It is generally said that test cricket is real test of any nation and its players. One needs to show a lot of patience and courage to get positive results. Watching and appreciating test cricket also requires cool mind. In the eyes of many cricket lovers, the slow and boring atmosphere of tests led to disinterest towards cricket as people wanted variety and entertainment.
Careful analysis of test matches reveals that not all players were slow scorers, there were many who played test cricket in one day style, they were fast scorers and also provided wholesome entertainment. Younger Indian generations of last 3 decades, who have grown up on diet of one day cricket, will hardly believe that in 60’s and 70’s, there was a wonderful player who was equal to any great player of one day era. Such was his style and attitude. He is known by the name Farokh Engineer. In fact he was predecessor of great one day players like Sehwag, Shrikant, Yuvraj Singh, in Indian cricket.
Engineer also had this ability to hit the ball from first over of the match, though in the process got out few times, but compensated in next match. He enjoyed playing his game and in the process entertained cricket lovers too. Most of his biographic details are available in various publications but just to refresh, born and brought up in Bombay, which was and still is nursery of Indian cricket.
It is not out of question to mention that he represented the long chain of Parsee cricketers who brought laurels for the country. This community played pioneering role in establishment of game firmly in India. He made his test debut against England in Kanpur in 1961, played his last test against West Indies in 1975. He also played few ODI games including matches of Ist world cup in 1975. But his 46 test matches, 2000 runs, 2 centuries,16 fifties, catches and stumping dismissals hardly describe his immense contribution to India cricket.
His presence in team as wicket keeper batsman, meant the selectors had option of including extra player in team as bowler or batsman. His presence on the field meant a personality always helping junior players, cheering up fellow players, motivating bowlers. Great opener Gavaskar has vividly described on field activities of Engineer. There never was any dull moment. He did not take sledging of foreign teams lightly, he also replied with strong words with the result that Tony Greig once called him one man orchestra on cricket field. We all know he played with out helmet, batting fearlessly against best bowling. His style had adaptability, he was equally at ease on any wicket, the flat one, green top or the spiteful turner. Fast bowlers never worried him, spinners never influenced him. His playing statistics are well known, it is time to remember his memorable innings, The knock which comes to mind first is his batting against West Indies In 1966 at Madras. They were world champions, with most menacing pair of fast bowlers Hall and Griffith.
Farokh Engineer started batting in one day style and almost completed century before lunch, he was 94 not out, he did complete his hundred. This inning sent a message that the West Indies were not invincible and could be thrashed. Then who can forget his partnership with Wadekar & Hanumant Singh in Leeds test against England in 1967. This rear guard action followed by century of Mansur Ali Pataudi led to India averting innings defeat. In the process, India became one of few teams in world at that time who scored 500 plus runs in second innings after being asked to follow on. Once Engineer also scored run a ball century in an unofficial test against CEYLON (old name of SRI LANKA). Actually his fast batting gave captains many options of declarations and improved winning chances. If cricket lovers decide to select the all time best One Day team for India, then name of Engineer shall always be included in first playing XI. Because of his talent he was also the first choice wicket keeper, when ICC announced Rest of World XI in 1970, 1972.These XI played official test series against England and Australia when the tour of South Africa cricket teams to above countries were cancelled.
Another important contribution of Engineer to Indian cricket in 60’s,70’s was his out standing work behind stumps to the bowling of Indian spinner quartet- Bedi, Prasanna, Venkat Raghvan and Chandrasekhar. It is said that among all Indian wicket keepers Engineer understood best the bowling of spinners, and part credit for success of Indian spinners should also be given to Farokh Engineer.
Farokh Engineer playing for Lancashire in English county game
Looking to his aggressive approach to batting during cricket tour of England in 1967, English county Lancashire offered him playing contract which he accepted and played with them from 1968-1976. During that period county was captained by great Clive Lloyd. In this period Lancashire also won many limited over tournaments popular in those days viz. Gillette cup, Benson Hedges cup to name the few. Due to above professional commitments he made England his home, and could be available in India for tests only during 70’s.
Farokh Engineer with his wife Julie in 2012.
The personality of Engineer had other dimensions too. He was bracketed by cricket lovers in a group of Indian cricketers who were known as handsome cricketers. Endowed by good looks he received modeling assignments, there by becoming perhaps the first Indian sports person to enter the field of commercial endorsements. Thanks to you Farokh Engineer for giving us memorable cricket moments.
By Rakesh Giri Goswami
Images are author’s self-contribution.