the first as a team to tour England twice in 1886 and in 1888 to play against stalwarts of the time such as W.G. Grace and Prince Christian Victor, the grandson of Queen Victoria.

Three men from Karachi — Dinshaw Khambatta, Bala and Pestonji Dastur — were amon­gst them. Dastur topped the batting averages of the 1886 tourists. Karachi Parsi Institute (KPI) also played its part in later years producing players like the Mobed’s, the Irani’s and Mavalwala’s and Rusi Dinshaw to name a few. One Jimmy Irani’s son Ronie Irani later played for England in Tests.

But the Parsees of India did a lot better producing such great Parsi cricketers like Polly Umrigar, Nari Contractor, Rusi Surti and Farokh Engineer who also led India in Tests.

Pakistan unfortunately did not produce a Test player amongst them but they can claim to have one of their first radio commentator of the game Jamsheed Marker who had become a household name along with Omar Kureishi when India visited Pakistan on their first tour to this country in 1954-55.

Although the commentary was relayed on the radio in English language then, the interest was such that from every strata of society people were seen glued to their radio sets to listen to Marker and Kureishi.

As a college student and cricketer I was as much absorbed in what they uttered describing the game.

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