‘Cricket Drona’ review: A guiding force of cricket

Coach Vasoo Paranjape held a mirror to players ranging from Sunil Gavaskar to Rohit Sharma and made them understand their game better

Cricket is split into binaries — runs and wickets or triumphs and defeats. But the game, harking back to shepherds hitting a ball with a log in ancient Britain, has infinite layers. Among its charms is the former cricketer, who turns mentor blending zest and grandfatherly warmth.

Vasoo Paranjape of the old Bombay cricketing school is one such gentleman. Paranjape has been associated with the sport, both as a First-Class player and then as a coach besides being the guiding force behind Dadar Union, a club that had luminaries such as Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar.

However, selfless men like Paranjape never get attention and it is that flaw which gets rectified through Cricket Drona, a book penned by his son and former India cricketer Jatin Paranjape along with cricket writer Anand Vasu. The tome works at two levels, as a tribute to a father and as a reflection of a seasoned journalist’s doggedness in getting many stars to describe their association with Paranjape Senior.

Tributes from greats

The book features many cricketers and a few veteran journalists speaking about Paranjape and he returns the favour with most of them, dwelling upon what he saw, be it a Gavaskar or a Rohit Sharma. And the greats of Indian cricket ranging from Sachin Tendulkar to Anil Kumble are present across these 194 pages.

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“Everything, even poetry, reminds me of cricket,” Jatin writes and the all-encompassing nature of this particular sport is weaved into the subsequent pages with Anand being the eager chronicler, meeting players, transcribing tapes and adding his light touch.

Early in his foreword, Gavaskar observes: “He (Paranjape) had the wonderful ability to spot some error and communicate it to you in a direct but humorous way.” This gentle demeanour finds reiteration as other cricketers too vouch for Paranjape’s ability to hold a mirror and make them understand themselves.

Tendulkar discloses how Paranjape put in a word with the late Raj Singh Dungarpur ahead of India’s tour of Pakistan in 1989 and the rest is history. Paranjape was his own man and Sanjay Manjrekar underlines this attribute: “While Vasoo was a lover of cricket and of cricketers, he was never touched by sycophancy.” There are some remarkable lines of introspection about cricket and Rahul Dravid says: “If you are a coach you have to think about how to keep people in the game — if not as players, then as spectators, as consumers of the game.”

There are nuggets too like Rohit asking Jatin about any observations from Paranjape Senior, Kumble speaking about a letter he wrote to his coach and off-spinner Ramesh Powar crying while mentioning that he owes everything to his mentor.

This book is an exercise in gratitude and the quibbles are restricted to a printer’s devil (sLord’s) and an inaccuracy — there is a line about Gavaskar’s last tour of Australia in 1980-81. The legendary opener did visit Australia again in the mid-1980s. This is a fine book about a man, who at 81, still believes in passing on knowledge while shunning the limelight.

Cricket Drona; Jatin Paranjape, Anand Vasu, Penguin/Ebury Press, ₹499.

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