Getting from 94 to 100 with a six after lunch, hitting the first two balls on Test debut for boundaries, facing Hall and Gilchrist as a 16-year-old and scoring 20-something out of a total of 30-odd all-out, creating a redoubtable combination with Brian Statham for Lancashire ...the tales Farokh Engineer recounts with his ever-increasing indulgence for the tall story can often lead self-respecting volumes of Wisden to desperate acts of self-destruction.
He belongs to that bygone age of innocence and bluster, when cricket scorecards were locked up in difficult to access shelves of exclusive libraries, when the numerous layers of hyperbole could not be separated from mortal deeds with a couple of mouse-clicks.
Yes, he is indeed the assiduous chronicler's nightmare and fact checks may result in utter and complete disillusion (For example the duck [not 20-odd] as a 20-year-old [not 16] in a total of 49 [not 30-odd] for Indian Universities against Hall and Gilchrist; a sum-total of 10 catches off Statham in one solitary overlapping season of 1968 during which the great bowler was both over the hill and irregular ... and so forth).
That leads one to wonder whether he was really there with Tony Greig and Hylton Ackerman when Don Bradman received them at the airport, or even whether he really does not need a particular medication for certain activities he claims to perform even now...
But no one can deny that Engineer was a fantastic wicketkeeper-batsman in his day, and his deeds, even when not amplified to those incredible levels, remain quite impressive.
Engineer not only served India with distinction, keeping to the legendary spin unit and often opening the batting, he also played for the Rest of the World teams in the early 1970s and represented Lancashire for 9 seasons. Agile behind the stumps and flamboyant in front, he was one of the colourful characters of the game.
Farokh Engineer was born on February 25, 1938.
Text: Arunabha Sengupta