Former Gujarat middle order batsman and off-spinner, Walter D’Souza being introduced to 2016-17 Ranji Trophy-winning skipper Parthiv Patel by team coach Vijay Patel, after Day Four of the Irani Cup against Rest of India at Brabourne Stadium yesterday.  Pic/Suresh Karkera

Ninety-year-old Walter D’Souza’s afternoons are spent resting. But he was happy to lose his sleep to be at the Cricket Club of India (CCI) yesterday.

The former Gujarat batsman was at the Brabourne Stadium to congratulate the Gujarat players for their recent Ranji Trophy triumph. However, they were on the field trying to get through the broad blades of Rest of India’s Cheteshwar Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha in the Irani Cup. D’Souza figured in Gujarat’s maiden Ranji Trophy final — against the formidable Holkar team at Indore — in 1951. He and Jyotindra Shodhan (92) are the only surviving members of that team which lost the final by 189 runs.

Walter D’Souza in the Gujarat players’ enclosure with the Irani Cup in front of him at the Cricket Club of India yesterday

Special invitee
Through the efforts of former Gujarat Cricket Association Jt Secretary Hitesh Patel, an invitation to be with the team was extended to D’Souza by Gujarat coach Vijay Patel. Vijay left his seat near the dressing room and arrived at the CCI reception area to receive D’Souza, who was accompanied by his daughter Marina Rebello in the post-tea session of the match.

With her dad entrenched in cricket talk near the dressing room, Marina sat near the card tables, watching her first cricket match from close range. She also had the pleasure of seeing her father on a television set at the club.

In the players’ enclosure, D’Souza chatted with Vijay and Prof Ratnakar Shetty, (BCCI’s General Manager, Game Development). “It was a pleasure talking to these gentleman. I stressed to Vijay how sportsmanship should be drilled into the youngsters. I gave him an example of how I hooked a ball from a Services bowler and was caught at first slip during the semi-final of the 1950-51 Ranji Trophy at Ahmedabad. The umpire had not given me out, but I walked. I was scolded by one of the Gujarat administrators for walking, but I told him, I was out and that was the only fair thing to do,” said D’Souza.

The best part of D’Souza’s visit was when he met the Gujarat team on the turf after the day’s play. He was introduced to each member of the team and when it came to the captain, D’Souza told Parthiv, “I told a journalist that you had the guts and ability to win the Ranji Trophy final and you proved me right. Well done.”

‘Fight till the end’
D’Souza knew fully well that Gujarat were not favourites to clinch the Irani Cup due to the batting brilliance of Pujara and Saha, but he urged the team to fight till the end.

And as he left the hallowed Brabourne Stadium turf for his Khar residence, he told Vijay: “I am very proud to have played for Gujarat. We don’t want anything, but keep in touch.”

Come to think of it, Gujarat did well yesterday. They made an old, unheralded, probably forgotten cricketer, feel like a kid in a candy store.