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The legendary Mumbai mentor who made a mark on the careers of Rohit Sharma, Dravid, Gavaskar and others

Vasoo Paranjape was a one-man operation of scouting, captaincy and coaching, whose influence spans cricket generations

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
Sunil Gavaskar and Vasu Paranjape at Madhav Apte's funeral, Mumbai, September 23, 2019

Paranjape was influential far out of proportion to his modest playing numbers  •  Anshuman Poyrekar/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

That one word is enough to drive up the wall any cricket person not from Mumbai. It is a Hindi/Marathi term for the city's cussed approach to cricket, especially with a bat in hand. For decades in independent India, Mumbai managed to dominate Indian cricket, both in terms of domestic competition and national representation. As a result, every little thing about Mumbai was glorified, with every second headline on the cricket pages hailing the virtues of khadoos cricket.
As other states began to enjoy greater access to resources and knowledge, they started to compete in domestic cricket and their players began to represent India. Now everyone from former cricketers to coaches to journalists bemoans the death of this mythical creature, the khadoos cricketer.
The authors of Cricket Drona are due congratulations that they use the word "khadoos" only once in a book about someone whose playing career was built on club cricket in Mumbai and 29 first-class games for Mumbai and Baroda. And that use is to say that Rohit Sharma is not your typical Mumbai cricketer.
Nor was Vasoo Paranjape, the subject of the book, a typical khadoos Mumbai cricket person. He was so far ahead of his time, he was run out backing up on his Harris Shield debut despite warnings from his captain and senior players. He took it on the chin - the price you risk paying when you try to steal an advantage. He was not cussed but aggressive, and by all accounts an attractive cricketer. His outlook was not hyperlocal but global, his views not archaic but modern.
Which is why cricketers not only from Mumbai, and not only of a certain vintage or a certain style, have come together to write essays in tribute to a coach, colleague, captain, mentor, father figure and consultant. From Sunil Gavaskar in central Mumbai to Rohit Sharma in the northern suburbs, Rahul Dravid in Karnataka, Yuvraj Singh in Punjab and Ed Smith in Kent, Paranjape touched and enriched a large variety of cricketing lives.
In an era of professionalism and the IPL, where scouts and consequent opportunities make sure talent is identified and exposed to high-level coaching, this is an important book. It recognises the time when this one-man operation of scouting, captaincy, coaching and playing helped shape many a career. All the contributors speak highly of Paranjape's contribution to their careers, of his great cricketing acumen, of his eye for talent, of his sense of humour (part of which gets lost in translation). In response, Paranjape himself writes a brief piece on his memories of each of the players the first time he saw them.
It is a format that works for this book - letting great cricketers talk about Paranjape and then Paranjape talking about them - but it can also leave you frustrated at times because cricketers can find it difficult to explain things they understand easily. They can articulate his generosity, but it is difficult to figure out what exactly made Paranjape the cricket figure he was. Why, for instance, in the words of Darshak Mehta, a former Kanga league player and now chairman of the LBW Fund in New South Wales, for 25 years, if there was a rain delay in a Kanga league game, you just sat there playing cards or gossiping or "talking Vasoo".
It is not easy for every cricketer to tell you why. Until you get to the essays from Sharma and Singh. That's when you realise Paranjape worked subtly. He made technical adjustments without players even realising it. Sharma knows Paranjape is always watching him. Whenever he meets Jatin Paranjape, Vasoo's son and now a national selector, Sharma asks him, "Anything?" He is looking for any little piece of advice Vasoo might have asked Jatin to relay.
There is no substitute for these faceless scouts who nurture cricketers from a beginners level, offering not only cricketing education but also life skills when required, or an invisible helping hand when life is tough. They do it not for recognition or money, but out of love for the game.
Paranjape was always there wherever the cricket was, in his floppy hat, smoking a cigarette, watching from the background, rarely imposing himself but fine-tuning the talent he had spotted. The authors of the book - Jatin Paranjape and cricket writer Anand Vasu - have done a similar job. They haven't imposed themselves on this book but have nurtured and directed it through the voices of the individuals Paranjape most enriched.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo