He just keeps going on and on...
One of the delights of watching any series in England is to see Farokh Engineer on television.
We never got to watch him as a player on television, except now in those amazing journeys back down memory lane, where we get to see in action those players and those moments whom we followed with such passion by radio and newsprint and news photos.
Farokh Engineer, he still has that swagger, that bravado, that larger-than-life style – opinions on everything, and always expressed with the same enthusiasm with which he played the great game.
He was light-years ahead of his time; he had style – that swaggered, buttons open, collar up style – long before Tong Greig and Viv Richards made it popular. He did an ad campaign – Brylcream, before Dhoni was born, he batted with complete abandon before even the one-day game had been dreamed of in India. He made England his playing home when just to get to England was a miracle – he played for India while playing very little domestic cricket, in the era where to play Ranji Trophy was the rule and when he stumped someone, especially if it was Alan Knott, he led the whole stadium know of his magic.
His stats are not bad – 46 Tests, 2611 runs, 31.08 average, 2 centuries and 16 fifties, 66 catches and 16 stumpings – and remember, he displaced the wonderful Budhi Kunderan as the India keeper, and held off the equally wonderful Syed Kirmani.
He usually opened, often with Gavaskar -- and they were a study in contrast – both from Bombay, but one a cavalier, the other an artistic craftsman.
And as a keeper, he along with Venkat, Abid Ali, and the unbelievable Eknath Solkar (who by the way, has the best average of catches per Test of any player with more than fifty catches) – with Wadekar thrown in at slip – formed that close-in net for our spinners which fetched them so many wickets. My favourite sight was to watch Bedi flowing in, and the aforementioned crouched around the bat.
Bedi would hitch us his wrist-bracelet, begin to amble in, and then, as if on cue, the fielders would crouch down; Farokh like a band-master, bigger than the rest, and the last to crouch.
The ball would curve in through the air like a bemused butterfly, and upon pitching, would suddenly leap like a snake, and batsman after batsman would prod forward in wonder, only have the butterfly kiss the edge of the bat, and return to the cocoon of one of the fielder’s hands, or Engineer’s gloves...
In five ODI’s, including the first World Cup of ’75, Engineer averaged 38.00 – a fair hint of what he would have done in today’s’ cricketing world –
But, above all, Engineer was, is, a character.
Feroze Shah Kotla, the winter of ’74, India vs. West Indies. Parthsarthy Sharma’s debut Test -- Engineer and he are batting together. A study in contrast, Engineer at the non-striking end; last ball of the over, Sharma wants a single... Engineer refuses to move. Sharma run out, not a gesture or a nod from Engineer. This was Farokh – he wanted to get on with the game – and Sharma was not giving him the chance he wanted.
(I decided to check this moment out, and not reply simply on my emotional recall – there it is – Sharma run out in the second innings for 49, having made 54 in the first innings – but his scoring rate was not that bad – 49 off of 115 balls – of course, Engineer scored 75 off of 121) –
Farokh Engineer, they don’t make them like him anymore...