One of the most aggressive and fearless cricketers of his time, the great wicket-keeper-cum-batsman, Farokh Engineer, has played 46 Tests and 5 ODIs for India. He also represented Bombay in Ranji Trophy, Lancashire in England and Rest of the World X1. A gutsy cricketer, Farokh enjoyed taking on all his opposition bowlers.
Engineer always had an interest in flying and wished to become a pilot. But his passion for cricket had something else in store for him. Just like any other youngster, he too played ‘gully’ cricket with tennis balls!He accepted that his parents would inevitably land up paying the neighbours for the window panes he would break! His mother meant the world to him. His family encouraged and supported him in achieving his dreams.
Farokh spoke about how difficult it was for him to find a place in the power packed Bombay Ranji team, as most of the players back then were already ‘Test Cricketers’. He says it was more difficult to get into the Bombay Ranji Team than it was to get into the Indian team. “To get into the team I had to dislodge the Indian wicket-keeper. And back then,the wicket-keeper was Tamhane”, Engineer reminisces. Engineer played for team India and Bombay, approximately, at the same time.Tamhane was a very safe wicket-keeper but Farokh Engineer took wicket-keeping to a different level, with his fabulous dives. “It was great to play under Polly Umrigar. He is my hero. He was a great captain and one of the most influential people in my life”, says Engineer.
The conversation gradually moved on to the topic of having played with a bunch of Parsi cricketers like Nari Contractor, Polly Umrigar and RusiSurti. Recalling memories Engineer says, “Once a function was organized for us in Nargol, where we were felicitated in front of a huge audience. This was one of the most memorable days of my life and I truly say that I’m proud to be a Parsi”. He further added that Polly was used to cracking practical jokes while Nari Contactor was more on the serious side, but an exceptional person. Rusi was fun and they lovingly used to called him ‘professor’.
Farokh Engineer is very closely affiliated with current Indian Captain, MS Dhoni and shares a good rapport with the Indian skipper. He shared a lot of tips with Dhoni, one of India’s finest wicket-keepers. When asked what could be best done to encourage the Parsi youth to take up cricket professionally, he said, “Today,many coaching facilities are available. If any youngster approaches me, I will help him to the best of my abilities. But it is upon the youngsters to come forward and try. Youngsters should practise often and have confidence in themselves”.
Farokh Engineer signed off by sharing a great anecdote with us.“I was quite young when I went with my brother to watch a match at the Brabourne Stadium. My brother used to carry me on his shoulders and at that time I saw Dennis Compton fielding and called out to him. I remember he had just opened a pack of chewing gum and offered one to me.I was so nervous that I couldn’t speak. Compton gave me a chewing gum, which I saved as a prized possession for a long time instead of eating it”!
Farokh Engineer believes in living life to the fullest, enjoying Parsi cuisines and continues to be in love with the game that made him famous!
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