Vasoo Paranjape loved a strong cup of South Indian filter coffee at the Indian Gymkhana; taking a leisurely stroll from his family home at Ganesh Bhavan in Matunga, passing by the Post Office, flower market, the South Indian Bhajan Samaj and Shankar Mutt.
According to Satyamurthy – who has been Vasoo’s family friend for nearly eight decades and a cricket nut himself – he was a one-man cricketing institution.
Satyamurthy said whenever he felt like calling friends to the Indian Gymkhana, he would call Vasoo and Madhav Apte. “Both were institutions. And both were gentlemen. Inevitably (between the 1960s and 1980s) Krishnan would join us because both worked for the Tatas. Vasoo would go for the filter coffee, and on occasions for piping hot idlis. Then we would chat about cricket. But Vasoo had other interests. He was into music, knew Lata (Mangeshkar) very well. He was a damn good bridge player at the Matunga Gymkhana.
“He would always tell me not to disturb him when he was at the table, playing bridge. I met him last before COVID struck last year. Another friend Kannan (who is no more) joined us. Vasoo had come out of his building for a fag. He told me he could not give it up. Vasoo democratised Dadar Union. He said everything should be open for discussion. He was a good friend. Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar grew under him at Dadar Union,” Satyamurthy reminisced about his old friend, who passed away on Monday, at the age of 82.
Vasoo not only played the game or coached youngsters, he also read a lot about cricket. “He was a great institution. I have sent a message to Lalita (Vasoo’s wife) expressing my condolences to the lovely Paranjape family. I and Lalita taught English at the Indo-American Society in the early 1960s,” said Satyamurthy.
Chandu Borde, Ajit Wadeker, Bapu Nadkarni and Vasoo Paranjape during a book launch in 2014. – PTI
During the long conversation with Satyamurthy – a noted club cricketer from the 1960s and beyond – it emerged that Vasoo, a follower of Australian cricket and Don Bradman, imitated Sir Frank Worrell. “I knew Vasoo from the days he went to King George and I to English High School. That was in the 1950s. I was outside the ground when he walked out of a school match saying that the rival school was fielding over-aged players. He became controversial. But the school principal was at hand to order him to go back and play. We became friends much later.”
Satyamurthy revealed an incident when he and Vasoo bought tickets for the match between the Cricket Club of India and the Commonwealth XI at the Brabourne Stadium in October 1953. “It was raining and we were standing close to the Governor’s Pavilion. We were looking at Worrell talking to a few film actors. He looked at us and waved, wanting to find out what we wanted. We gestured that we wanted his autograph. We could not go towards him because of a barricade. He sent an attendant who took a piece of paper in which Worrell signed saying “to my Indian friends.”
Vasoo Paranjape has coached several teams in his long career. – The Hindu
“Then onwards, Vasoo did everything as Worrell did, wearing the kerchief around his neck, walking on the field and throwing the ball. I told this to Lalita. One can go on talking about Vasoo. He used to write a feature for Sport and Pastime and also a cricket coaching column. He was a terrific institution,” said Satyamurthy.
Vasoo was known – apart from his coaching many teams like Bombay, India under 19, India and Maharashtra, at the NCA with Hanumant Singh – as a fantastic raconteur.
Former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar who called on Vasoo four days ago said: “Vasoo was amazing at Dadar Union. It was the best time for any cricketer to play for Dadar Union team under Vasoo Paranjape as captain. It was the ultimate thing, to play under him. Cricketers would die for it. He was not only a great motivator, an excellent captain, but he also had a tremendous sense of humour. I used to look forward to playing for Dadar Union every weekend. We kept winning all the time.”
Recalling his nascent years in Bombay’s club cricket, Vengsarkar said: ” My first years with him was in 1973-74, I was only 16 years old. We won the Kanga League for five years in a row from 1973 to 1977. I played many matches under Vasoo. When I was the captain of Bombay, he was the coach, and also when Sachin Tendulkar was inducted into the Bombay team. When we played the 1987 Reliance World Cup, Vasoo was the coach of the Indian team camp in New Delhi. He was also the coach of the India under -19 team.”
Vengsarkar went on to say that Vasoo was very witty. “There was a one liner from him virtually every minute when Dadar Union was fielding. His one liners were legendary and that made us laugh. He was the only player who owned a Fiat caer and he used to pick me up, Vithal “Marshal” Patil, Urmikant Modi and Jitendra Bhuta and sometimes, Milind Rege on the way, when we had to go to other places for matches. He was a huge fan of Don Bradman, he would talk about him all the time. “
Chandu Patankar, who has played one Test and has known Vasoo from the 1950s said: ” I knew he was not well. Vasoo was a nice cricketer, very helpful, a good coach and a good friend. We played together for many years. We worked together at Lakshmi Vishnu Mills. He was a straight forward fellow. He had good knowledge of the game. He was a great follower of Don Bradman and Lata Mangeshkar. They were his idols. He was witty. He would rarely talk to a cricketer about technique. He will tell them to play in other ways and in a witty way. He was at the NCA with Hanumant Singh. He was the main person at Dadar Union after Madhav Mantri.”
Vasoo Paranjape was the coach of the India U-19 team during the 1988 World Cup. Narendra Hirwani, M. Senthilnathan, Venkatapathy Raju, Nayan Mongia, Subroto Banerjee, Ranjib Biswal and Pravin Amre were some of the top players in the team. – The Hindu
Patankar said that Vasoo was a good fielder and he used to be in the reserves of the Bombay team. “There was a match (in 1964 at Baroda) when he scored a century against Baroda. Manohar Hardikar and Vasoo were batting and Vijay Hazare was watching the game. At tea time, Hardikar asked Hazare to comment about Vasoo’s batting. Hazare said he (Vasoo) batted well only in the last over before tea because he defended well. Hazare does not like rash strokes and Vasoo used to play, on occasions, rash shots hitting the ball all over. Hardikar had told Vasoo that it was the last over before tea and that he should play safe.”
“We did not have a party without Vasoo at Madhav Apte’s place from the 1970s to 1990s. He was my nephew’s classmate at King George. And like my nephew, he called me Chandu Mama. He was probably eight years old then. He was the one who used to call Gavaskar, Sunny. He gave nicknames to teammates at Dadar Union.”
Mumbai cricket has lost a man who changed the ethos of cricket at Dadar Union, shaped the careers of Gavaskar and Vengsarkar, and was the livewire of parties at cricketing events and elsewhere. His life revolved around cricket.