Anandji Dossa, born on September 15, 1916, is a doyen of cricket statistics. His penchant for numbers and razor-sharp memory is evident even today. At 97, his unbridled joy is visible when he narrates rare cricketing anecdotes. Sarang Bhalerao caught up with him during his 97th birthday.
He was the cynosure of all eyes at his Ghatkopar residence on Sunday, September 15. Hordes of well-wishers had streamed to his home to pay their respects on his on his 97th birthday. His phone was incessantly ringing. Surprisingly, he answered all the callers, profusely thanking them for remembering him on his birthday.
It was back in 1972 when Anandji Dossa retired as an official statistician of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. The volume of work he did in a lifetime as a scorer and statistician saw him leave a rich legacy for the likes of Sudhir Vaidya who followed him. Four decades after his retirement, the Grand Old Man of cricket statistics is still taken with much reverence.
Dossa maintained detailed statistics for much of the pre-calculator era. Yet, it took him only a fleeting moment to come up with the most trick questions posed by commentators.
Early days: How passion transcended into obsession
In 1932, age 16, Dossa was in Shimla. He was fascinated by a reportage that mentioned Jaaomal Naomal scoring a century. “Naomal scored 139 against Middlesex in 1932. That was my first paper cutting. From thereon I started collecting small articles and pasted them in a scrapbook,” says Dossa. “It was a proud moment to see an Indian scoring a hundred against an English side,” recalls the veteran statistician. His passion transcended into obsession and soon Dossa was Dial 911 for the commentators and journalists.
Dossa was a reserve wicketkeeper for Mumbai and Hindus in the Pentangular tournament. Madhav Mantri, who is currently the oldest living Indian Test cricketer at 92, was the first choice ‘keeper and hence Dossa missed out. Did he ever regret not making it big in cricket? Dossa says: “I have no regrets at all. Madhav Mantri was very good wicketkeeper. He has played four matches for India in 1952.”
Dossa was asked difficult questions by the commentators, but he had answers to all their queries. Once Pearson Surita asked Dossa, “How many runs did bespectacled Pankaj Roy score without wearing glasses?” Only the gifted Dossa could answer that within a few minutes Dossa came up with the break-up of runs.
Once while Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi was batting Vijay Merchant wondered if the Nawab has ever been run-out. Just when Merchant was about to say he has never seen Pataudi get run-out, Dossa told “Once — in Moin-ud-Dowla Gold Cup.”
Eknath Solkar once took three catches at forward short-leg in an innings. Merchant asked Dossa about the last Indian to take three catches at that position. It took Dossa a while to figure out the answer. “Rusi Surti,” said Dossa. “I used to write the position where the fielder had taken the catch,” reminisces Dossa.
When asked about his favourite commentator, Dossa says, “I loved to work with everyone. But I must say Devraj Puri was special. He used to recreate magic on the field in his words.”
In 1972, Dossa covered his final Test at the Brabourne Stadium. “It was Bobby Talyerkhan’s last game as a guest commentator,” recollects the statsman who kept detailed stats for half a century. Dossa says the authorities were not letting him retire. Sudhir Vaidya took over from there.
Dossa has donated his voluminous collection of rare cricket records to the Cricket Club of India (CCI). The CCI reference is named after Dossa for his yeoman service to the game of cricket.
When asked about the secret of his long life, Dossa says, “I am blessed to have good friends. They keep me happy.”
That’s what you call a Sada Dossa!
(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)