Walter D’Souza demonstrates a leg-side shot on Tuesday. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
The news of Gujarat dominating Mumbai on the opening day of the ongoing Ranji Trophy final produced just the kind of warmth a near 90-year-old body needs to make a winter evening more pleasant.
Middle order batsman Walter D’Souza, one of two surviving members of the Gujarat team (Jyotindra Shodhan is the other) who figured in their first ever Ranji final against Holkar at Indore in 1950-51, was chuffed when told that Gujarat had restricted Mumbai to a low score. “202 for seven?” he asked more than once in sheer delight and with clenched wrists.
He lives in Khar, but spent his childhood in Baroda and Ahmedabad where he took to cricket “just as a pastime” after excelling in athletics. He wasn’t coached.
D’Souza, who claims to be the first Goan to play in the Ranji Trophy, has played with and against the cream of Indian cricket — Vinoo Mankad, Polly Umrigar in the same Gujarat team — and legends like CK Nayudu and Mushtaq Ali in the opposition.
D’Souza is a true cricketing gentleman, who swears by old values. “Life is a gesture of good feelings. Be straight forward, honest and humble,” is his mantra. He was one of Gujarat’s important performers with the bat in the 1950-51 final. “Fifty and 77.” He remembers his scores in that season finale which was won by hosts Holkar by 189 runs. He also hasn’t forgotten Jasu Patel (better known for his off-spin which helped India beat Australia in a Test for the very first time in 1959-60), who scored a whirlwind 152 at No. 10 in the fourth innings of the game.
“When I got out for 77, CK kept on clapping till I reached halfway to the pavilion. I will never ever forget that gesture and the time he spent with me when I asked him for some batting advice. He was a great man, yet a simple soul. I liked playing the cut shot, but CK said I can’t do so every second ball. His advice was sound,” he said.
D’Souza fancied his chances for a higher grade of cricket. “I think I had good enough scores to be considered for the All India team. I was a good fielder too, thanks to my success in 100m sprints and I could throw accurately from the deep. But there was too much favouritism. Bombay players got a lot of preference and it was difficult to beat that. Many of our players deserved more opportunities. Deepak Shodhan scored a hundred on Test debut and he only played three Tests. Jasu, a brilliant off-spinner, figured in only.....