By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | January 08, 2018

Boman Irani at the Wankhede

You can count on Boman Irani to turn up for any events for kids, without batting an eyelid. When a call went out to him to be a part of the Toss for the final of the Giles Shield Cricket Tournament at the Wankhede Stadium, he immediately agreed. “I will be there for 30 minutes,” he said.

“Let’s leave at 8 am,” he insisted since the toss was at 9 am. On the other hand, the organisers did not want him to come in too early. Boman Irani was adamant: “Toss can’t be delayed,” he simply stated.

We reached much before time but the boys and the band were ready. The Anjuman Islam school band belted out the welcome before saluting Boman, who then went to inspect the pitch and started regaling the officials present with his anecdotes of cricket. It went from Alvin Kallicharan to Brijesh Patel to Clive Lloyd to the many matches he watched ‘live’ at the Wankhede Stadium as a kid. He also regaled the officials with anecdotes from a celebrity match where he was made to run from Third Man to Third Man after every over by Aamir Khan who was hell-bent on winning the match!

The photographer eyes an eyesore!

For the Toss, he walked to the centre of the pitch with the Don Bosco (Matunga) and Rizvi Springfield school captains along with the umpires. Don Bosco captain called ‘Tails’. ‘Heads’ it was. Rizvi captain immediately said, “We will bat.” Boman Irani wished both the captains best of luck and a great game. But his gem was to follow.

After meeting members of both the teams, he pointed to his yellow tie and told them that he had worn it for them. “I have specially worn this Lords tie in your honour,” he said. “I hope that most of you have the honour and privilege of one day playing at Lords!” After that, they moved for a group picture with both the teams and during one shot, he got up from the middle, walked over to the extreme left to an empty chair and took it away. “It does not look good in a photograph,” he said. Noticing the embarrassed looks on the officials he added: “No worries, I’m a photographer also.”

Boman Irani gazes lovingly at an SLR!

As the Rizvi openers went out to play, Boman Irani settled to watch one over. And that was when he lost count of his 30 minutes! He spotted an SLR. He hopped off his chair to where Mid-Day photographer Suresh Karkera was setting shop. Boman Irani asked Suresh if he could peep through the lens and when he got hold of it, he never let go of the camera for over an hour. Clicking away, trying to get that perfect shot in motion, Boman Irani kept looking through the lens.

What happened to you when you saw that SLR? I asked him. “I got so excited. It took me back to a time when I was trying very hard to break away from my shop-keeping days. It was the first leap of mine into something creative when I started photography. Suresh has bought this camera many years ago for over Rs 5 lakhs. I always wanted to own one, but it was out of my reach then: I simply could not afford it though I longed for it.

“Today, I wouldn’t buy it because it would be a white elephant. I never got to use it so it was so beautiful to look through it. I have always dreamt of looking into something like that. I felt so good when I was going through every picture I shot. I wanted to see if I had the instincts and reaction time in place. I think I got a couple of good shots.”

Boman Irani
“Toss can’t be delayed,” says Boman Irani.

The story behind the Lord’s Tie…

“I had gone to see a match at Lords. It was on my Bucket List. But I have yet to see an India match there and one day I will. Pakistan was playing England and it was the 2005/6 series. Someone tapped me on the shoulder at the ground and said: “Doctor saab, aap yahan?” I turned around to see a beaming Zaheer Abbas. He asked me if I would love to see the match. ‘I said I am here to watch it’. He took me to the Secretary’s Box. I was wearing a blazer and tie. He went to his room and came back and gifted me his Lords tie and I am very proud to wear it.

“We spent the entire day together. ‘Sunny bhai ko milte ho? Mera salaam dena’, he told me. He is such a gentleman. The way he spoke about Mr. Gavaskar and the manner in which he conducted himself. I could not believe how generous and hospitable he was. He introduced me to a lot of people, including the entire Pakistan team. He kept coming and checking on me. At the end of the day’s play, he took me to the WG Grace Gate and saw me off in a cab. I couldn’t have asked for more.”

Zaheer Abbas and Munnabhai MBBS

And did you know Zaheer from before? “No. I did not know him. But they have seen Munnabhai MBBS and they are such big fans of the movie. I think Munnabhai has done that all over the world; it has that charm. Every cricketer was talking about the film and they kept referring to me as ‘Doctor saab’.”

“I used to admire Zaheer Abbas a lot because he was that one guy who had quite a few double hundreds to his name. Zaheer was the elegant run machine and he was such a joy to watch in action. Before that I had only seen him as a boy in Sportsweek magazine and in the newspapers. Sadly, I have not been in touch with him. But I’m sure I will bump into him some day.”

When Boman Irani treated Viv Richards to bhelpuri!

“Football, tennis and cricket are the sports I love. I also love to watch Track and Field events. I have fond memories of soccer, tennis, cricket players and Olympians. From this generation of sportsperson, Usain Bolt is my favourite. I have met most of the India cricket greats of the past and the current players. Someday, I would love to meet Gary Sobers and Gary Linekar. Gary (Linekar) was such a wonderful striker.

“He possessed no skills of a Maradonna or a Messi but he had a nose to smell a goal and he went about scoring them without any tricks or fancy stuff. Moreover, he has never been yellow-carded (to the best of my knowledge) and has also won the ‘Golden Boot’ and that is an unbelievable statistic.  He is like an icon for Fair Play. Today, if you look at it, this is the need of the hour for youngsters!”

Boman Irani and Viv Richards

Speaking about another favourite cricketer of his who he was fortunate to meet, Boman Irani reveals: “I have photographed Vivian Richards in my studio. Both of us had bhelpuri. That was around 20 years ago. I remember watching him and Clive Lloyd in destructive form at the inaugural match at the Wankhede Stadium.”

By the time Boman Irani left the ground, he had spent close to three hours, mingling with the groundstaff, officials, students, policemen and even the hospitality staff who kept stopping him for a selfie!

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