Vasoo Paranjape, Indian cricket foremost coach and mentor, dies aged 82
- He played vital roles in shaping the careers of India stalwarts Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Rohit Sharma and many more
Vasoo Paranjape donned many hats—of a colleague, father figure, coach, mentor—and made a lasting impact on the maidans of Mumbai and in Indian cricket. The former Mumbai player and renowned coach died on Monday aged 82.
He scored 785 runs in 29 first-class matches representing Mumbai and Baroda, but Paranjape’s contribution to cricket went far beyond the numbers as he played a crucial role in shaping the careers of Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sanjay Manjrekar, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh and Rohit Sharma, among others.
From leading Mumbai’s famous Dadar Union Sports Club during its glory days in the 1960s and 1970s to passing on its ethos by mentoring aspiring cricketers from Mumbai and around the country, Paranjape’s passion for the game and ability to identify and nurture talent stood out.
Vengsarkar, who considers Paranjape his mentor, recollects that he got very excited to watch talented youngsters and once dragged him to watch Sachin Tendulkar play in the Harris Shield inter-school tournament.
“I was playing in a Times Shield match at Parsee Gymkhana; around that time I was India captain as well. Vasoo came and insisted I go with him to have a look at Sachin, who was playing at CCI. He was so passionate about cricket, one could never say no to him,” says Vengsarkar about his first captain at Dadar Union.
“It’s an extremely sad day. He was an outstanding captain and had immense knowledge of the game. He was a great motivator and encouraged everybody. To describe him in one word, it will be legendary.”
India coach Ravi Shastri tweeted: “Really saddened at the demise of Vasoo Paranjape. He was an institution in the game with a real positive vibe in whatever he did.”
Paranjape, a left-handed batsman and orthodox spinner who led Dadar Union to many titles, coached many national youth teams and served as a coach at the National Cricket Academy.
The book “Cricket Drona: For the Love of Vasoo Paranjape”, co-authored by his son Jatin and journalist Anand Vasu is a collection of writings by former cricketers and the man himself recounting the mentoring of some of the stalwart players.
He played a key role in a talent like Rohit Sharma emerging on the international stage, putting in a word with junior selection committee chairman Pravin Amre and senior panel head Kiran More after the youngster scored his first century for Mumbai Under-17 against Baroda.
Rohit recalls: “He watched me during one of my net sessions at Wankhede… He went to the captain and said, ‘We need to get this kid into the team. You figure out your combination and all that. I won’t interfere. But this boy needs to play. Work with me.’ Prashant Naik, who was the captain, came to me. ‘Look, I don’t know anything about you, I’ve not heard much about you, but Vasoo Sir says you have to play. So, you’re playing tomorrow.’”
“Without Sir by my side in those early years, I would not have been able to achieve as much as I fortunately have.”
Tendulkar too had benefitted. “I am told Raj Bhai (the late Rajsingh Dungarpur, who was BCCI president and chief selector) made a call to Vasoo Paranjape Sir to enquire about me, and this got me my first break. Vasoo Sir told Raj Bhai that Tendulkar was a player who would be dishing it out (lagaane wala) to the famous Pakistani fast bowlers and wouldn’t be at the receiving end (lagne wala) of their attack. Raj Bhai was wise enough to know that Vasoo Sir would not make any cricketing statement lightly,” writes Tendulkar.
Paranjape's impact at Dadar Union is best summarised by Sunil Gavaskar's foreword in the book: “Not only did Paranjape give a young Gavaskar his popular nickname of Sunny, he instilled the importance of the little things about the game—like wearing proper cricket attire, backing up for a throw, dragging the bat inside the crease—into the youngsters of the club.”
Dravid, whom Paranjape advised to focus more on batting than wicket-keeping as a 14-year-old during a month-long U-15 camp in 1988, notes: “As cricket gets bigger, more people are getting into coaching as well, and what worries me sometimes is the quality of these people that the game is attracting. That is where the influence of someone like Paranjape—who inspired me first as a cricketer and inspires me now in my coaching career—comes in. Back then, knowledge was power and it made people like Paranjape so invaluable. But today, in our world of video and YouTube, knowledge is easily accessible.”
He also asked Anil Kumble to focus on his leg spin, having come to the national camp as a batsman. “…two years of my formative years at the national camp was a great learning under his tutelage,” tweeted Kumble.
He was a guiding light to many in the Mumbai maidans too. Off-spinner Ramesh Powar almost gave up cricket to take up a government job after his father’s death when ‘Vasoo Sir’ got him back into the game. He liked watching cricket all day and moved around the maidans to spot talent, guide youngsters, imparting life lessons as well.
Paranjape is survived by wife Lalita, a retired professor, two daughters and son Jatin, former India player and national selector.