MUMBAI: Mehli Irani, a popular wicketkeeper-batsman, who played for 50 years in the Kanga League for Parsee Cyclists, passed away on Saturday at the age of 91 in Dubai. Irani, who also played for Bombay Gymkhana, featured in four First-Class matches, including in one Ranji Trophy match for Mumbai (Bombay vs Baroda, December 1953).
“He and his wife, Dhanu aunty, had shifted to Dubai since the last three months to be with one of his two daughters. I last met him in Dubai in December 2020,” said Nadeem Memon, an MCA Apex Council member and veteran curator, who helped Irani a lot through the past few years. Mehli’s funeral was held in Dubai on Sunday.
Many famous former Test cricketers, Nari Contractor, Farokh Engineer, Karsan Ghavri and Ghulam Parkar played under Mehli’s captaincy for Parsee Cyclists. “We played a lot of cricket together. He was my captain in college (St Xavier’s) and (Bombay) University. When I quit as captain of the Parsee Cyclists, he took over from me. We had a strong association. He enjoyed his cricket. He never moaned over defeats, and took things in the right spirit. In 1952, we (Bombay University) won the Rohinton Baria Trophy under his captaincy, beating Delhi in the final in Bangalore. It was a one-month long tour, and the most enjoyable tour of my life,” Contractor said.
“We played against each other for a number of years. I was in Ruia College, and he was in St Xavier’s. Later, he used to play for Parsee Cyclists, and I used to represent Shivaji Park. We used to have tough duels in the Kanga League and Purshottam Shield. He was a very good lefthanded batsman, who would consistently score runs. Later in his career, he started keeping wickets for the Parsee Cyclists as with Engineer around earlier, he wouldn’t get a chance to do so,” said former India wicketkeeper-batsman Chandu Patankar.
“Unfortunately, because the standard of Mumbai cricket was so high in those days, he could play in only one Ranji match (he scored 17 in that game). In today’s times, he would have played much more. Mehli was a typical Parsee— a very lively, knowledgeable and friendly person,” Patankar summed up. In his book, ‘My innings in Mumbai cricket,’ former Mumbai cricketer and Mumbai under-22 coach Vilas Godbole has written a chapter on Irani. “He used to keep wickets even after 60. The beauty about his wicketkeeping was that he would stand close to the stumps even for the fast bowlers. He had lightning reflexes and was a man of jokes and anecdotes,” Godbole reminisced.