Nadir, Murzban and Rusi – the cricketers in my life
By Farishta Murzban Dinshaw
I am a wuss. I freely admit it. A red leather ball rushing at me at 70mph with only a slim willow bat as defense ranks along with being attacked by killer bees in the list of things I do not want happening to me. I cannot explain this genetic anomaly considering that my family has been living and breathing cricket for generations, perhaps ever since it crossed over to India with the British regiments in the mid-19th century.
The Parsis embraced the game with enthusiasm, and in 1877, they were granted a match against the English at Bombay Gymkhana. Within the next few years the Parsi cricketers had established themselves enough to be invited to tour England and play against W.G. Grace’s team at Lords. The visitors lost, but they made history.
The Presidency tournament between Parsis and Europeans began in 1892-93, and in 1907-08, after the Hindus fielded a team, the tournament became known as the Bombay Triangular.
My grandfather Nadirshah Maneckji Dinshaw was one of the cricketers who played on the Parsi team from 1907-08 to 1927-28. [With the entry of a Muslim team in 1912-13, the tournament became Quadrangular. Later when a team comprising The Rest joined the tournament, it became known as the Pentangular and the venue was shifted to the Brabourne Stadium]
Nadirshah Dinshaw also captained the Karachi Parsi Institute (KPI) team and represented the Karachi Cricket Association. The History of Sind (sic) Cricket (cited in Dadachanji, 1995) says about N.M. Dinshaw:
One of the best cricketers Sind (sic) ever produced. A steady and cool bat, with various strokes, he places the ball magnificently. Between May 1912 and November 1920, in 159 innings he made nearly 8000 runs with an average of 50, his highest score being 207 not out against G.J.Weigall’s XI in 1917: a good change bowler with superb judgment: the only batsmen who has scored over a thousand runs in Sind (sic) Cricket Tournament. Reliable authorities state that N.M. Dinshaw has made over 100 centuries in his cricket career.
Grandpa died before I was born, so what I know about him is hearsay. He was respected for his integrity, fairness and mild manners at Chartered Bank where he worked as Chief Cashier till he retired. His nephews and nieces recall that he was generous to them and often covered for their pranks with his stricter brothers. My sister and I take that as a tribute of a life well lived over any number of centuries scored on the cricket field.
Nadirshah and his wife Dina had four sons - Dara, Adi, Murzban and Rusi. Dara’s legendary appetite and immense girth kept him off the cricket field, but the other sons inherited their father’s love for cricket. They played for their school Bai Virbaiji Soparivala Parsi High School as well as in local matches with many of their friends who went on to be stalwarts of Karachi cricket. Notable amongst them were Burjor D. Jagus (whose father D. J. Jagus is considered one the founders of cricket in Sindh), Boman G. Irani and Soli R. Mavalvala.
Murzban, my dad, was the most stylish batsmen of the three brothers, and he is described as “aggressive” and “brilliant” by more than one friend to whom I spoke while researching this article. Once he scored 36 runs in the last over to take his team to victory. According to Roy Minwalla’s recollection, Dad and B.G. Irani hold the Karachi Inter-school record for the highest partnership. Till he died in 1994, cricket remained my father’s passion. But to my dad, cricket was more than a game you played to win. It was about the way you lived; you played as a team member, you played fairly and sportingly, you acknowledged accomplishment no matter which team the player represented, and you enjoyed yourself.
However, it was Rusi who achieved the greatest accolade for cricket. A steady left-hand batsmen, he also did slow left-arm bowling. He was known to be tenacious and it was very difficult to get him out. His friend and team-mate Homi Mobed recalls that Rusi scored 201 runs in Ruby Shield Cricket in Calcutta to lead his team to victory. In 1946, Rusi lead Karachi University to victory against Bombay University to win the Maharaja Kumar of Kutch/Bihar Trophy.
In the early years after Partition, most of the players who represented Pakistan came from Lahore. Some of them had played in the Ranji Trophy, the premier domestic tournament of pre-Partition India. Of the young players, Rusi Dinshaw’s cricketing style was soon recognized and he was sent by the Pakistan Cricket Control Board for training to Alf Gover’s cricket school in Wandsworth, England.
Pakistan Cricket Team on tour in India in 1952-53. Rusi Dinshaw being greeted by the President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad
When Nigel Howard's MCC team toured the new country in 1951-52, Pakistan scored a noteworthy win at the Karachi Gymkhana under the captain ship of Hafiz Kardar. Consequently, Pakistan was given full test status by the ICC, and Pakistan toured India in 1952-53. It was a fledgling team, with only Kardar and Amir Elahi having any test experience. Nadirshah Dinshaw’s youngest son Rusi was part of the young team. He has the notable distinction of being the only Zarathushtrian to be a member of the Pakistan test team.
Everyone who knew Rusi in his heydays remembers him to be easy going and jovial, with a love for, what his friend Soli Mavalvala calls, “nalli khochrai” (little mischief). Once, while playing on the Sind XI, Soli and Rusi were returning after a match in Bhawalpur and were sharing the train compartment with the son of the distinguished Sindhi cricketer Naomal Jaomal. The two of them kept eyeing the four baskets of the Bhawalpur’s famous almond and pistachio mithai that young Jaomal was taking home. That night when Jaomal fell asleep, the two of them not only polished off all the sweets, but also got off at some deserted railway station and collected rocks to place in the basket so that the lightweight of the baskets would not give them away.
In the early 60s, before I was born, Rusi began to show signs of depression and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. The electric shock treatment prevalent in those days broke his spirit and he never recovered. He still goes to KPI every day, but now when you look at him shuffling through the grounds, you see an old, disheveled man in need of a shower. Of all the things I have ever written, this article has touched my heart the most because it gave me a chance to discover my Rusi kaka [father’s brother]. To me, he is once more a dashing, high-spirited young man who was the object of many young women’s affection and young men’s inspiration.
******* Farishta Murzban Dinshaw was born in Karachi, Pakistan. Her father Murzban graduated from B.V.S. in 1941 and her uncle Rusi - who was the first Virbaijeeite in the Pakistan cricket team - graduated in 1943. Farishta has been writing for publications since she was 10-years old. In 1993, she won the Eve Bunting Scholarship awarded by the Highlights Foundation for their Writing for Children programme at Chautauqua; USA. She was the initiatory editor of Funline, Pakistan's first English magazine for children. Although her primary interest lies in writing for children, she also writes on women's issues, education and general topics for local newspapers and magazines. She has several handbooks for teachers, a biography on Independence activist Ahmed E.H. Jaffer ,and an Urdu story Thar Ki Ek Larki (Girl from Thar) to her credit. She has written three plays and numerous skits as fund-raisers for charity. She is also an author of an English novel. Farishta currently resides in Toronto, Canada. This article first appeared as "Cricket Legacy" in FEZANA Journal.
We honour the achievements of Rusi Nadirshah Dinshaw as a Virbaijeeite and as a National Cricket hero in the early 1950's.
Picture at KPI with Burjor Jagus (captain) introducing Rusi Dinshaw to Major General Iskander Mirza. On Rusi's left is Khodabux Irani and Noshir Kanga on his right.