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.
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.
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