Former statistician Anandji Dossa knows all about the nervous nineties in cricket. Having documented them for a good part of his life in ledgers and
scorebooks, he seems to be doing well while facing up to those figures it in real life. He turns 96 today.
I met him with veteran journalist GK ‘George’ Menon on Thursday. His eyesight and hearing are not perfect, but he can move around. When Menon asked him whether he was in the reserves for Hindus in 1942, Dossa was quick to clarify, “not 1942… 1941.” Not many 96-year-olds will remember something that happened 71 years ago. Not only is Dossa one of a kind, he is also one of the kindest souls you would find in cricket.
Apart from helping journalists over the years with facts in the pre-internet days to writing letters of appreciation to young cricketers, Dossa has done it all — donating his entire book collection to the Cricket Club of India. Other institutions not only availed of his generosity, but also hard work… the Mumbai Cricket Association, the HD Kanga Library and League, the BCCI (as official statistician) and Jolly Cricketers. According to Vasant Raiji in the book Tributes to Anandji Dossa: “On the field, the club (Jolly Cricketers) had several talented players, off it, it was a one-man show.”
Turning 96 is no big deal for Dossa. Telling him that he is one boundary away from a century doesn’t get him to smile. But he’s glad to reveal the reason for his long life: “Good friends.” A group of them will throw a party for him near his Ghatkopar home to celebrate their champion’s birthday. MiD DAY spoke to Dossa on Thursday evening.
How it all began...
My family had gone to Simla for a holiday in 1932. One day, I came across a newspaper clipping which reported on J Naomal’s century against Middlesex. I felt proud that an Indian cricketer had scored a hundred in England and I started following cricket. That clipping is in one my scrap books at the Cricket Club of India.
I was a reserve wicketkeeper for Hindus (Bombay Pentangulars in 1941) and the Mumbai (Ranji Trophy 1947-48). I couldn’t break into the team. DD Hindlekar and Madhav Mantri (respectively) were the regular ’keepers. I have no regrets over not getting a chance. They were better cricketers.
That day at Bombay Gym
I happened to be in the commentary box for a match at the Bombay Gymkhana in the 1950s. I provided some useful information to the commentators something that pleased Vijay Merchant. He made me a regular at the box after that.
Once, commentator Pearson Surita asked me for a break up of Pankaj Roy’s runs scored with and without his spectacles. To his surprise, I had the statistics. I used to prepare for a match. Vijay Merchant used to surprise me with his questions at times. For example, once he asked me how many catches Eknath Solkar had taken at short leg. I had the details.
My last Test as statistician was the 1972-73 India vs England game at Brabourne Stadium. It was Bobby Talyarkhan’s last Test too as guest commentator. They refused to let me retire when I wanted to. They insisted that I give them a substitute. I am glad Sudhir Vaidya, who came after me, did so well.
Have friends, live long
Good friends have kept me going. If you don’t have good friends, it plays on your mind. I have plenty of well wishers. I must thank them all for my long life.
Vijaybhai and me
I was close to Vijay Merchant. When he was chairman I told him that Ashok Mankad would be a good captain. But he picked Ajit Wadekar.
Gavaskar and Sardesai
I have high regards for Sunil Gavaskar. I was delighted to provide statistics for his book Sunny Days. Once I was at the Cricket Club of India and Gavaskar was sitting with some friends. He somehow spotted me and came all the way to say hello. I was touched. After all, Gavaskar was a great cricketer.
Dilip Sardesai used to call me often to keep track of his scores and aggregates. He used to always enquire about averages of other batsmen too.
Don’t penalise bowlers for overthrows
I cannot understand why overthrows are credited to the batsmen. They have not scored those runs. Also, why should the runs conceded through overthrows be added in the bowlers’ analysis? Why should they be penalised? The law makers should look into this and runs gained through over throws should come in the Extras column.
A Pakistani played for India
Jamshed Irani was settled in Pakistan when he went with the Indian team under Lala Amarnath to Australia in 1947-48. He played two Tests in Australia and never played again.
T20… just not cricket
I don’t keep in touch with cricket. I watch it on television only sometimes. I know about T20 cricket. I get the feeling it is not cricket…just slogging.