Parsis were pioneers of cricket in India

A minority community in India – only about 60,000 live there now – Parsis are the pioneers of cricket in India. Being anglophile in the 19th century, they were the first to learn the game of cricket from the Englishmen. When the Hindus and Muslims had little idea of what cricket was all about, the Parsis took a cricket team to England in 1886.

Kersi Meher-Homji

That was much before the legendary Ranji and Duleep mesmerised Englishmen with their elegant run-making.

Originally from Iran, the Parsis (also called Zoroastrians) – followers of prophet Zoroaster – settled in India about 1200 years ago because of religious persecution in Iran.

In all, 11 Parsis have played Test matches for India from 1932 (the first ever Test India played) to 1975. In alphabetical order they are: Soli Colah (2 Tests), Nari Contractor (31), Farokh Engineer (46), Jehangir Irani (2), Rustomji Jamshedji (1), Kharshed Meherhomji (1), Rusi Modi (10), Piloo Palia (2), Rusi Surti (26), Keki Tarapore (1) and Polly Umrigar (59).

Three of them; Engineer, Meherhomji and Irani were wicket-keepers.

Only Contractor (aged 84 years) and Engineer (80 years) are now alive. Umrigar and Contractor captained India with distinction. Handsome Farokh Engineer was a flamboyant personality, scoring runs aggressively and keeping wickets like an acrobat.

Enough is written on a majority of these Parsi Test cricketers. This article features two less known Parsi cricketers who played only one Test each and while batting, remained unbeaten.

As I reported in Parsiana magazine (India) earlier this month, two “ji”s of Indian cricket were unique characters. Both were good-looking Parsis, one was a slow left arm spinner, the other a wicket-keeper and a dare devil batsman – an earlier day Farokh Engineer.

They were Rustomji Jamshedji Dorabli Jamshedji (1892-1976) and my uncle the dashing debonair Kharshed Rustomji Meherhomji (1911-1982).

Jamshedji the first Parsi left-arm spinner


Jamshedji was the third Parsi to play Test cricket. The first two were Sorabji (Soli) HM Colah and Phiroz (Piloo) E Palia who were selected in the first ever Test match for India; against England at Lord’s in London in June 1932.

Jamshedji played only one Test, on Bombay Gymkhana in December 1933, the first Test on Indian soil.

Click here for the full article with some interesting pics and facts



  • Cricket in India is a Religion – not just a sport !
    In Kolkatta office absenteeism reaches immense numbers & the number & variety of excuses recorded are legion.
    Miraculously the the number of relatives who die only to be resurrected the day after the tests end would put my good Friend “JC” aka Jesus Christ to shame !!
    The one dayers / T20 s have taken over the 5 day tests thanks to the instant gratification of match results happening before the close of the day.

  • The list of Parsi cricketers is incomplete without mention of Eddy (Edulji) Aibara of Hyderabad, whose Ranji Trophy records still stand. See attached:

    • Yezdyar Kaoosji

      PS: Eddie Aibara died at the age of 84 following an accident. He was an active cricket coach on his way to a coaching assignment in Vijayawada..a cricketer to the last day of his long and cherished life.

  • Why not NEVILLE WADIA, who is the GUiNNESS World Record Holder for ” Oldest Player to Score a Century” In Minor Cricket at the age of 63years 305 days, almost at the age of 64years. Even International Cricketers are not playing at his age, when he scored century at the age of 64.

  • Parsis were pioneers in many areas. They are second to none in philanthropy. Great human beings, very helpful and adjustable people.

  • They are a progressive community. Expect the rigid rules of their Parsi panchayat, rest is ok. Shri. J.R.D has to go to Europe to find his end. The after death rituals are very painful to parsis and others as well. What do u say sir ?

  • A good piece. Thanks

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