By Gulu Ezekiel
Cricket is India is widely acknowledged as a quasi-religion and the one unifying force in the country.
Now two batting records, one by a pre-teen and another by a 60-plus grandfather have proved it also cuts across all generations.
He is named after Pakistan swing bowler Sarfraz Nawaz. But it is with his batting feats that 12-year-old Sarfaraz Khan has Mumbai’s cricket grapevine abuzz with excitement. And no wonder as he batted almost 10 hours to pile up 439 in a schools match last fortnight, the highest score by an Indian schoolboy.
Pic (right): Sarfaraz Khan, who scored 439, highest for an Indian schoolboy, with Sunil Gavaskar
It was in the Lord Harris Shield—named after the former England captain and Governor General of Bombay Presidency (now Mumbai) and founded in 1897—that Sachin Tendulkar first made the world of cricket sit up and take notice 21 years ago.
Tendulkar (326) combined with Vinod Kambli (349), featuring in a partnership worth 664 runs (unbroken) for the third wicket which was a world record for any wicket in all forms of cricket. He topped that with 346 not out in the same season and in less than two years, Tendulkar had made his Test debut.
Like millions of Indian schoolboys, Tendulkar is Sarfaraz’s hero too. “I admire him for all the centuries he has scored and because he has been so consistent for so many years.”
Meanwhile, in nearby Vadodara (formerly Baroda) in Gujarat state a 63-year-old was setting a record for the oldest century-maker in a cricket match.
Retired bank office Neville Wadia who now runs a school in Vadodara was 63 years and 305 days when he smashed 105 runs from just 60 balls for Waghodiya Road CC against Vradjdham Vadil Parivar in a local T-20 tournament on March 28.
It was his three sons and grandson who persuaded him to apply to the Guinness Book of World Records who got back to him seven months later with the certificate confirming it is a world record.
Though the certificate states it is a record for minor cricket (below first-class level), no batsman beyond their 50s has been known to score a century in first-class cricket either.
Wadia, a member of the tiny Parsi Zoroastrian community who were the pioneers of cricket in India, has now been playing cricket for exactly 50 years, including in the highly competitive Kanga League and Times Shield tournaments in Mumbai which are open to clubs and company teams.
Pic (right): Neville Wadia got 105 from 60 balls. He is 63.
Though they have a rich cricket history, the last Parsi to play for India was wicket-keeper Farokh Engineer in 1975. The tradition was however kept alive by England all-rounder Ronnie Irani in the 90s.
Ask Wadia the secret of his fitness and he insists it is all down to the “laughter therapy” which he and his wife practice. “I am a member of the International Laughter Club and my wife was voted ‘Laughter Queen’ in 2005’”, he says, and yes with a laugh.
So how long can Wadia continue playing competitive cricket? “By God’s grace, at least another 10 years. Meanwhile, I will continue giving free coaching in Vadodara including to my eight-year-old grandson.”
On the other end of the scale, young Sarfaraz has been setting ‘youngest’ records since he appeared as a 10-year-old in the Kanga League club tournament two years ago in which Tendulkar had also played at the age of 12. He first started playing with a plastic bat and ball when he was four.
His father is Naushad Khan who has made a name for himself in recent years as a coach in Mumbai.
The greats of Mumbai cricket from Vijay Merchant in the ‘30s to Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar and Tendulkar have all made their mark both in the Kanga League and the Harris Shield.
Sarfaraz’s 439 eclipsed the record set by the late Ramesh Nagdev who scored 427 not out in 1963-64. But goaded by his father, he claimed his first aim was to overtake Tendulkar’s triple tons. He did so with the aid of 56 boundaries and 12 sixes to become one of four quadruple centurions in the tournament, including India opener Wasim Jaffer with whom Sarfaraz likes to compare his powers of concentration. “My next ambition is to play in the Ranji Trophy” says the confident schoolboy.
Age-specific world records are nothing new in Indian cricket. The youngest to score a first-class century was Punjab’s Dhruv Pandove in the Ranji Trophy tournament at the age of 14 years and 10 months in 1988 having made 94 on his debut a year earlier. Tragically, he was killed in a road accident in 1992 when he was in the national reckoning.
And the oldest first-class cricketer of all time was Raja Maharaj Runwar Singh who captained Bombay Governor’s XI against a Commonwealth XI in November 1950 at the age of 75, dismissed by Jim Laker for 4 in his one and only innings. He took no further part in the match and was listed as ‘absent—ill’ in the second innings. The Maharaja passed away in 1959.
--The article was originally published on bbc.co.uk