Arzan Nagwaswalla is the youngest member of the well-populated Parsi community in the village of Nargal, situated a few kilometers from the border town of Umbergaon in Gujarat. In fact, he’s the only one of his entire generation who’s stayed back. The rest, he reveals, left for the greener pastures of Mumbai a long time ago.
Nagwaswalla’s reason to not follow suit was his cricket. It’s a sport that the left-arm medium-pacer had picked up at an early age from his elder brother Vispi. It’s a sport that his community once dominated and pioneered in the country before losing ground to such an extent that Parsis in cricket became a misnomer.
Nagwaswalla’s decision to stay put paid dividends as he emerged rapidly through the junior ranks in Gujarat. And then on Wednesday, he landed up in a city, where Parsis incidentally once held major sway over what was their sport, to send back half the Mumbai batting line-up on Day One.
Though the 21-year-old’s maiden five-wicket haul in first-class cricket did put the hosts in a spot of bother, it took a starry performance by all-rounder Shivam Dubey, another rare species—in an Indian cricket context anyway—to help Mumbai pull things back towards the end of the day.
Dubey’s 128-ball 110, which came on the back of a seven-wicket haul last week against Karnataka, took Mumbai’s total to 297, a score that would count as competitive considering it languished at one stage on 74/5.The highest point in cricket for Nagwaswalla, Bawa to his teammates for obvious reasons, before his Wankhede performance came a couple of years ago, in Mumbai itself. It was when he won a slew of awards in the Late Maneck Golvala T10 cricket tournament, which were presented to him by Bollywood actor and fellow Parsi, Boman Irani.
“I’m going to frame that picture in my house and will cherish this moment all my life,” he’d told the Parsi Times on that occasion. Running through Mumbai’s middle-order certainly is likely to challenge that “moment” in terms of significance, you would believe.
It was only Nagwaswalla’s third first-class match to boot, and by the time he got his chance with the ball, fellow left-armer Roosh Kalaria had already knocked over the Mumbai openers with an impressive spell of seam bowling. There was movement in the air and off the Wankhede pitch, and Kalaria exploited it to the fullest, bringing the ball back in sharply to the right-handers.
Nagaswalla started in a similar vein, but being slightly slower than Kalaria, didn’t create the same impact as Siddhesh Lad and Suryakumar Yadav steadied the ship. He then shortened his length smartly to have Yadav caught at fine-leg off an attempted pull-shot. Later in the day, he would use the short ball smartly to get rid of Lad—for a well-made 62—and Dhrumil Matkar following a strokeful 47. But his second and third scalps on Wednesday is what will stand out.
They came in the same over, as he got Arman Jaffer and Aditya Tare, edging and getting caught in the slip region. He used the over-the-wicket angle and the subsequent away movement smartly to get both right-handers squared up, and it was this spell that broke Mumbai’s back.
Then in walked Dubey. There’s a little bit of Yuvraj Singh in the tall left-hander’s batting style. It comes through in the accentuated back-lift, and the follow-through once he’s struck the ball, especially when straight down the wicket. It certainly shows up whenever he opens up his stance slightly and air-lifts the medium-pacers straight over the heads towards or over the sight-screen. Dubey did so repeatedly on Wednesday, despite the perilous position his team was in when he walked out to bat.
Dubey had scored a century against Railways two matches ago, but that had come in less trying conditions.Here, the stroke-maker decided to stick to his guns, and keep playing his shots.
And his aggression not only kept the scoreboard on the go, it also made the Gujarat bowlers change their lengths. Despite the ball still moving off the wicket, they now started bowling shorter, but unlike some of his colleagues,
Dubey refrained from playing the pull shot, in his innings that was studded with six sixes, most of which came in the arc between long-off and long-on.
The Lad-Dubey stand brought a semblance of stability to the Mumbai innings before captain Dhawal Kulkarni and Matkar provided enough assistance to Dubey as he powered through. Matkar’s assault, which included a couple of Dubey-esque straight sixes, threatened to help Mumbai edge ahead in terms of momentum.
But it was Nagwaswalla who came back to put an end to it, on a day a Parsi dominated Mumbai in Mumbai, to rekindle one of Indian cricket’s oldest love affairs.
(Brief Scores: Mumbai 297 all out (Shivam Dubey 110, Siddesh Lad 62, Arzan Nagwaswalla 5-78) versus Gujarat)