A half-century and still chugging on

Noshir Mehta, who completed rare record of playing in the Hyderabad Cricket Association League for 50 years on bounce, with leftarm spinner Pragyan Ojha at the Gymkhana Ground.-V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

Noshir Mehta, the former Hyderabad off-spinner, set a record recently by playing in the Hyderabad Cricket Association League for the 50th consecutive year. V. V. Subrahmanyam finds out what keeps the 66-year-old going even now.

Fifty years, and still going strong! Well, for the 66-year-old former Hyderabad Ranji off-spinner, Noshir Mehta, it has been quite an achievement to feature in the Hyderabad Cricket Association League for the 50th consecutive year. Noshir achieved the landmark when he donned the whites for Roshanara Club against Hyderabad Panthers in the A Division one-day league championship at the Gymkhana Ground on November 23, 2014.

The late M. L. Jaisimha — under whom Noshir played from 1967-76, taking 147 wickets — once described the off-spinner as ‘the eternal bridesmaid of Hyderabad cricket’ for not getting his due. However, the presence of former Davis Cup player S. P. Misra, the manager of the 1983 World Cup-winning team, P. R. Man Singh, and many former Ranji players such as Jyothi Prasad, Abdul Bari Wahab and Capt. Manohar Sharma at the Gymkhana Ground was a fitting tribute to Noshir.

According to Noshir, he was a bit unlucky that his career ran parallel to that of the famous Indian spin quartet of Bishan Singh Bedi, B. S. Chandrasekhar, E. A. S. Prasanna and S. Venkataraghavan. “Obviously, they being such great exponents of spin, my chances were very remote. But when I look back, one of the high points was when I played for South Zone in the Duleep Trophy with those great bowlers (Prasanna, Chandrasekhar and Venkataraghavan),” he recalled with a sense of pride.

Cricket is in his blood, as his father S. R. Mehta was one of the pioneers of the game in Hyderabad. “My father was very particular that discipline is the key to success in any field. I am grateful for his mentoring, and that is the reason why I am still fit and enjoying the game even after 50 years,” said Noshir.

What is it that keeps Noshir going?

“Sometimes I feel that I might be blocking the chance of a youngster. But again, given the appalling standard of the game in the HCA League, I feel that I might actually help some youngsters by being there on the field,” Noshir remarked.

The tall, elegant Hyderabadi cherishes most the dismissals of batting great Sunil Gavaskar and Ashok Mankad in a Ranji game. He got them with his floaters. “Those were unforgettable moments. I used to watch the great Prasanna — who I would rate as a complete magician with the ball — and then bowl in the nets at the Gymkhana. Slowly, I tried to get some control,” Noshir reminisced.

Some of Noshir’s best moments include his career-best six-wicket haul for Hyderabad against Tamil Nadu in a Ranji Trophy match at the L. B. Stadium in 1970.

With regard to playing in domestic cricket, Noshir said: “I doubt how many remember that Maheshwar Singh and I were involved in a record 400-plus partnership for the second wicket for State Bank of Hyderabad in a Behraum-ud-Dowla match? I can vouch that 99 per cent of the current Hyderabad Ranji team would not have got selected even for the Zonal side in those days. The team featured cricketers of the highest calibre.”

Five decades on, Noshir continues to be a role model for many budding cricketers, especially for his amazing fitness levels and passion for the sport. “It has been a memorable journey so far on the cricket field, thanks to my wife Yasmin. There is a tinge of regret that I did not play for India despite being the first stand-by for the 1971 tour of the West Indies and England. But again, destiny perhaps deemed otherwise. I will quit the day I feel detached from the sport,” he said.