Farokh Engineer on the 1971 series win, parallels with Rishabh Pant, money in cricket

Farokh Engineer looks back at India's historic 1-0 series win against England in 1971 in this episode of Matchpoint Paradox.

Published : Feb 17, 2022 12:53 IST

Check out all the episodes from our cricket podcast Matchpoint Paradox on all leading podcast platforms.
Check out all the episodes from our cricket podcast Matchpoint Paradox on all leading podcast platforms.

Check out all the episodes from our cricket podcast Matchpoint Paradox on all leading podcast platforms.

In 1971, India has tamed the British cricket lion in its den. It was a historic day when India beat England in the third and final Test by four wickets with 205 minutes to spare at the Kensington Oval, to clinch the series 1-0.

One of the fulcrums of the Indian effort at the Oval was Farokh Engineer. Now 83, the veteran Indian cricketer looks back at that memorable victory with fondness as he joins Vijay Lokapally in this episode.

Listen to the full episode here and read the full transcript below


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Vijay Lokapally: Sir, your immediate memories? I mean, obviously, you've spoken 1000 times about that wonderful moment. What does come what is it that comes to your mind today as we speak?

Farokh Engineer: Well, I'd like to think that we were the pioneers of most people somehow seem to think that only Indian cricket sort of started flourishing after 83. You know, but I mean, they're sadly mistaken because, in 71, we beat the West Indies in the western days, we beat Australia, we beat in England and England. So I mean, we've had a lot of successes before that. You know, and I'd like to think that we sort of started you know, the progression of Indian cricket. Take away from the 83 World Cup victory. I saw the film, and I enjoyed it immensely. Especially Boman Irani my dear friend playing my role as I was the only Indian commentator. Yeah, one thing they forgot to mention in it, was that Mrs Gandhi was the Prime Minister those days and Brian Johnston jokingly asked me, would Mrs Gandhi declare a public holiday as India were just about to win you know? And I said funny you say that she's an avid test match special listener as if she had the time to listen to you know, I said I've no doubt at all that she will declare a public holiday and within 10 minutes that reprint as we got a phone call through to BBC headquarters and onto the Lord's Cricket Ground in the commentators' box that Mrs Gandhi has, in fact, heard your comments and declared a public holiday you know, I mean, you just say a thing in a little box  On the top on the in the turret of lords in the commentators' box and it's picked up all over the world here so it's quite frightening that it's quite surreal that something has happened but I remember when it all started really occur. Okay, I got the highest score in the first innings. Yeah, you know, and I realized I was the most experienced player in English wickets so it was up to me to guide our batsmen on how to go about it, which they did it I mean, we have some great players like Vishy, Vishwanathan was a superb player in and then everyone but I mean, Sunil Gavaskar just comes from his previous exploits, the Western days and all that. But I said this is different yet. The ball moves in the air and off the pitch and railing with a very, very shrewd captain. Perhaps the stewardess Captain England never had, you know, and he, we didn't have video sort of, you know, but he knew everything in his mind. Exactly. Especially he knew my game inside out. Because he was Yorkshire captain. And I was Lancashire you know, so we played a lot against each other. Yeah. And that got a lot of runs against the Yorkshire. So I mean, although We were chasing score and all that. And when wickets fell when Vishwanathan was out, and Abid Ali came in, you know, I think there was about four runs left to win or something, three or four runs left. And I told Abid, Don't do anything daft. Don't do anything stupid. Don't throw your wicket away, because after you there's Bishan, Venkat, and Chandra, they don't know which side of the bat to hold, you know, and we'll bring them back into the game. Yeah, so don't do anything and things. anything silly. There is no need to spend your time. And if we lose a wicket, then you bring them back into the game. The heads are down at the moment, you know, and you're the last recognized sort of batsman, so okay okay said Abid Ali. the first ball, he charges down the wicket trying to hit I think Derek Underwood out of the ground or something like that. Misses it and Allen not to fault people I think this is a fairly easy stumping. Yeah. And that was the last ball of over. I said, Abid, what are you doing? You know, we only need 4 runs, we'll bring that back into the game. Otherwise, I have not had a single for I've been really trying to, you know, we must win this game. We can't afford to bring them back in the game. You haven't got a chance like this. So next over. First of all, I took a single, and as I was taking a single, I realize am I doing the wrong thing? You know, by giving Abid the strike with, you know, two or three runs left. Here again, I went up to him. I said, Abid, don't do anything stupid. No need further. But Abid is Abid, after all, you know, He had in his mind that he wanted to hit the winning run or something, you know, so which never even occurred to me it never even crossed my head. You know, who wins is the winning run? As long as India wins. That was the main thing. Anyway, I'm not taking any credit away from Abid. Don't get me wrong. Not at all. Because my very dear friend, I've been saved up to be jumped out. And that's it hitting the covers. And it was in the gap. But it didn't even hit the ball very hard, because the ball wouldn't have traveled to the boundary. But the Indian spectators Absolutely engulfed the field, they all came in, you know. And the English field is trying to protect themselves. They ran the other way towards the other way, towards the Pavillion. You know, and this is what happened. In fact, after the game, one of the spectators ran onto the field and said Mr. Engineer, you have won this match for India. And I've got this ball. The cricket ball. Yeah. And I would love love to keep these are souvenirs. But I would like to give it to you because you are the one who deserves it. Yeah, that's it. Thank you very much. And I still got that ball with me. So I mean, so I would and of course, we want our ticker tape. Welcome. And all the boys flew back to, to Bombay, for a big open bus reception and all that. But we had one, you know, we hardly got paid any money those days? Yeah. So an Indian restaurant invited us for a meal. You know, some champagne beer on the ground and some meal. So I, by the time it was the celebration that all that was like eight, nine o'clock already in the night. And I think the team was taking a flight that night, the same night. But I had to drive back to Manchester because I was contracted only to play in the Test matches. Because next day, there was a Lancashire Yorkshire game. Great, very important game and I said I must. I will be there. So the restaurant I didn't have time to eat at the restaurant. I told them to just give me a quarter of tandoori chicken in a the a silver foil. No. And as I drive to Manchester, I will eat it. Yeah. And there were no motorways those days because there was M six. Do you know England well? And then there was M 1. M 1 went from London to Scotland. But M6 went from Manchester to London, but in a different way. So in between there was A 5, which was like, one hour's journey or one and a half hour Longer nowadays it's motorways Of course, throughout, you know, but those days so so I reached home at like, almost one o'clock, two o'clock in the morning because there was some traffic on the road. also, you know, and I was conscious that 10 o'clock I've got to nine o'clock, I've got to report to Old Trafford for a 10 o'clock start match. And of course, Lancashire won the toss, and Yorkshire invited us to bat and they told this especially to me that, Farokh, we knew you'd be tired from your journey and we wanted to get you out. As soon as there was a bit of Floyd that another Jeff boycott was the one who was instrumental in that. But luckily, I got some I got some runs. But what strikes out when as went up to open the innings with Bumble Lloyd David Lloyd. Yeah, the whole Old Trafford stadium, which you see behind me, yeah. That's Old Trafford. Yeah, that's got up and gave me a standing ovation. And I thought these people are not one Indian amongst them. Yeah, these all English people. I've just shafted the country the day before. Yeah, literally the night before. And the same people are giving me a standing ovation. Which I was really touched you know. So this was, yeah, you know, this was it. And, of course, I wasn't aware of all the celebrations that were going on in India. You know, the boys sent me photographs and all that. Yes. And said, I wish I wish I was there to you know, nobody is proud of being an Indian more than I am. Yeah. Although I'm not an Indian soil, physically, my heart all the time, all the time is in in India and always has been here and always will be, You know.

Vijay: Sir, how couldn't a flamboyant batsman like you who gets 94 in a test match before land hit a 50 without a boundary?

Farokh: Well, good question. Because when I got 94 for me for lunch, that was the first morning of a test match. Yeah. In this case. It was the penultimate day of the test match. And we had to win the test match. There was nobody after me that, that open the innings this occasion. I didn't open the innings. So a lot of responsibility lies on my shoulders. And I think every time Rishabh Pant charges down the weekend throws a wicket away. If you are shown my innings there that look. Yeah, I could have done that. Yes, but no. If you play for your country, I'm not saying Rishabh is not playing for his country. Please don't get me wrong. I don't want to be misconstrued here, because again, Rishabh, I'm a huge admirer of Rishabh, You know, but I just wish you would just buckle down a bit, you know, think about the situation. People used to say something about me because I used to play some silly shots. And, you know, I used to like hitting the ball and hitting it hard. Yes. And then. But there are occasions when you don't do that. There are occasions when you know, and mature. And it is only you can control your mind. Yes. So so that's the reason. I buckled down. And I knew that I can afford to play a risky shot here. Because I will let my country down. Yeah, I just couldn't afford to do that.

Vijay: Sir. I mean, I remember this. I've written down 39 rounds when needed when you joined Gundappa Viswanath. Yeah. So how was it batting with Vishwanath? I mean, we have only we have heard we have read we have seen very little of him. I watched the 1969 that was my first test match at Delhi against Australians. So how was it batting with him?

Farokh: Oh, great. Absolutely. Vishy was one of the finest batsmen in our Indian team, little fellow, but he packed a strong. You know, and the one of the most delightful fellas and the team. Yes, it all the boys from South India or from anywhere, you know, the South Indian contingent with the spinners, Chandra, Chandrashekhar, I have the utmost utmost utmost utmost highest regard for him, because he made a problem. He made a defect of his polio into a huge asset. You know, only a man with great willpower, great character and great forward-thinking would do that. And that is why Chandra will always be in my opinion, as India's finest spinner, ever. You know, because he made us he made his defect into an enormous advantage. He didn't know himself, which where the ball was going? Quite a few times. I had to tell him that Chandra when he tried to go like break and he got a big googly, and he bowled the batsman and I said Chandra, You tried to bowl a leg break that. Yes. He said, you know, such an unassuming guy. Yes, it didn't always realize it because of his action, but I used to see the way he used to grip the ball in his fingers, the way it left his fingers in the air, and off the pitch, like split second computerized effector. That's the only way he could keep with Mr Chandra. And to keep wickets to him on the last day of a test match to a left-hander like Gary Sobers or Clive Lloyd with the ball pitches in the bowlers, footmarks. And with Chandra not knowing which of the ball is going to spin and he bowled pretty quick. Chandra was pretty quick, I mean ball about the 85 by 90 k. So and the ball is spinning, viciously battles wicketkeeping at his best at his most challenging, and that's when I really relish keeping up against him. Because so many opportunities were there, you know.

Vijay: Sir, Wadekar's role as a captain in the entire series, and especially this match where he was sleeping when the rains were being scored.

Farokh: Ajith and Tiger both in my period, they were officially appointed captains. But I used to do 90% of the captaincy on both, for both because we had a great understanding. We hardly spoke about it. But just our eyes met a bowling change. eyes met a field a year, You know, it was it was our combination. And it was I shouldn't be saying that. I'm not demeaning either captain the both are very good captains. Yeah, but I did 90% of the captain. Yeah, you know, they just left it to me to a great if they were like they would have said that themselves. But they said, time and again that. So this was a thing. You know, due to politics. I was never officially I was officially appointed captain, in fact, for the Western tour, you know, when Gavaskar those runs, and I was invited to Mumbai to be sort of CO opted on the committee to pick the team. When one or two people took objection. You know, that I live in England. I'm playing for Lancashire. So why should I captain India, as Clive Lloyd has kept me in the West Indies and he's my roommate for Lancashire. He thought I was flamboyant you know, for some reason to be flamboyant, was a prime in his. In his book, he looked down and you know, you can't please everybody in this world. That was my character I couldn't change about, you know, like my character. Yeah. When I did something I did it with the style. I'd like to think I was never I never did it artificially. It came naturally, you know. So I mean, when you have the confidence, you do that sometimes, you know, and it could be misunderstood in certain quarters. And obviously, it didn't go down well with the then chairman of selectors. So anyway, but I always gave my 110% to whichever Captain because they knew that I should really have been the captain, you know, with my experience. But, so that's when they had that respect. And not to demean them. We didn't make a public show of it, that I was controlling things behind the scenes. You know, but I was, you know, I knew straight from behind the stumps. You know what a batsman is doing, what a batsman's strengths and weaknesses are what a bowler is doing, how much is turning, how much is troubling the batsman. So from the wicketkeeper's angle, you know exactly what is happening. So you're the best person and the captain would guide us or should guide us we could keep her and we could keep it should give him correct advice. Nowadays with DRS or referrals and all that so we can keep us in the best position here and it surprises me that sometimes you know, we do some crazy reviews when there is no chance of getting and the wicket-keeper there should be more mature and think that no captain had wasted it's not worth it. This would obviously not out. The ball didn't hit his bat, it came off his pads, or his trouser or the the ball was not LBW. We've gone over the wickets. So the wicketkeeper has an exact idea of what's happening, you know, so you shouldn't be the best person to guide.

Vijay: Would you say the 71 Wwin, of course in when the West Indies and England especially was it The finest hour. The I even today I feel that is the finest hour of Indian cricket.

Farokh: I maybe like to think, I'd like to think so. I mean, a lot of people may not agree. But I was part is on to that. So they might think that you know, but if you think so I agree with you entirely. That was the starting point. That was the time when I instilled in our players. Our players started believing that we can beat these whites. You know, we can beat these English people. We can beat Australia we can beat England. We are good enough. We don't want to be pushed around by them. Against sledging, the Australian used to sledge us, South Africa, we didn't play again so we don't know that. But I played in County cricket against one or two Zimbabwe guys, you know, and, and they thought they were really put a little bit is Zimbabwe thought they were superior to India, just because of the fairer than us. Yeah. And the sooner you put them in the place the more they respect and some great Australian players have tried to sledge and all that. But I've just given it back to them. I paid them with the bat, more than anybody else, and tell them to get lost. I sort of said this gives confidence to our other junior players like Gavaskar, Viswanath, and all that they thought that Farokh is not taking this line down, Why should we take it lying down? Why should we take it? Why should we be humiliated? You know, for no reason at all, just because of the color of our skin. No, that is not on. So, I mean, so not only on the field but off the field also, our started players, our players start getting more confident. And confidence is half the battle. When you go out in the middle, if you go out looking with your head down, that will pump the bowler up that this one is out before he's even walked to the brace. But if you walk out, showing that come on, you can only you got a ball in your hand, I got a bet. You can only build one ball to me at a time. You know, let's see what you can do. Let's see what I can do. So go with that confident approach to them. So that they don't get you to know, otherwise you're giving them superiority. Advantage.

Vijay: At what point in the test match did you really think, Oh, now we've had them, we're gonna have we're gonna win this game.

Farokh: Well, when we got them out, at the oval, whenever we got them out, and we had to get those runs, I told the boys we have to get them. You know, we've got plenty of time. There is no need for any bravado no need for any unnecessary heroics. Let's just stick to basics. You know, let's, let's, let's get the first, first 10 runs, then the first 20 runs first 30 runs, the deficit is going to reduce all the time. And when the difference gets under 100. They'll start panicking. And that is exactly what happened. So we took it to stage by stage. You know, every time we got 10-20 runs, there was a milestone that we reached. And that's how I knew when I went in to bat that I would get around no problem at all. They had to stay with me somebody had to stay with me, you know.

Vijay: It hasn't struck you in the last few years. I mean, since 2008, you will have been a big big hit in the IPL with your flamboyance.

Farokh: They always tell me all my colleagues the delivery target on the I didn't play with my junior to it. But they all told me that was going to be one that you would have been by far the highest earner in IPL. We money never entered our heads. We played for the pride of play for India. And for the love of cricket. I just loved the game. I just loved cricket. You know and I thought playing for India is a huge bonus. We didn't get the money we got we got when we toured, we got I paid I played Test cricket at 250 rupees for a five-day test match 50 rupees a day we got and my seven I think so long. Some are batting Pataudi or someone I can't remember against New Zealand where we are winning. And we had about two hours or no we had about 45 minutes or an hour to get about 20 runs and the way we were going we could have easily finished the game on the fourth day. So all sorts of messages are coming from the dressing room. Don't finish the game today, we will lose our fifth day 50 rs. So we started blocking. You know, it was difficult not to get edges also start blocking some of our three or four and we left for the next day, what a cheer from the dressing room. And that we didn't finish the game that evening, because each player would have lost 50 rupees. Yes, those are the times nowadays. billionaire, they're just millionaires and multimillionaires, which I'm very happy with. What makes me happy is that guys from poor villages out of towns, another one is the rickshaw drivers, son, fast bowler. And the first thing he did was buy his parents a house. Yeah, you know, not when you hear stories like that, your heart bleeds, and you say I'm so glad that this guy's done this, his parents irrespective as parents and so that's the way it should be really you know? So I'm very happy that the bill is these days may they continue to add, but we never even thought about money. We had 50 rupees a day. And whenever people used to invite us for dinner in we used to get one pound a day when they toured England or so. And so people used to invite us for dinner to the homes. The wishes are not really can I come but can I bring three or four players along with me? Their allowances also. They also loved having cricket as well. One thing I remember in our time, especially with me and Pataudi we were invited to people like Dilip Mahmud, Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh, you know, some of the greats Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar to the homes for dinner. Yeah, you know, and they used to take a harmonium and play the songs, putting our names in the songs as well as a joke. And we had put out you should take a coin and play the tabla to music, completely murdering the music. But we used to enjoy to have a couple of drinks that I would love. And then I think after a while we used to say please bring the food as we are hungry. We had the opportunity of seeing these guys two-three feet from us. Yeah, playing for us only is you know, and now they're all when we hear those, you know, 60s 70s 80s music, nostalgic gazals and all that. I consider myself so lucky that we were actually there with them.

Vijay: Did you at any point get an offer to work in a film? I am sure you would have?

Farokh: Yes, I was offered a contract. But my dad was very quite strict. He was a doctor. My dad was a doctor by profession. And, of course, his name was Doctor engineer. But you don't see the funny side of it when you grew up, you know. My dad was captain of his grand medical college team, in Bombay, that he and my brother, my brother was Darius. These two were primarily instrumental in my career. My mother, I lost my mother at a very young age. So she never saw me play test cricket. And I just worship my parents you know with my God, I worship my parents everyday morning. And before I go to bed, you know what I say? I said, thank you. I just did thank you don't ask for anything. Thank you for all you've done for me because they sacrifice their lives to make me you know, somebody of me. My brother was a far better cricketer than I was. Darius, yeah, he played for Mysore. Ranji Trophy Captain them and all that. And university, he should have played Test cricket easily as a brilliant option and a batsman a brilliant all-rounder. But again, politics were in the way. So he got a bit fed up and went to England, and he was partly responsible for designing Heathrow and Gatwick airports. So highly skilled in his structural engineering. Yeah, very highly respected.

Vijay: I won't let you go before you tell us the Brylcreem story.

Farokh: Well, that came out of the blue. Brylcreem, there was one Dennis Compton from England who was double international soccer and football and absolutely the pinup boy of England. Another pinup boy, Australia was Keith Miller, nugget. You know, the most good-looking guy ever played cricket for Australia and all that. And these two are the two Brylcreem models and to be asked to be the third Brylcreem model, it's like being asked to be James Bond or something. You know, to be asked to be advertised Brylcreem was like being on the cover of Vogue magazine those days, which was the all world, saying, you know, when I couldn't believe it that they asked me, and throughout my career, I was a I was a Brylcreem. I never bought any other hair cream, you know, that was one of the conditions. Yeah. And they paid me. I think 500 pounds more if I played batted without a cap, which I did in any case, you know, I never wore a cap or a helmet while batting because it didn't suit me. Brylcreem loved that, you know, all these things. Yeah. And all my friends used to say, can you get me a bottle of Brylcreem because it was quite expensive. And my mom used to say, Where are we going to keep all the boxes of Brylcreem, so I used to reply, why only bottle, take the whole box. I never used any stuff but all my friends used those.

Vijay: When you miss India, what do you do?

Farokh: India is always in my heart. You know, over here, if I watch the BBC news, I make sure I watch NDTV or Republic news or you know, I want to keep in touch with what's happening in my country. At every moment in time. So India, I eat drink and sleep Indian. If anyone says one wrong word against India, or against of us Indians, I chew them up alive you know, Yeah, how dare you talk about my country like that? So we were all bloody Indians when we were playing. A lot of people are young and do not realise that you know, that I will be 84 on the 25th of February, in less than a month and I enjoyed every minute of my 84 years. You know, I just pray to god, that, you know, I am just beginning to get some heart problems and I had open-heart surgery shortly you know, but you know all these things are happening now, so I did enjoy every bit of my life and I would urge people to do the same because you never know when your number is called up, you know, with COVID, losing friends, losing relatives, is being so hard for all over the world, people all over the world, not really for us Indians but all over the world. So, you gotta look at life realistically and think that you know we are so lucky to be around.

Vijay: Any message for young Indian cricketers?

Farokh: Yes, be positive, think positive, think... be confident, don't let any of the guys put you down for no reason, they all are playing games to put you down and undermine your self-respect. Our self-respect is the most important thing. You know, look at them straight into the face and be proud, be proud Indians because we are a very proud nation.

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