Hyderabad: In days when batting through the length of the innings in a 50-over match is considered commendable, here is a 66-year-old who has been battling opponents on Hyderabad’s cricket fields for 50 years. Meet Noshir Mehta, superfit and game for cricket any day.The pre-match ceremony between his current club Roshanara and Hyderabad Panthers on Sunday at the Gymkhana grounds was an emotional one for the sprightly senior. “This is where it all started in 1964 when I turned up for the Secunderabad Union Cricket Club as a 16-year-old, against M. L. Jaisimha’s mighty MCC Marredpally Cricket Club. I got one wicket, and to do that against Jai’s team was quite an honour,” the gentleman recalled.
Noshir started off as a fast bowler before turning to off-spin, which would later fetch him wickets by the bucket at various levels of the game. “Someone told my Dad (late Sorabji Rustomji Mehta, affectionately known as Soli, a member of the Hyderabad team that won the Ranji Trophy for the first time in 1937-38) that I was locking up my legs after delivery,” he explained the switch.
“Off-spin worked wonders for me. I started taking wickets in excess of five per game frequently, one such haul of seven was against my Dad’s team, the AP Police,” Noshir laughs, adding, “Those days we had just 15 teams in Divisions A and B.”Now there are 216 clubs in multiple divisions and Noshir has turned up for SUCC, State Bank of Hyderabad, MP Youths, Secunderabad Club and Roshanara.
Noshir went on to represent Hyderabad in the various age group sides and Ranji Trophy, played for South Zone in the Duleep Trophy and was part of the Rest of India side for the Irani Trophy between 1967 and 1977. Yesteryear players and officials regard him as the finest Hyderabad cricketer not to have played for India. They point his bad luck to playing in the era of legendary off-spinners S. Venkatraghavan and EAS Prasanna. Noshir came close to Test selection in 1971 though. “I was the first standby for India’s tours to England and West Indies that year,” he informs with a tinge of disappointment.
Noshir also rues not winning the Ranji Trophy like his father did for Hyderabad. “We made the semifinals thrice and took the first innings lead on two occasions, but unfortunately couldn’t push ahead,” he says about the misses.He found his Miss Right though, courtesy the Gentleman’s game. “I met my wife during one of the matches and I am thankful to cricket for that,” he smiles. Apart from bowling a maiden called Yasmin over, Noshir’s other high is getting Indian batting hero Sunil Gavaskar’s wicket in a Ranji Trophy game against Bombay.
“He played forward defence to a floater only to see his off-stump rattled,” Noshir beams.How does the veteran keep himself fit? “I play three sets of tennis every day and on cricket match days, am on the court for at least a set,” he says. Hyderabad veteran Vijay Mohan Raj summed up the sexagenarian’s spirit nicely. “The reason why Noshir has been playing for 50 years is because after 16, he did not grow.” How we’d all love to be in those envious shoes Sweet 16 forever!...