Category Archives: Sports

Naheed Divecha wins double crowns

All-India Racketlon Championship: Naheed Divecha wins double crowns

Naheed Divecha  |
Naheed Divecha

Naheed Divecha of Bombay Gymkhana stamped her supremacy winning the women’s singles crown in the Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana (WCG) organised 2nd All-India Open Racketlon Championship and played at the WCG courts, Santacruz. Over 70 players from across the country competed in the championship.

The experienced Divecha encountered quite a strong challenge from 15-year-old Aadirai of Coimbatore before managing to scrape through on the ‘Golden’ tie-breaker 68-67 as the total scores, after the four events (table tennis, badminton, squash and tennis) were deadlocked at 67-all (19-21, 21-4, 17-21, 11-21).

Divecha, who is a renowned badminton player, narrowly lost the opening table tennis tie 19-21. She later completely dominated the badminton event winning by a convincing 21-4 margin to gain a sizeable 40-23 lead. The talented youngster Aadira fought back by winning the remaining two events, squash 21-17 and tennis 21-11 and managed to level the scores and force the ‘Golden’ tie-breaker.

However, in the tie-breaker, Aadirai was a bit unfortunate as Divecha won the crucial match-deciding point to snatch a hard-earned 68-67 verdict and emerge champion.

Divecha enjoyed more success winning the mixed doubles title. The top-seeded pair of Divecha and Ashutosh Pednekar defeated the second-seeded combination of Roma Dutia and Adit B Patel by a narrow 60-59 (15-21, 21-6, 21-11, 3-21) points difference in the final.

Results

Women’s singles: Naheed Divecha beat Aadirai 19-21, 21-4, 17-21, 11-21. 3rd-4th Place: Swapnal Chakrabarty beat Gayatri 13-21, 21-0, 21-11.

Mixed doubles: 1-Naheed Divecha/Ashutosh Pednekar beat 2-Roma Dutia/ Adit B Patel 15-21, 21-6, 21-11, 3-21. 3rd-4th Place: Aadirai/ K.A. Aadith beat Gayatri/ Ved Prakash Pandey 21-5, 21-14, 21-5.

https://www.freepressjournal.in/sports/all-india-racketlon-championship-naheed-divecha-wins-double-crowns

Trained in Pune, Huafrid Billimoria becomes the fastest athlete with a disability to finish Ironman 70.3

Para-athlete Huafrid Billimoria competes, completes and wins third place at Ironman 70.3 clocking in 7:07 hrsPara-athlete Huafrid Billimoria competes, completes and wins third place at Ironman 70.3 clocking in 7:07 hrs

Held in Dubai, Billimoria also ended the race with a podium finish, bagging the third place
Triathlete, Huafrid Billimoria is no stranger to setting records. A para athlete, Billimoria not only became the fastest Indian Ironman athlete with a disability to complete the race, but also ended with a podium finish, bagging the third place. Living with dystonia- a movement disorder, the 26-year-old athlete has never been discouraged by his disability. Taking up all challenges heads on he had a gruelling routine preparing for Ironman.

Training at Powerpeaks – The Athlete Lab, under Chaitanya Velhal , Billimoria and his guide for the race Omkar Jokar, were both forces to reckon with at the race. Infact, despite having a crash at 80 kms, and injuring his elbow and spraining his knew, he managed to finish the cycling part of the race as well as ran the full 21 km as Huafrid’s guide. The two of them finished the race in 07:07 hrs.

Huafrid Billimoria(r) and his guide Omkar Jokar

Iron Man reached is popularity in India when actor turned marathon runner Milind Soman won the race in 2017. Gaining momentum from there on, a bunch of athletes from across the country started preparing and gearing up for what is crowned as one of the toughest races of all time.

Set against the magnanimous 7-star Burj Al-Arab Hotel and Jumeirah beach, Ironman 70.3 kicked off on Saturday, March 12. As over 2500 athletes competed to not only attempt at winning but to also just finish the race, the event was a thrilling experience as always.

Till date, Powerpeaks- the city based athlete founded by Velhal, has helped more than 250 people achieve their dream of becoming Ironman and can boast of a 100 percent finisher record as well. This was the 3rd time that Powerpeaks has hosted an Ironman contingent representing India for the Ironman Dubai. The first visually impaired Indian to finish an IRONMAN 70.3 race and create history, Niket Dala is also an athlete from Powerpeaks.

 

https://punemirror.com/pune/others/Trained-in-Pune-Huafrid-Billimoria-becomes-the-fastest-athl/cid6834262.htm

Veteran Football Commentator Novy Kapadia Dies

Veteran Football Commentator Novy Kapadia Dies After Prolonged Illness

Novy Kapadia was involved in commentary for decades and it was not just restricted to football. He had been part of the Olympics, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and other multi-sport events.

Novy Kapadia died on Thursday and was 67-years-old.© Twitter

Highlights

  • Novy Kapadia died on Thursday
  • He died due to a prolonged illness
  • He was 67-years-old
Considered an authority on Indian football, veteran commentator and former Delhi University professor Novy Kapadia died on Thursday after a prolonged illness. He was 67. Kapadia is not survived by any immediate family member after the death of his sister. The soft-spoken Kapadia, who has covered nine FIFA World Cups, was on ventilator for the last month. The eminent football expert and author had been suffering from a motor neurone disease, a rare condition that causes the nerves in the spine and brain to lose function over time.

Rendered immobile because of the condition, he was confined to his house for the last two years. Kapadia was left bed-ridden for the last couple of years and was most recently in the news due to issues with his pension, prompting former Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju to intervene and provide a financial aid of Rs 4 lakh.

 

The versatile Kapadia was involved in commentary for decades and it was not just restricted to football. He has been a part of the Olympics, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and other multi-sport events.

Kapadia, who founded the Ashoka Club and played active football in the local league, was held in high esteem by the players, officials, scribes and everyone else associated with Indian football and beyond.

He was sought after for his knowledge and experience in the sport and it is encapsulated in his seminal book, ‘Barefoot To Boots, The Many Lives Of Indian Football’. He also authored The Football Fanatic’s Essential Guide Book in 2014.

Besides his involvement in sports, Kapadia was also a former professor at SGTB Khalsa College, Delhi University. He was Deputy Proctor of the university from 2003-2010. The Indian football fraternity was devastated by the news of his death.

“We are saddened by the demise of Novy Kapadia, eminent journalist, commentator, and football pundit. May his contribution shine through everyone he has touched through his coverage of Indian Football,” the All India Football Federation tweeted.

 

Top clubs such as Bengaluru FC, ATK Mohun Bagan and Kerala Blasters too expressed their shock and sadness, calling it a massive loss for Indian football. Football Delhi too mourned the death of Kapadia who was often referred to as the “voice of Indian football”.

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“Novy Kapadia made an unparallel contribution to football in Delhi, he represented Delhi State Team in the Junior National Championship and played in the Delhi league for many years,” Football Delhi president Shaji Prabhakaran said in a statement.

“Novy was a legend in many respect, his passion and dedication for football can’t be expressed in words. Indian football has lost a legend, who was married to football and his connection with football was very deep rooted.

 

“I haven’t come across a second person in Indian football who commanded such an authority and respect. Novy was our inspiration, his writing, commenting, expert opinions, etc were greatly inspiring to each of us in Indian football. His departure is a big loss for Delhi football in particular.”

In Kapadia’s memory, Football Delhi will hold a prayer meeting at the Ambedkar Stadium on Monday.

https://sports.ndtv.com/football/veteran-football-commentator-novy-kapadia-dies-after-prolonged-illness-2616282

The tale of Indian cyclists who circumnavigated the world of a century ago

‘The Bicycle Diaries’: The tale of Indian cyclists who circumnavigated the world of a century ago

An excerpt from the book’s introductory chapter, ‘Freak fall; Fascinating finds’ by Anoop Babani and Savia Viegas.

When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.

— Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes

Life’s defining moments usually come on a high – a victory, an achievement, a breakthrough, an award or simply falling in love. Mine came with an injurious fall. After three decades of hectic existence, we had moved from India’s maddening megapolis of Mumbai to neighbouring Goa. This idyllic, coastal state was once a favourite abode of flower-children and hippies and now home to some crazy-rich Indians and yuppies.

A few years after moving to Goa, I took to cycling. Savia joined me on my escapades later. We have never been a cyclist – it is impossible to be one in Mumbai. We came to cycling rather late, in our sixties and quite unexpectedly. It began with neighbourly encounters and inspiration by a duo of passionate and professional bikers, Dr Belinda Viegas-Mueller and Richard Mueller. The subsequent camaraderie with Dr Balasubramaniam Iyer (Bala) – my guru and cycling buddy to this day – worked the magic.

I took to cycling almost instantly, discovering not only did I adore it but was good at it. Cycling up the hills and plunging down their slopes – through thick green cover, amidst bird song and morning light filtering through trees – soon became, and has remained a singularly spiritual experience. A bicycle is bound to the road in a way no other vehicle can. Once addicted, you can never cease to be a cyclist.

In 2016, I fell off my bike, badly injuring my rib cage.“No surgery, no medication, only rest” was the medical mantra. Barred from cycling for weeks, we chose to read about it.

How and when did cycling come to India?

Who and from where were the early cyclists? What kind of cycles did they ride and why?

This curiosity about our predecessors gradually unveiled the fact that it was well-to-do Indians, mainly in Bombay and Calcutta, who took to cycling in the 1890s inspired by their British peers. Such was the allure of riding that cycling clubs came up, founded by the small-yet-powerful Parsi community in Bombay and Bhadraloks (educated and prosperous Bengalis) in Calcutta. The cycles were predominantly imported, British-made and heavy on the pocket. These were used for leisure, sports, fitness and global tours.

Global journeys on cycles! That sounded impossible and unbelievable. Digging deeper, we were amazed to discover that a group of six cyclists had actually ventured on such an incredible journey way back in October 1923. All of them were Parsi from Bombay, in their early-to-mid twenties. Three of them – Adi B Hakim, Jal P Bapasola, and Rustom J Bhumgara – went on to complete the global ride over the next four-and-a-half years.

This trio became the first Indian globetrotters to undertake the most arduous journey of their lives.

They pedalled 71,000 km – at times in 60 degrees Celsius, for days without food and some days without water, across pirate-infested territories and in swamplands, through dense jungles and “up 6,600 ft amongst the terrible solitudes of the Alps”.

Framroze Davar and Gustav Sztavjanik before starting their ride across Amazon, in Lima, Peru, in 1928. Photo credit: Author provided

On returning to Bombay in March 1928, Hakim, Bapasola and Bhumgara recalled being “surrounded by people who had come to receive us… and garlanded till we were buried in flowers”. They hoped that “the public of Bombay will not fail to extend (‘unique welcome’) to another son of Mother India – Scouter F J Davar, who is shortly due in Bombay on the conclusion of a similar enterprise”.

They were not the only ones, then, we were amazed to discover. Three months after the Super Six group had commenced their ride, Framroze J Davar – another Bombay Parsi and a sports journalist – embarked on a global expedition in January 1924.

His was the most adventurous, lengthier and partly, a solitary journey. The 30-year-old Framroze initially pedalled more than 9,000 km entirely on his own, till he reached Austria 11 months later. In Vienna, he met Gustav Sztavjanik, his cycling mate. The duo rode 1,10,000 km across 52 countries and five continents, over the next seven years.

Framroze returned to India in October 1931. Eighteen months later, in April 1933, another trio of Parsi cyclists from Bombay – Kaikee J Kharas, Rustam D Ghandhi and Rutton D Shroff – decided to girdle the globe on their humble bikes. They rode for nine years and traversed 84,000 km spanning five continents, before returning home in April 1942.

A year after Kharas, Ghandhi and Shroff had left Bombay, cyclist Jamshed Rustom Mody began his global ride in May 1934. He was only 18 and decided to ride solo all the way. A fortnight later, yet another Parsi cyclist, Manek K Vajifdar also chose the solo global ride. Both Mody and Vajifdar took the reverse route – circumnavigating the world from east to west.

They began biking from Australia and cycled across China and Japan, reached America and eventually Europe.

Mody returned home three years later traversing 48,000 km across continents. But, riding during the years of World War II, Vajifdar got stuck in London and could not make it back.

Considering their extensive travel plans across diverse climatic zones, the cyclists made a wise selection of their baggage. Essentially, it comprised few clothes change, light tent, firearms, leather hoods, basic provisions, medicines and water, besides their constant companions – camera and compass.

Jal Bapasola, Rustom Bhumgara and Adi Hakim on their Royal Benson Cycles in 1923. Photo credit: Author provided

On their journey, however, they acquired additional clothing and provisions depending on weather exigencies – leather jackets to combat cold, snow and light wear as a shield from winds and rains. On an average, their cycles weighed anywhere between 40 kg-45 kg including the baggage, carried in metal boxes attached to their machines.

The cyclists rode single, fixed gear “push bikes”, be it steep mountains, wild jungles or bone-dry deserts. Finally, they were slightly ahead of the age of affordable sunglasses and hence could not use the protective eyewear to prevent bright light and the blinding sun from damaging the eyes. At least one cyclist lost his eyesight during the expedition and died a blind man.

Despite these perilous journeys, the cyclists maintained meticulous diaries and shot awesome photographs. This was feasible, thanks to advances in the miniaturisation of photographic equipment and the introduction of a new Kodak camera that used film rolls instead of glass plates.

According to Kenneth Helphand, Knight Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Oregon, United States, “the development of the bicycle and photography (the Kodak), independently and in their interrelationship, radically altered our landscape perception and experience”.

Each of these expeditions is lucidly recorded and is a story of human ingenuity and courage.

More than that, these chronicles are invaluable anthropological, sociological and historical narratives. They were penned and pictured by a handful of Indians, the only ones to ride the streets of the world in the 1920s and 1930s.

They cycled through a Europe devastated by two World Wars, the Great Depression in America, strife-torn East Asia, the deserts of Sahara and Mesopotamia, the rainforests of Amazon and Southeast Asia and the mountains of the Alps and the Andes.

They observed the world of a century ago – witnessing the material destruction and moral degradation that followed the Wars, the humiliating racial discrimination and persecution of immigrants in the US and elsewhere, civil wars and peoples’ revolutions in East Asia, scenes of abject poverty and homelessness in Asia and Africa and the lives and practices of the tribes in the Amazon, Sahara and other places.

These sun-tanned cyclists were received by the Pope, kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers, statesmen and mayors, innovators and scientists and sports persons and movie stars all over the world. They were welcomed and adored everywhere they went. They could have conveniently stayed back in either Europe and or the US. But they all came back, barring couple of exceptions.

Something was missing, though.

While their adventures and chronicles made a fascinating and insightful read, they did not reveal much about the cyclists themselves. Who were these daredevils? What motivated them? How was their upbringing? Where did they live and work? When and how did they meet and plan these death-defying expeditions? Who helped them financially and materially? What was their post-glory life? Were they recognised by their country and community? Or, did they die as unsung heroes?

Honours are not always honoured. We found ourselves drawn back to the same lingering questions again and again. To seek answers, we needed to find their families, friends and relatives.

Over the last five years, we have been able to trace them – some scattered within India and the rest overseas. They have been extremely kind and supportive, generously sharing their pictorial and documented archives and narrating stories about their fathers, grandfathers or grand-uncles, as the case may be.

In the two decades between 1923 and 1942 – the years immediately after and during the twentieth century’s two Great Wars – twelve Parsis from Bombay undertook five separate global cycling journeys: eight of them succeeded.

In our pursuit to retrace their journeys and getting to know them better, we have cherished every meeting, every chat – in person or online – and every moment spent on reading old books, filtering historical records and trawling through the age-browned pages of personal diaries and the albums of timeless photographs. It has made us even more of a committed cyclist than we were and connected us intimately with that simplest of human inventions: the bicycle.

Though an avid rider today, cycling is not an end in itself for us, it is a ride into infinite possibilities. This story of unsung heroes is a case in point, and we are proud to be telling it – thanks entirely to that freak-yet-fortunate fall of mine, back in 2017!

Excerpted with permission from The Bicycle Diaries by Anoop Babani and Savia Viegas, Saxtti Books.

https://scroll.in/article/1002876/the-bicycle-diaries-the-tale-of-indian-cyclists-who-circumnavigated-the-world-of-a-century-ago

Savia Viegas & Anoop Babani

From Nargol to Team India’s reserve, Arzan Nagwaswalla

Arzan Nagwaswalla is the definitely the most surprise pick in the Indian Test team.

Arzan was included as a standby player for the World Test Championship final against New Zealand and the five-Test series in England.

The 23 year old is the only active Parsi cricketer in the Indian domestic cricket circuit. And the left-arm pace bowler has an outside chance to become the first Parsi cricketer in the Indian men’s team after Farokh Engineer, the swashbuckler wicket-keeper-batsman who last played for India in 1975.

Former women;s captain Diana Edulji was the last Parsi player in the Indian team, with her last international appearance coming in an ODI in 1993.

Not being part of the IPL Arzan could not garner much attention. But the Gujarat fast bowler caught the selectors’ eye not only with his pace but also with his ability to pick wickets, having finished with 41 wickets last season with three five-wicket hauls and one ten-wicket haul.

Arzan, who hails from the village of Nargal, close to the Maharashtra border — recalls how he had to travel around 350 km for his training in Ahmedabad in the initial days. In the village too, pursuing cricket was not easy as the players themselves had to roll the pitch and plan the practice sessions themselves.

It is no surprise that his role model is Pakistan’s pace bowling legend Wasim Akram.

After being named as the standby player in the Indian Test squad, Arzan Nagwaswalla spoke to Rediff.com‘s Harish Kotian on his journey in cricket so far.

Did you expect this call up?

Frankly speaking, I didn’t expect it so early. Obviously, you do expect to be picked in the Indian team, but…

When did you know of the selection?

Actually, the secretary of the Gujarat Cricket Association had called me in the morning itself that ‘You might have to go to England so just be ready.’

That time I didn’t understand what he was talking about. So when I heard about the selection now, I understood what he was saying.

How did your family react?

I haven’t reached home yet. I am travelling and on my way home.

Are you excited to get to practice and hopefully play in England which has the best conditions for fast bowlers?

This is the first time I am travelling there so there is a lot of excitement. It feels like a dream come true to get a chance to travel with the Indian team.

You had a good season in domestic cricket last year, picking up 41 wickets in the 2019-2020 Ranji Trophy season with three five-wicket hauls and one ten-wicket haul.
Tell us the improvements you made as a bowler in your second season.

There was not much of a difference in the last season. I was just focusing on the process whether it be bowling or in practice and the results are there for everyone to see.

What were the changes if you can point out in the second season that brought you success?

It was more of a mental aspect I would say in terms of how to approach a game, how to play and similar things.

So it was more of the mental side of things and other than that there were no any changes.

You played under Parthiv Patel who has a lot of experience and has taken Gujarat cricket to greater heights in the last few seasons. What was his advice to you?

He used to constantly tell me that ‘You are doing well so be ready as opportunity can come anytime.’

I was also focused on my game whether the opportunity comes or not, I just looked to give my best every time I went out to play.

Arzan Nagwaswalla

IMAGE: Arzan with his parents. Photograph: BCCI

Did it also help a young player when you play in a successful team like Gujarat?

It was about the team environment, the bonding between the players. There was no biasness in the team, whether it was a senior player or junior player, everyone played together as one unit.

I think that is the main reason behind our success.

Our coach used to tell us that we should work as a team and focus more on the team goals rather than individual goals.

Who is your childhood coach?

My childhood coach is Kiran Tandel, who is a former player for Gujarat. He hails from my village Nargal (close to the Maharashtra border). In fact, he lives next to my house and he is also a fast bowler. So I learnt a lot of things from him.

Were things difficult for you at the start because you hail from a small village?

I used to training in my village in Nargal when I started off, but for the camp I had to travel to Ahmedabad which is 350

km away.


In Nargal village, we used to prepare the pitch and even today we work on the pitch and practice ourselves, we have to do everything.
The travelling was a bit of struggle, but that was fine as it helped me improve.

The training in Ahmedabad helped me work with good coaches and they helped rectify the errors in my bowling and that played a big part in my development.

Along with getting picked for India, playing in the IPL is the next big target for all Indian domestic players. You did well in the Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 tournament with nine wickets from five games but were not picked in the IPL even though were part of it as the nets bowlers for the Mumbai Indians. Were you disappointed?

No, it was not disappointed. I knew there is a time for everything, so when the time is right, I will also get there.

In the last one year, there was not much of domestic cricket. How did you stay in touch with the game?

We had a few camps in Ahmedabad so there we got a chance to practice and improve our skills. The physical training part, we were doing at home and the cricketing part we practiced in Ahmedabad.

https://m.rediff.com/cricket/interview/will-arzan-nagwaswalla-make-cricket-history/20210508.htm

Jehan Daruvala creates history, becomes first Indian to win a Formula 2 race

Jehan Daruvala creates history, becomes first Indian to win an Formula 2 race

Jehan Daruvala emerged on top in the support race of the season-ending Formula 1 Grand Prix after a thrilling battle against F2 champion Mick Schumacher and Daniel Ticktum


Jehan Daruvala created history when he became the first Indian to win a Formula 2 race during the Sakhir Grand Prix on Sunday.

A thrilling battle against F2 champion Mick Schumacher and Daniel Ticktum saw the 22-year-old Indian emerge on top in the support race of the season-ending Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Jehan, driving for Rayo Racing, had a good launch from second on the grid and was up alongside pole sitter Daniel Ticktum.

Ticktum squeezed Jehan on the inside which allowed Schumacher to go around the outside of both of them.

Eventually, Ticktum emerged in the lead, followed by Schumacher and Jehan in third. A few corners later, Jehan made a good move to pass Schumacher and get into second position.

A few laps later, Schumacher passed Jehan, to relegate him to third.

Jehan, however, did not give up. A thrilling battled ensued and eventually the Indian got past Schumacher once again, to reclaim his second spot.

Jehan then reeled off a series of quick laps to catch the race leader. However, he was unable to overtake.

The battle for the lead intensified as Ticktum seemed desperate to win the last race of the season.

Jehan, however, kept his cool and maintained the pressure. His excellent race craft forced the race leader to start making mistakes, but Jehan found it tough to get past Ticktum.

Eventually with less than 10 laps to go, Jehan made another fantastic move to get past Ticktum and grab the lead.

Thereafter, Jehan drove well to slowly start opening up a gap and finally took the chequered flag to win his maiden FIA Formula 2 race.

His Japanese teammate Yuki Tsunoda was second, over 3.5 seconds behind Jehan, while Ticktum was third.

“Motorsport is pretty big in India. We obviously have a lot of people, so I have a big fan base back home, and my goal at the end of the day is to do myself and my country proud.

“(I have) to prove to people from back home that even though we don’t have the same facilities and stuff that guys have in Europe, as long as you can work hard you can fight right at the sharp end of the grid,” Jehan said.

https://indianexpress.com/article/sports/motor-sport/jehan-daruvala-first-indian-formula-2-race-win-7094343/

 

Zoroastrian Cricket Club (ZCC) – Toronto – New Beginnings

The Zoroastrian Cricket Club in Toronto has decided to start playing league T20 cricket again after an 8 year gap in play. The club started playing 50 over cricket and was formed in 1978 by a group of cricket loving Parsee immigrants that came to Canada from India and Pakistan. It ran successfully for many years in a local league but in 2013 the club folded due to a lack of interest amongst newer Zoroastrians.

However, in recent years the OZCF (Ontario Zoroastrian Community Foundation) field was transformed to include a cricket pitch and it renewed interest amongst the Parsee community! For the past two years the team has played inter friendly matches and have occasionally invited other teams to play as well. Due to the creation of the new agiary, the OZCF ground is not available for the upcoming season. The club has decided to join Mississauga Cricket League, and would like to introduce and include more youngsters to the game in a healthy community atmosphere with proper coaching by ex national team players. So if you have kids that want to learn sports and have fun in an all Parsee community setting or if you want to join yourself please contact Khushroo Wadia at khushroo_wadia@hotmail.com. The club appreciates your support and enthusiasm and thanks the many former members who still donate generously to keep up equipment and help pay for the league costs, balls, and umpire fees. What a truly wonderful community we have. Come and be a part of it!

RUSSI COOPER BECOMES MIDDLESEX’S OLDEST FIRST-CLASS CRICKETER

The St Xavier’s College team of 1942. In the middle row, the first four from left are Rusi Modi, Anwar Sheikh, KC Ibrahim, Russi Cooper. Behind Ibrahim is Jimmy Wadia. Photo courtesy: The Gulu Ezekiel collection

RUSTOM ‘RUSSI’ SORABJI COOPER BECOMES MIDDLESEX’S OLDEST FIRST-CLASS CRICKETER

Rustom Cooper, born in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India, on 15th December 1922, today became Middlesex’s oldest first-class cricketer, aged 97 years, 183 days old.

Prior to this, the record was held by James Gilman, who passed away in Shoreham, East Sussex, on 14th September 1976, aged 97 years, 182 days.

Cooper made a handful of appearances for Middlesex, between 1949 and 1951, making his first-class debut for the club against Cambridge University at Fenners in May 1949, when he made 36 of Middlesex’s first innings total of 402 for 4 declared.

In total he made surprisingly few appearances for the club, considering he finished his first-class career with a batting average of 52.39, although for Middlesex, in eight matches, his average of just 19.63 and a highest score of 54 belied the quality he had. A contributing factor in Cooper making only fleeting appearances at Lord’s in this era becomes clear, when you consider that he would have had to dislodge the likes of Jack Robertson, Denis Compton, Bill Edrich and Gubby Allen to secure a regular place in the side.

Throughout his time with Middlesex he also played club cricket for Hornsey, which is where he achieved legendary status, for both his weight of runs and for the flair in which accumulated them.

Our thanks go to Johnny Bruce and Hornsey Cricket Club for the following content, which has been copied from their website with the club’s blessing.

RUSSI COOPER – HORNSEY CRICKET CLUB, 1946 TO 1953

Between 1946 and 1953 Russi Cooper bestrode Hornsey cricket like a colossus. Even in our outstanding post-war side Cooper stood out for both his weight of runs and the elegance with which he batted. 5,968 runs at an average of 85.25 (excluding 1947, where figures are not available), his stats for the club are near Bradmanesque, and his shot selection abided by one of the Don’s batting axioms: keep the ball on the ground.

For all the mountains of runs, those who played alongside Cooper could never remember a single instance of him hitting a six.

It was another batting great, Denis Compton, who spotted Rustom Sorabji Cooper (born 22 December 1922) and brought him to the attention of Middlesex cricket.

Although Russi’s batting style wouldn’t have been suited to the IPL he was a young sensation in Indian domestic cricket, playing for both the Parsees and his native Mumbai, scoring a century in the 1945 Ranji Trophy against CK Nayudu’s Holkar.

Compton, stationed with the Army in India during the Second World War, played for the Holkar in that match and had in fact, witnessed another hundred by Russi the week before when he was playing for the Cricket Club of India. He was so impressed by Cooper’s performance that he informed Middlesex about his new discovery.

Indian players in county cricket were a rarity at the time, but Cooper was sufficiently encouraged to take up a place at the London School of Economics in 1946 and to pursue his cricketing career in Europe.

He arrived with a letter of recommendation addressed to Colonel PS Rait Kerr, secretary of the MCC, written by KS Duleepsinhji. He played some cricket for Indian Gymkhana and for a nomadic side called the Buccaneers, playing for Hornsey on a Sunday.

He turned out often for Middlesex 2nd XI (including one match at Tivoli Road, in fact). However, as is still the case, the serious cricket was played on a Saturday and Russi shifted his allegiance to Hornsey’s extremely strong Saturday side and its impressive fixture list. The rest, as they say, is history.

His debut season in 1946 harvested 571 runs at an average of 114.2, and went on to make 19 centuries for the club (18 of them not out!), with a top score of 135* against Richmond in 1950.

Cooper scored over 1,000 runs in a summer on three occasions for Hornsey, in 1948, 1952 and 1953. Arthur Cornick, who served as Honorary Secretary of Hornsey for over fifty years said he was at his best in a run chase. He would be 30* before anyone had noticed and would time a run chase to perfection. It was said that he would often won the game in the last over, with the winning runs bringing up his century. Derek Rata, another Hornsey great who had a couple of games for Middlesex Second XI was frequently Russi’s batting partner and recalls been asked by Russi how to hit the ball over the top (there is no record of Russi ever hitting a six for Hornsey). After lobbing him a few gentle half volleys and having been bit back at ferocious pace along the ground, they both gave up and decided to let sleeping dogs lie.

In 1950 he scored 945 runs at an average of 157.50. This included his epic month of June 1950, when he batted 8 times, 6 not out, for 624 runs at an average of 312.00.

The golden English sporting summer on 1953 was Cooper’s most prolific and sadly his last for the club. He scored 1,117 in his 19 innings that summer at an average of 139.62 – by some distance the highest average of any Hornsey 1,000 run season.

He would make sporadic appearances for Middlesex – a final first-class batting average of 52.39 confirms his talent – but happily spent his most productive success at Tivoli Road.

With such a rich vein of form in 1953 it’s little wonder that Cooper was considered very close to a call up to the touring Indian side that year for the tour of England. However, he had also qualified as a barrister and decided to return home at the end of the year with his English wife.

He made a visit, anonymously, to Tivoli Road in the late 1960s. In London on business, he spent the afternoon watching the 1st XI play, without being recognised, and then slipped away at the end of the match without anyone realising who he was.

His life and location took on an element of mystery until Hornsey’s archivist and historian Johnny Bruce tracked him down in 2008. Various attempts to find him via the Indian Cricket authorities were unsuccessful and, indeed, it was not even known whether Russi was dead or alive.

Then out of the blue, the Cricinfo website stated on his profile page that he was President of the Rotary Club of Singapore in 1984-85. An email was sent to the Rotary Club of Singapore and within 10 minutes a reply was received saying that the Russi Cooper from the Rotary Club was NOT the Russi Cooper from Hornsey CC.It did, however, also state that the Russi Cooper we were after lived in Mumbai, and here was his ‘phone number. We rang him, and Russi had his first contact with anyone from Hornsey for 55 years. He was delighted to receive a copy of the Hornsey Almanack which fully reflected his status as a Hornsey great and we enjoyed many conversations with him reminiscing about games and players past.

Around this time, Chetan Patel was about to holiday in India and was delighted to meet up with Russi at the Cricket Club of India a few days ahead of the great man’s 86th birthday in 2008. Chetan was glad to report back on of a fabulously fit and agile enthusiast for the game with many cherished memories of some glittering years at Hornsey, on and off the cricketing field.

His cricket career had stalled on his return to India due to a serious knee injury, but he was still an avid spectator and follower of the game.

A delightful player and person, Russi Cooper is one of the players that made Hornsey special and a crucial part of our club’s legacy.

For more archive information on Hornsey greats, visit HERE

 

https://www.middlesexccc.com/news/2020/06/russi-cooper-becomes-middlesexs-oldest-first-class-cricketer

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