Vasoo Paranjape, mentor to greats like Gavaskar, dies aged 82

Mumbai legend helped the careers of several players like Vengsarkar, Manjrekar and Rohit Sharma

Nagraj Gollapudi
Dadar Union after one of their many Kanga wins in the seventies. Paranjape,
the captain, seated third from left is next to Gavaskar

Vasoo Paranjape (sitting third from left) was one of Sunil Gavaskar's mentors

One of the unsung heroes of Indian cricket, Vasudeo Paranjape, passed away at his residence in Mumbai on Monday after a prolonged illness. Paranjape, popularly known as Vasoo, was three months short of turning 83. He is survived by his son Jatin, a former Mumbai batter, who also played four ODIs and recently co-authored a book about his father titled Cricket Drona.
While Paranjape's playing career was short - 29 first-class matches for Mumbai and Baroda - he became a household name by mentoring the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sanjay Manjrekar and Rohit Sharma, helping them reach impressive heights in all forms of cricket. Paranjape's gift was such that even a few overseas players like former England batter Ed Smith would come to him for advice.
Despite never making it to the highest level, Paranjape had a strong grasp on batting technique and the ability to help people get the most out of themselves. Paranjape developed this skill by watching greats like Madhav Mantri, his captain at Dadar Union, go about their business. And when he too rose through the same ranks and took over the club, Dadar Union went on a title-winning spree. They swept the Kanga League A division, Talim Shield, Purshottam Shield and the Comrade Shield. As much as those trophies symbolise the kind of leader Paranjape was, only the stories give a true sense of the man. Here is one involving Paranjape during his tenure as Dadar Union captain in the 1970s when the Bombay club was experiencing a golden era.
It begins with Paranjape pulling a fast one on a star-studded Bombay University side. Avadhoot Zarapkar, who was part of that match, remembers it well. "We were playing at Grant Medical College and the wicket was soft, so our captain decided to put Dadar Union in," he told Clayton Murzello, sports editor at Mid-Day, in 2012. "We had Dilip Vengsarkar, Sandeep Patil, Suru Nayak and Vijay Mohan Raj. Their team included Sunil Gavaskar, Ramnath Parkar and Vithal Patil. We thought we had them grounded at 92 for 5, but Vasoo declared. We were shocked. I remember Sandeep asking whether Vasoo thought we were a popatwadi [inferior] team. We were soon to find out. Urmikant Mody and Vithal Patil took five apiece to dismiss us for 55."
Paranjape's reason for the declaration was simple. "There was a match to be won. If our team - which included a certain Sunil Gavaskar - found it so difficult to score, then the opposition would struggle too, though they were a very good side."
While promoting Cricket Drona last year, Gavaskar said that Paranjape was the true "conscience keeper" of the game. "All of us at Dadar Union can't thank him enough for his guidance, for his spirit, and most importantly for him being the conscience keeper of our beloved game of cricket. We learnt from him that we must always stay true to the game."
Gavaskar summed up by calling Paranjape a true servant of the game because he had given more to cricket than cricket had given to him. Testament to that fact is the early career of one Rohit Sharma, as the player himself recalls: "I got to learn from him how to approach batting in different situations. He always told us: 'No two situations are the same. Try and read the game - where you are, what you can do for your team and the situation your team is in. Learn this as soon as you can because now is the time to learn, not when you are playing for Bombay or India.'"

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo