Not many may be aware of the fact that on 28th March, 2009, the then 63-year-old, Baroda-based, Neville Wadia, made it to the Guinness World Records as ‘The Oldest Player To Score A Century In Minor Cricket’, scoring 105 runs for Waghodia Road Cricket Team against Vrajdham Vadil Pariwar Team, (Seniors Twenty20 Match format) at Sitabaug Ground, in Baroda, Gujarat. Neville Wadia was the opening batsman, scoring 3 sixes and 15 fours, and was declared ‘Man of the Match’.
An educationist, cricketer, cricket coach, former member of Baroda Cricket Association, and Guinness World Record holder – Neville Wadia is a much-respected personality and commands a large number of well-wishers… and standing out conspicuously in that list is none other than the very PM of India – Shri Narendra Modi!
The 77-year-old dynamic Neville Wadia first made his acquaintance whit Shri Narendra Modi in 2007, when the latter was CM of Gujarat, at an event where Neville’s wife, Jalloo Wadia, was awarded the ‘Laughter Queen’ by the ‘Laughter Clubs International Worldwide’.
Their next meeting took place two years later, in 2009, when Neville made it to the prestigious Guinness book of world records and was invited by CM Modi to his office. Since then, a few pleasant communiques were exchanged, till recently, PM Modi invited Wadia as a special guest during his recent visit to Baroda, on 18th June, 2022 – a proud moment indeed for the Wadia family and the Parsi Community!
Speaking to Parsi Times, Neville Wadia shared, with delight, “I received a call on the 16th of June from the PMO (PM’s Office), New Delhi, saying the PM would like to meet me on 18th June! I was as delighted as I was dumbstruck! My son, Russy coordinated the impeccable arrangements with the PMO. On 18th June, we left home mid-morning and were escorted to the VIP lounge where we waited for the function to conclude, after which we were taken to the PM’s private chamber.
I will never forget how Shri Narendra Modi the honourable PM just sprang up from his seat on seeing me, he embraced me and said, “Kya chhe tu? Ketla varsh pacchi malya Neville!” (How have you been? We’re meeting after so many years!). I was overwhelmed with emotions and speechless with this warm welcome! His aura is so contagious – meeting such a powerful soul is always a privilege. I increasingly admire and respect him – the man truly breathes, speaks, thinks, lives for our motherland India. He is a true leader and to be his private guest was an honour. I’m humbled and truly appreciate our PM’s grounded attitude and honoured to be invited to meet him.”
Accompanying Neville on this momentous occasion was his youngest son, Russy Wadia – an entrepreneur, Trustee and MD of New Sunrise School – one of Baroda’s leading schools (estb. 1976). Excited and proud about his father’s achievements, Russy says, “I’ll talk about two powerful people I respect to infinity. First, my father – Neville Wadia, a very simple human, always a kind, spiritual and benevolent man. It filled me with pride to see that the honourable PM got up to welcome him with a friendly, tight hug. I was grinning ear to ear, awed to witness the amiable and cordial moments exchanged between my daddy and Shri Narendra Modiji. And secondly, the honourable Prime Minister himself – a man with impeccable ethos, extremely grounded and humble. His affections towards dad and me were so warm and genuine. I was left amazed by his ideologies, philosophy and vision – something every youth must adopt. I’m truly fortunate I got this precious opportunity!”
Since childhood, Neville Wadia nurtured a burning passion for cricket and even played in the Herring and Kent Cricket Tournament, Kanga League, Haji Adamji Latif Vapiwalal Open Tournament, Purshottam Shield, etc. Though he was unable to make a prominent career in cricket in his youth, he got his name registered in the Guinness World Records (GWR) at the age of 64, post retirement!
Neville Wadia continues serving as the Founder President and Trustee of the New Sunrise School, where his wife Jalloo Wadia serves as Chairperson. Famous cricketers – Hardik and Krunal have studied in this school and are now like family friends. Dillzan, their eldest son is an actor, entrepreneur and hotelier in India while younger son, Porus is an entrepreneur based in Australia.
And what’s planned in the future? “As of now I am 77, and would continue to play cricket and give free coaching to budding cricketers,” concludes the sprightly Neville Wadia.