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Farokh Engineer convinced India are red-hot favourites at World Cup

Play & thrash Pak in WC for the sake of Pulwama jawans: Farokh Engineer
Farokh Engineer with Roxanne, one of his four daughters, at the Taj Bengal, on Wednesday. Roxanne is a London-based professional. Minnie, Tina and Scarlett are his other daughters
Farokh Engineer with Roxanne, one of his four daughters, at the Taj Bengal, on Wednesday. Roxanne is a London-based professional. Minnie, Tina and Scarlett are his other daughters
Picture by Santosh Ghosh

Lokendra Pratap Sahi   |   Calcutta   |   Published 20.02.19, 10:02 PM

“It’s a mightily sensitive issue, but I’d say play Pakistan in the World Cup and thrash them for the sake of the Pulwama jawans. That would honour their memory.”

Eighty-year-old Farokh Engineer, arguably India’s most flamboyant ’keeper ever, turned a trifle emotional while speaking to The Telegraph at Taj Bengal and, later, at Flurys on Wednesday evening.

In the city at the end of a tour largely undertaken on The Deccan Odyssey, organised by the UK-based Golden Eagle Luxury Trains, Farokh was answering questions on whether India should play Pakistan even in tournaments organised either by the International Cricket Council or the Asian Cricket Council.

The immediate context, of course, being the upcoming World Cup. India are scheduled to play Pakistan in Manchester, Farokh’s second home for decades, on June 16.

“I shouldn’t be misunderstood, for while I’m an Overseas Citizen of India, I’m as patriotic as anybody else around in the country...

“In keeping with the Government of India’s policy, I’m all for no bilateral cricket engagements with Pakistan, but the World Cup becomes a different matter altogether...

“Ideally, the tournament shouldn’t get disrupted by the boycott of any match. Even if India don’t play in Manchester, we may still end up facing Pakistan in the semi-final or the final. It’s tricky…

“So, as I’ve said, play Pakistan in the league stage and thrash them for the sake of the 40 CRPF jawans butchered in Pulwama by the suicide bomber. Beat Pakistan most emphatically, not that they have ever defeated us in a World Cup...

“If I could add, interest in the June 16 match has crossed limits and the cheapest tickets, I hear, are being sold for £20,000. That’s just crazy,” Farokh maintained.

By the way, Farokh is one of the vice-presidents of the Lancashire County Cricket Club, headquartered at Old Trafford. Among the other vice-presidents are Clive Lloyd and Andrew Flintoff.

Farokh added: “Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, is a dear friend of mine but I was left disappointed with his address to the nation on Tuesday afternoon...

“Correct me, but I didn’t sense any remorse on Imran’s part. At the very least, he should have offered his condolences to the bereaved families...

“I’d been in tears watching the young widow of an Army Major killed in the days after Pulwama. The sight of the lady paying her last respects, in such an emotional manner, will probably haunt me for years...

“However, I’m not suggesting that all Pakistanis be painted with the same brush. Sniff out the bad apples…

“I’ve had the utmost respect for Imran, the cricketer. In fact, we’ve played against each other in County cricket and in the same XI during charity matches. But his address, as Pakistan’s Prime Minister, didn’t soothe at all.”

On India’s chances in the World Cup, Farokh commented: “We are red-hot favourites to win the competition for the third time...

“Indeed, I stand convinced...

“As regards the ’keepers, (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni is unquestionably the No.1, with Rishabh Pant as a specialist batsman and the ’keeper only in an emergency.”

In passing, Farokh mentioned he was “delighted” to know that Wriddhiman Saha would be featuring in his first competition, the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, in nine months.

“Hard to believe that Saha, who is such an excellent ’keeper, wasn’t fit for that long a period,” Farokh observed.

Postscript: Seventy tourists from a host of countries (Argentina and New Zealand included) came on the trip organised by the premier long-distance luxury trains operator, founded by Tim Littler. When required, trains get “chartered” — The Deccan Odyssey, for example. Farokh came as the guest speaker.



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