Friday, July 31, 2020

NORMAN DA COSTA: A celebration of Goans in stellar cricket


Put a red ball in his hands and Blaise D’Cunha instantly turned into a magician, a conjurer of tricks. This performer did not pull out rabbits from a hat but he baffled the best with his spin. Would that ball go straight, turn left or right? Or would it be the trick ball in his repertoire – the dreaded googly. Only D’Cunha knew. In his younger days, he mesmerized batsmen in Pakistan. He then took his act on the road to Africa where he left an indelible mark in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and South Africa. D’Cunha was one of three Goans who made a name for himself in Pakistan along with Wallis Mathias and Antao de Souza, who were both capped by Pakistan (more on them and others below).  

     Charlie de Souza, one of Uganda’s finest all-rounders who played against Blaise on several occasions, had the highest regard for the Kenyan. “When he first arrived he was almost unplayable,’’ said de Souza. The batsmen were unable to read his googly and, in their panic, they would surrender their wickets. Blaise also had a great match temperament and was a thorough gentleman.’’

After a long and stellar club career with Suleiman Virjee Indian Gymkhana, a club that fielded the likes of ace all-rounder G.B. Jhalla, Ramanbhai Patel and Jawahir Shah, the spinner joined the Railway Goan Institute, a club better known for producing world-class field hockey Olympians including the late great Alu Mendonca who was also a fiery pace bowler. It was here at the RGI where I got a closer glimpse of this cricketing giant from close up instead of the press box. Due to polio at a young age, Blaise had a limp but that did not stop him from delivering a whirring ball. The ball hummed in flight. We, in the field, had to be on our toes all the time. While many batsmen fell to catches in the slips or the boundary, our wicket-keeper Cecil Fonseca, had a field day whipping off the bails for a stumping.

       One of Blaise’s endearing qualities was that he was down to earth. There were no airs about him and he reminded me so much of Muttiah Muralitharan, the Sri Lankan superstar, who also spun his way to greatness. I met and covered the greatest spinner of all time for the Toronto Star and he was so much like Blaise – simple and genuine. Murali, of course, had a bent elbow and many felt this gave him an unfair advantage. Blaise had a bad leg and a huge right thumb as a result of a snake bite. But that did not deter him from also being a first-class high jumper. Apart from his exploits on the field, he was a joy to watch  - on the table. Yes, table tennis. He combined with Jarnail Singh, another multi-talented sportsman, to win several doubles titles and go on to represent Kenya. I once had the misfortune of being drawn against him in an earlier round of the Kenya Open. Needless to say, D’Cunha moved on in straight sets without breaking a sweat. 

   But back to cricket. While Blaise was initially selected for Kenya and East Africa for his bowling, he quickly reminded the selectors that he could be relied on to bash that ball in the event the top order failed. In the annual Asians versus Europeans clash at the SVIG ground in 1955 D’Cunha and Jhalla played havoc with the Europeans in a runaway 255-run thrashing. Blaise carved out an unbeaten 100 as the Asians posted 251 for nine and in reply the Europeans managed a meagre 215 thanks to fast bowler Jhalla claiming five wickets. In the second knock Asians piled on 191 for seven declared and the Europeans hit the showers early after being dismissed for a meagre 72 thanks to Jhalla, who pocketed four for 27 and Blaise captured three for 28. That same year this outstanding all-rounder completed a haul of 100 wickets for the season with 15 centuries to boot. My buddy John Noronha, a former Ugandan who now resides in Canada and who I consider the local Wisden for his photographic memory and general knowledge of the game, provided me with details of some matches where Blaise had a significant impact on the outcome. One was in December of 1958 at the Nakivubo Stadium in Kampala.

“Kenya put up a modest total of 174 with Blaise the second-best scorer with 38. He then went to work on the Uganda lineup and skittled them for 68. Blaise took seven for 32 that included four ducks. The Uganda batsmen just could not figure out his googly. Blaise went on to score a very useful 37 in the second innings to lead Kenya to a narrow 21-run win.”

He tormented Uganda on two other occasions. In the first match in 1952 he took two for 35 and five for 23 to lead Kenya to a massive 254-run win. In 1954 he again struck with figures of five for 27 and five for 56 in a 128-run Kenya win.” Tanganyika also felt D’Cunha’s sting. In 1957 in Dar es Salaam he sent the home team packing for 86 with him capturing eight for 28 (three clean bowled, two legs-before and two caught and bowled. He followed that up with knocks of 35 and 44.

  After a star-studded career with the SVIG where the clubs hoisted several trophies, D’Cunha joined forces with his old buddy Johnny Lobo, one of only a couple of Goans to crack the Kenya Asian lineup. When Blaise landed in Kenya, he met Johnny who invited him to join Kenya Goans for a Sunday contest against Nairobi Club, considered the plum fixture during pre-independence days. It was the country’s top European club and always put out a delectable lunch and tea spread. Goan clubs loved the hospitality at this venue and the Royal Air Force. At the RAF a bottle of beer could be purchased for 25 cents and a tot of hot drinks was the same price. No wonder few Goan cricket or field hockey player got home sober. Against Nairobi Club the home team was off to a flyer with 60 without loss when skipper Lobo introduced his ace in the bag. D’Cunha teased and tormented the home team by capturing all the 10 wickets and his reward was possibly an extra cucumber sandwich. Blaise had arrived and the rest is history.

     RGI was the cream of the Goan clubs and among the early stars were star batsmen Maurice Gracias and Batu Noronha, Piety Fernandes and fast bowler Mendonca. The other stalwarts in later years included Darel Carvalho, Jarnail Singh, Charlie Ferrao, Sunil Sarkar and Teddy Gomes, a classy batsman who narrowly missed being picked for Kenya Asians.

     The club played in the premier Kenya Cricket League and faced the likes of the legendary Basharat Hassan, Mehboob Ali, Zulfikar Ali, Akhil Lakhani, Narendra Patel and a host of other top-notch cricketers on a regular basis. In 1968 the club with seasoned players such as Lobo, Fonseca, Darel Carvalho, Charlie Ferrao, Sydney Machado, Donald Gonsalves and Sunil Sarkar embarked on a fairytale run in the KCA Knockout tournament, coming within a hair’s breadth of knocking out Sir Ali Muslim Club, the odds-on favourite for the trophy, out of the tournament. RGI struggled to 90 for eight before Fonseca tore the SAMC bowling to shreds by scoring a sensational 95. With Blaise in the lineup it appeared RGI’s Cinderella run would continue. But the RGI skipper made a tactical error in not using his ace bowler at critical times and SAMC survived what would have been the biggest upset in Kenya cricket annals. Wicket-keeper Naseer Butt and all-rounder Emery Jones combined to avert disaster. Emery, batting at No. 6 scored 33 and Butt at No. 7 got 56. “We usually never got to bat as our top order was so good,’’ Butt told me from London. “When I came in to bat, Emery told me ‘just play straight’ as I was having a tough time figuring Blaise’s leg-breaks and googlies. Blaise was a spinner of the highest quality and we barely managed to win. After the game Blaise came up and congratulated me. He was a very good person. A great cricketer,’’ added Butt. 




Kenya had one great Goan all-rounder – Blaise D’Cunha. Tanzania countered with Alban Fernandes. Uganda led the way with three who could walk into any East African squad and they did. Fernandes was a fiery opening bowler and also a batsman who could clobber the ball. Fernandes also captained Tanganyika’s field hockey team in several international matches and he was disappointed his country failed to qualify for the Olympics.

 Uganda produced the bulk of the best Goan cricketers in Africa. Several represented Uganda including all-rounder Lawrence Fernandes, Charlie de Souza and Michael Texeira. I never did see the late Texeira in action but every Ugandan sportsman speaks of him in glowing terms. Texeira played in the ’50s for the Kampala Goan Institute, the Goans in the triangular quadrangular tournament and also the national team. The other classy batsman during his time was John (Chuck) Sequeira. Texeira’s His feats with bat and ball are legendary and he was always an automatic choice for East Africa. “His batting was a pure delight to watch,’’ said Alu Mathias, a former Ugandan international batsman. In a triangular match against the Europeans in 1953 Texeira smashed 50 in 20 minutes and that “was a record for a game of that stature,’’ said Mathias. Sequeira weighed in with 133 for a huge victory. “He was a fast bowler and confused batsmen by varying his pace.” He will always be remembered for his 10-wicket haul against K.S.C. The European club was dismissed for 143 with Texeira taking all 10 for 42 runs. The Goans, behind a superb unbeaten 107 by Celly Dias, another Uganda cap, scored 157 for four. Lawrence was simply brilliant. A stone-walling opening batsman whose wicket did not come cheaply, he was an excellent leg spinner and he was a world-class fieldsman. After moving to England he starred as a spinner and just like Blaise the Englishmen couldn’t read his googly. De Souza was a reliable stock bowler and a hard-hitting lower-order batsman. Like Texeira and Fernandes, De Souza was an automatic choice for Uganda where he often starred with bat and ball. They all made their mark In East Africa and impressed visiting squads.


Thursday, July 30, 2020

RGI/GI combined Marrieds V Bachelors circa 1940

RGI/GI (combined) Bachelors v Married circa 1940


Back row” Lazarus Fernandes, Carvalho, Rex Rodrigues, Braganza, Rommel D’Souza, Alex Rodrigues

Middle row: Tony Pereira, A Hendricus, Balthasar Gomes, Frank Dias Querin Menezes, Joe D’Sa

SeatedL Marian Gama, D J Paes, Vince D’Sa, Tamatur Braganza, Victor Lobo, Manuel Mendonca, J B Caldeira: on the ground S C Mendes, A C D’Souza.

Standing back 5th row: Gracias, A P Fernandes Michael Fernandes, George

Back 4th row: Leo D’Mello, Paul Fernandes, Joe D’Mello,

Back 3rd row: Mario Carvalho, J B Caldeira, Balthasar Gomes, A Hendricus

Back 2nd row: P C D’Mello (umpire), Will Fernandes, Maurice Gracias, A C D’Souza, John Gracias, Joe Mathias, Joe Lobo, Gaudence Almeida (umpire)

Seated: N Quadrus, Jack Mendes, Vincent D’Sa, Carvalho, Victor Lobo, Manuel Mendonca, Frank Dias


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The many faces of Ben Mkapa, the late president of Tanzania/John Nazareth/Trevor Grundy

Two stunning reads, worth a bit of your time.

A clinical examination of the life and times of the former president.

The Elvis fan by John Nazareth

Ben Mkapa (President of Tanzania 1995-2005) – Death of an Elvis fan

Ben Mkapa died on Friday July 24th, 2020. He had a reputation of having worked “diligently to turn around Tanzania’s economic fortunes” that culminated in the country become a lower middle income country by the World Bank recently.

But Mkapa was young once and this is his story.

Mkapa attended studies at the Makerere University College (it was then part of the University of London) graduating with a BA in English in 1962. Among his collegemates were Peter Nazareth (Professor University of Iowa and Uganda’s foremost author), Adolf Mascarenhas (Professor University of Dar es Salaam), Henry Kyemba (former Principal Private Secretary to President Obote, and former Minister in the Amin government), Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o (Kenya’s foremost author), Bhadur Tejani (Kenyan author – and the Uncle of Canadian MP Arif Virani).  John Nagenda (Uganda cricketer and writer).

Educational institutions is where the different races got a chance to mix and be friends in pre-independence East Africa. Ngugi in his memoirs “Birth of a Dream Weaver” (2016) said that as a Kenyan this was the first chance he had got to befriend other races – Kenya being strictly separated as a colony unlike Uganda. (Uganda’s separation was more a state of mind. People kept their place, but were not compelled to.) He was delighted that when he put up his first play at Uganda’s National Theatre, several Asians volunteered to play roles in it.

Friends in Makerere took part in many group activities – the Makerere Jazz Club (where Nazareth was President). They hosted Louis Satchmo Armstrong when he visited Uganda 1960. (Ugandan weren’t used to autograph hunting at the time, but when some presented Satchmo with their autograph books, people grabbed any piece of paper to get one. Some even used Bronco toilet paper. (For the uninitiated, Bronco was not the soft toilet paper we have today. It was hard and could be written on. Many of us used it as tracing paper.)

There was the Elvis Presley fan club that was pretty popular too.


Mkapa was a popular man in Makerere. His friends nicknamed him “The Cat” a play on his name (paka = cat in Swahili).

Fast forward to 1995; Mkapa has just been elected President of Tanzania. Professor Nazareth wrote to Mkapa a few months later to congratulate him and renew their friendship.

To backtrack Professor Peter Nazareth had launched a university course entitled "Elvis As Anthology" in 1992 at the urging of an African American colleague from the University of Iowa? The course became a worldwide phenomenon with Nazareth interviewed on radio and TV in the US, Canada, Germany, Israel, Australia, Thailand… Nazareth intended it to be a one shot deal. It continued for over 20 years.

So in his letter to Mkapa he tells him about his Elvis course – “Are you interested in seeing some of it?” “Of course!” So Nazareth sends the course. A few months later Tanzania released Elvis stamps!!!


Which reminds us that behind famous people or icons are real people with sometimes simple likes as dislike. Mkapa’s tenure was not without controversy, but Tanzania came out better for him. Besides his economic prowness was the fact that he followed the example set by Tanzania’s first President, Julius Nyerere – two terms and you are out. This is something one rarely sees in the world today.


Honorary Ben Mkapa RIP.



John Nazareth

28 July 2020

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Jack Britto: batted like Hanif, played hockey like Dyan Chand

Jack Britto




Another St Pat’s Karachi sports superstar

I NEVER SAW Jack Britto in action. You could say he was before my time but in Africa those that knew of him spoke in awe. I had forgotten about him, but he kept popping up while I researched various cricket stories and more recently the Blaise D’Cunha story. I am indebted to his son Desmond for painting the following portrait of his illustrious father. St Pat’s High School was a brilliant nursery for budding sportsmen, especially in Cricket and Hockey. There were four brilliant cricketers in the making: Antao D’Souza, Wally Mathias (both played Cricket for Pakistan with distinction), Blaise D’Cunha and Jack Britto who graduated with honours in their various sports.


JACK BRITTO was one of a handful of talented sportsmen of the Karachi Goan Association  Gymkhana who reached the top position in their respective sports. His sporting career started in 1936. He showed early promise when playing for his alma mater St. Patrick’s High School where he excelled both at hockey and cricket. He brought fame and glory to his school. Jack always had a smiling face whether losing or winning. He also played badminton, table tennis and billiards with an equal amount of enthusiasm. Jack was a fine cricketer, wielding the willow in a style that was a treat to watch, to the delight of his enthusiastic supporters. In Jack, the Goans of Karachi were blessed with another true sportsman.


He was born on August 16, 1924.  Jack represented St Patrick’s at the age of 13. He was the first to reach a double century in the Inter-School’s Tournament, famously known as the Rubie Shield. The Rubie Shield was started by his father, Diogo Britto, in 1937. His record score of 232 not out stood until it was broken by Pakistan Test Cricketer Hanif Mohammed in the same tournament (Inter School Rubie Shield Tournament). Jack’s memorable knock had followed an earlier unbeaten 182.  At this stage of his life, Jack was contented with the way his career was shaping and was doubly rewarded by being selected as the Captain of St. Patrick’s School. Jack could justly be proud for St Pat’s as he held the distinction of winning the shield for 5 years in succession, 3 years under his captaincy. From 16 to the age of 21 he represented St. Pat’s.

By now Jack had already been selected to play for the Sind and Karachi Team in the Ranji Trophy. Jack was chosen for the Sind team in the Pentangular between 1940 and 1944. He took the field, with players like Jeomall Naoomal, Gulab Rai Kishenchand, S.K. Girdhari, B. Lanewalla, Jamshed Khoodaddad Irani, MInoochehar J.Mobed, Qamardin, Daud Khan, Abbas Khan Lodhi, Fazal Lakda and several previous Sind stalwarts which included names like Ghulam Mohammed, the old Baloch player from Lasbela, who had toured England with the 1932 All India Team. G.S. Ramchand who went on to captain India and defeat Australia on the famous turning pitches of India. Another famous name worth recalling was that of Abdul Aziz Durrani. He was believed to be employed by the Sind Madressah School and was well known in Karachi as the Sind Madressah coach. He was the father of Indian Test Cricketer Salim Durrani.

 Jack was lucky enough to meet some of the other famous names like the old Maharashtra Ranji Trophy All Rounder and veteran all India cricketer and Pakistan test cricket selector, Jacob Harris. Jacob had high hopes for Jack.

During 1942-1946, Jack played for the ‘Rest’ in the Karachi Pentangular Cricket Tournament. 

In 1946/7, he represented Karachi and Sind in the All-India Tournament (Ranji Trophy) at Bombay. (In 1946, Sind won the tournament). 

The Goan community heard the sad news regarding Jack Britto: he had to choose between cricket or hockey. The Karachi youngster who in fine batting form was being tipped to be selected for Sind in the opening match against the West Indies. This was between 1949- 1950. The West Indies included players like Everton Weekes, Clyde Walcott, Allan Rae, George Carew, Robert Christiani, Gerry Gomez, James Cameron, Dennis Atkinson, Prior Jones, John Trim, Wilfred Ferguson, Cliff McWatt, Ken Rickards, Geoff Stollmeyer and the “Black Bradman” George Headley. Frank Worrell was initially selected but was forced out on health grounds.

 Jack finally got his call up to play for the Pakistan cricket team against the West Indies team but at the same time, he was chosen for Pakistan to tour Europe in the Hockey World Championships in 1950. After partition, the authorities were forcing him to make a choice, this was heartbreaking for Jack, for he realised that he was good enough to play both hockey and cricket at the top level. Jack chose to tour Europe with the hockey side.

 Thus ended in tragedy, one of the finest careers of a sportsman that could have gone on to international honours, both in Cricket and in Hockey.


In local tournaments he soon won recognition in hockey circles. He was a clever tactician blessed with stick wizardry and his ball control was as artistic as it was effective. Jack started as a crack centre forward in the ‘D’. He was clever agile and dashing. He thus soon built up a formidable reputation as an exponent of good, clean hockey. 

Some even dared to compare him with the famous 1936 Indian Olympic player to Dyan Chand.

 In choosing to play hockey, Jack had finally decided to give up his career in cricket. It was a sad day for the game of cricket, but he was soon one of the best centre-halves in the game. The Karachi Goan hockey teams were great crowd pullers at the famous Aga Khan Hockey Tournament held in Bombay.  The wizardry of the Karachi Goan players in the Cabral  Shield Tournament in Karachi shone against the top teams that were invited from all over India like the Bhopal Wanderers, Calcutta Customs, Kalayam Mills, Khalsa College and Jhansi Heroes. He played in many major provincial tournaments in undivided India:

 1941 Won the Cabral Shield when the school beat the famous Bhopal Wanderers.

1942-1944, 1946, 1947, 1950- 1952 Represented Karachi in the national championships.

Won the Yusufali Cup in 1943.

Captained the Karachi XI in the national championships in Lahore.

In 1944, under his captaincy in cricket and hockey, toured India (Ahmedabad, Bombay, Poona etc. The tour was cut short due to the great explosion in Bombay and most of the members of the team had narrow escapes.

In 1945 won the Munawar Cup and the Coutinho Cup.

He was soon being tipped to play international hockey. Jack’s hockey skills as a goal-scoring centre-half attracted the attention of the senior members of the squad. This eventually landed him the top spot in the national team and Jack was chosen to play for Pakistan in the 1950 World Championships in Barcelona Spain. He represented Pakistan in the World Championship at Barcelona, Spain and also toured Europe. Pakistan  were joint winners with Holland.

1951 Toured India representing Pakistan Independents in the Invitation Gold Cup Tournament at Bombay and Delhi Cloth Mills at Delhi. Pakistan were runners up in the former tournament and winners in the latter.

Jack was selected for the Pakistan Olympic team for the 15th Olympiad, Helsinki Games in 1952 as a centre half. He found a place in the side because of his excellent stickwork. He also toured various European cities after the Olympics. (Paris, Lyons, London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Venice, Berlin, Stuttgart, Munich, Hamburg, Duisburg, Zurich, and Rome). He was capped eight times.

In 1953 toured East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) with Pakistan Rovers.

In 1956 was a trialist for Pakistan Olympic team to Melbourne.

He captained the Karachi X1 as a centre half in the national championship at Lahore.


He played cricket for Mpingwe ‘A’ Sports Club for many years until 1975. He topped the batting averages for most of the years. He was Malawi’s outstanding spin bowler bowling leg breaks, off-breaks, googlies & topspin. His googlies were unplayable. He took 5 wickets in an innings on many occasions. On one occasion he took 7 wickets for two runs. He also captained the side. He was also a brilliant slip fielder taking many catches.


1957 Played for Nyasaland (Malawi) against Stragglers and Country Districts (Zimbabwe).

1958 Played for Nyasaland (Malawi) against Country Districts, Salisbury, (Harare Zimbabwe). Top scorer.  

1959 Represented Nyasaland (Malawi) versus Mashonaland. This was the first appearance of Nyasaland in Harare (Salisbury) Zimbabwe.

In Bowring Shield Cricket Tournament scored 155 not out. “A league match.

1960 Played for Nyasaland (Malawi) versus Stragglers (Zimbabwe).

Played for Nyasaland (Malawi) versus Watershed in Salisbury (Zimbabwe).

Played for Cricket Club Malawi (C.C.M) from 1957 to 1975 topping the batting averages for many years.


1962 Named ‘sportsman of the year’ George Summers Memorial Trophy

1966 Awarded Frank Scott Cricket Bat (Highest Batting Average)

1975 Named Cricketer of The Year (Rothmans Trophy)



Played mainly for Mpingwe Sports Club at club level.

The Sunday Mail Correspondent on the 22nd August 1959 reported “It was Jack with magic stick that scored the winning and only goal of the game”, Malawi against Mashonaland (Zimbabwe).

Jack also played hockey in Zimbabwe against the Springbok players who also played for Rhodesia, namely the Pithey brothers, Colin Bland, Griffin, Godfrey (Goofey) Lawrence and Rob Elliot. Bland the former South African Test cricketer was arguably one of the best fielders ever.

1953-1967 Represented Malawi (former Nyasaland).  Played all representative games in hockey in Nyasaland and Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe) except when on leave. Coached the ladies Corona team.

1962 Chairman of Nyasaland (Malawi) Hockey Association. He captained the Nyasaland (Malawi) hockey team at the Inter-Provincial Tournament held at Gwelo (Southern Rhodesia) Zimbabwe. Nyasaland (Malawi) finished third in the tournament.

1963 Captained Nyasaland X1 (Malawi) versus Simba of Kenya (Malawi 4 – Simba 2).

1964-1976 Worked in various capacities promoting hockey, cricket and badminton.

1966-1969 Coach of the Malawi hockey team.

1967 Presented the Jack Britto Trophy to the Hockey Association of Malawi.

1968 Manager of the Malawi X1 to Salisbury (hockey). (Harare Zimbabwe)

1969 Coached the Malawi team to Dar-es-salaam (Tanzania) in the East African Championships-first appearance there.


Jack was a wristy, skilful doubles player who served from the corner of the box, making it very difficult for the opponent to return. He was very deceiving in his shot play. His net shots were brilliantly disguised and very hard to read. His calm tactical game was amazing and could adapt to any situation at any time. It was known that his opponents would turn up just to watch him play.

He played at club level for Mpingwe Sports Club.

1963 Represented Malawi (Nyasaland) versus Mashonaland in Salisbury (Harare). Committee member and selector.

Table tennis                                   

Jack also represented Malawi  (Nyasaland ) in table tennis.

Jack lived in London from 1976 to 2013 and led a sedentary life.  He continued playing social cricket, badminton and tennis. Played badminton in his early eighty’s and still won tournaments.


By the late Dr Mohammed Hussain Baluch and Desmond Britto.

Dr Mohammed Hussain Baluch a famous cricket author for Pakistan and is well known here within the English cricketing establishment. Has done countless books on Pakistan test cricket.

“Although I met Jack only once, it was enough to identify him as someone who could have kept company with the wizard of hockey Dyan Chand. He had the personality of Keith Miller, the genius and patience of Hanif Mohammed and the artistic skill of Sachin Tendulkar.


Thursday, July 16, 2020

Moira v Batu's XI Nairobi December 4 1954

Four Lobo brothers, Joe, Victor, Francis and Johnny Lobo played for Moira as well as Blaise D'Cunha

Monday, July 13, 2020

A Spice of Life in India -- Marilyn Rodrigues

“A Spice of Life in India”

By Marilyn Rodrigues

Namaste/Namaskar—'The spirit within me honours the spirit in you.’

My journey to incredible India indeed ignited my spirit and inspired me to embrace and celebrate all that this vast and colourful country had to offer.

An assault on the senses is the only way to describe a place as vibrant and as varied as the sought-after spices that flourish across its land—from my tiny ancestral state of Goa to the lush land of Kerala and up along the northern ‘Golden Triangle’—India is a showcase of energy, industry and life!

The adventure began in Betalbatim, Goa where grand Portuguese-inspired mansions in shades of turmeric orange, mustard yellow and red capsicum, peppered the rural landscape. Clove-brown water buffaloes could be found partially submerged within the swampy rice paddy fields accompanied by salt-white egrets. And, soft golden nutmeg-hued sand cushioned my path on the beach that stretched as far as the eye could see. Even the crabs had an impact with the many coriander-shaped designs that they created just beyond the sea’s reach.

Goa introduced me to a world where the car, motorcycle, bicycle and tuk-tuk scattered like tossed cumin seeds, horns incessantly beeping, crisscrossed the roadways. Further, I was overwhelmed by the extent of the Catholic churches in Old Goa. They were all stunning; glorious and gracious structures, some with garlic bulb-like domes which dotted the tree canopy.

After a few days in Goa—Panjim, Margao, Betalbatim, Benaulim—I flew to Cochi, Kerala at the strong recommendation of friends. This city is located on the south-west side of the country.

The cinnamon-shaded soil that coated the soles of my shoes in Goa continued in Kerala; an Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, Portuguese and British-influenced state. From the Chinese fishing nets that extended over the Arabian Sea like star anise; to the tamarind-tinted backwaters of Alleppey; the iridescent green tea covered plantation hills of Munnar and the exotic conservation area of Periyar Sanctuary—Kerala is like the masala of it all! I thoroughly delighted in the beauty and topographical diversity of this part of India. The fifth oldest Jewish synagogue in the world is also surprisingly located in Kerala.

Flying from Cochi through Mumbai and onto Jaipur, in Rajasthan, took an entire day. Yet Jet Airways made things quite seamless and enjoyable. Chai following a curried chicken and rice lunch contributed to my satisfaction and taste buds!

The walled city of Jaipur was painted pomegranate pink in 1853 in honour of the royal visit of Prince Albert. The current Maharaja—Sawai Bhawani Singh—resides here in a massive City Palace where he receives guests (including tourists) regularly. On the steep, winding road to Jaigarh Fort, the arid, barren grounds up the hill are home to allspice-toned boars, bright cardamom-coloured wild green parrots, flamboyant peacocks with chanothi leaf-like feathers, mace-pigmented & crested Brahminy Mynas and dark vanilla-tinted monkeys. The largest cannon on wheels in the world, that can fire a range of 35 kilometers, rests here as well.

It was thrilling to next find myself on the back of an Indian elephant who was adorned with a saffron-shaded blanket. Amber Fort was the destination. The vantage point was spectacular and the experience outstanding as I rocked back and forth with each gigantic step; holding on tightly!

Before leaving Jaipur, I was treated to a passing view of the Palace of the Winds—Hawa Mahal; another gingery-splattered structural asset. I also had the chance to see some brilliant gemstones polished to perfection and could not resist in bringing one home—a crystal clear, certified blue topaz which hails from Rajasthan’s lovely capital of Jaipur.

And then, my driver navigated the car safely to Agra, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, after passing herds of not only holy cows on the highways but also clumsy-looking camels!

The most beautiful, most romantic building in the world is in Agra, a jewel in India’s crown of history and architecture—the breathtaking Taj Mahal. So unbelievable that this grandiose building was constructed as an elaborate tomb for love lost and yet millions gravitate to it to proclaim love for one another. Magic exudes from this sugary-coated castle of the departed.

Not too far away is the, just as remarkable, red sandstone Agra Fort which goes on and on like fields of red chili plants. The lace-like walls offer a strong yet visually delicate backdrop for selfies. And the camera doesn’t get a break as the grounds include a Fish Palace, where the emperor entertained himself by fishing; the Gem Mosque, which housed the Shah’s harem of women, the Royal Chambers; the Palace of Mirrors where the women of the court bathed; the Vine Garden and…the fort is endless and enchanting.

A ride in a rickshaw-type of vehicle pulled by a camel was memorable but so were the elephants, monkeys, loose dogs, cows and people I viewed along the roadway. The sensation was overwhelming.

My final destination was Delhi which introduced itself 2 hours in advance in the form of a thick, yellow, fenugreek seed-coloured haze. Pollution from nigella-hued brick factory smoke spewed non-stop beside the highway. This capital city offered me as a tourist a chance to shop in a maze of bazaars. Chandi Chowk was chaotic and treacherous, but bargains were to be had in a market that sold not only live chickens, car tires and shoes but also spices and carpets. A Maharaja spicy chicken burger at the Mcdonald’s allowed me to step away for a few minutes, from the pandemonium.

Delhi’s Red Fort was interesting; a visit to Jama Masjid—the largest mosque in India, valuable, and I was honoured to visit the site where a burning flame memorializes a world idol, Mahatma Gandhi. Yet, hands down, it was the lotus flower-shaped Baha’i Temple that provided me with pause, delight and a welcome reprieve from hectic Delhi.

It is said that over 50 spices are contained within a proper Indian curry. So, it is no wonder that this extraordinary country exudes a similar variety in landscapes, people, architecture, religion, wildlife and food! Salutations Mother India. Your spirit is enlightening and so very engaging. Namaste and thank you, until I return again.


A Blaise of Cricket Glory

Blaise D’Cunha plays his final innings
The Lord called Blaise to be with Him on the 8th February 2021, following a short, non-Covid-19 related illness, surrounded at home by his family.
A Mass to celebrate his life and a funeral service will take place in the near future, due to current guidelines it will be family only.
Out of the generosity and kindness of your heart, please pray for the repose of his soul, may the Lord grant him eternal rest.

Messages of condolences or personal memories can be sent to the family at
Best wishes, Joe Desa.
He is the husband of Celine, and father of Grace, Basil and Roy.
THE last ball of the last over has been bowled. The umpire has signalled “game over”. The stumps and bails have been knocked down and gathered. The pitch has been covered … until the next game. Blaise D’Cunha won’t be there, he has played the last innings of life on earth. We may probably never see the like again … the great Goan cricketer if not the greatest. Cyprian Fernandes.

One Blaise D'Cunha's favourite photographs: The 1956 visit of the Pakistan Cricket Writers Club to Kenya:



The way I will always remember him ... always a winner!

In a previous article, I mentioned three outstanding Goan cricket players from Kenya: C. M. Gracias, Johnny Lobo and Blaise D’Cunha, who was with little doubt the greatest Goan cricketer with bat and ball I have known. He stands shoulder to shoulder to two other Goans who played international cricket, Wallis Mathias (batsman) and Antao D’Souza (medium pacer) for Pakistan. Both men also attended St Pat’s in Karachi. Blaise’s name is cemented in any list of top eleven cricket players from Kenya or East Africa as a whole.

Some of the outstanding Kenyan cricketers who were Blaise’s teammates: Jasmer Singh, Gursaran Singh, Ramanbhai Patel, Chandrakant Patel, Derek Breed, G.B. Jhalla, Don Pringle, D.W. Watson, Mehboobali, Basharat (Basher) Hassan, Zulfilkar Ali, Ghafoor Ahmed (with a little help from Alihusein Namajee).

Of course, there are many, many more I could have added.

His name sits proudly in the roll of honour of the former Suleiman Verjee Indian Gymkhana (Nairobi Gymkhana), his favourite club and some of the favourite men he played club cricket with. He is now 93, generally in good health, resides in London and as with all of us with age, getting frail. To this day, he has the respect and admiration of anyone who saw him anywhere in East Africa, Pakistan and India. I feel really, good now … and will feel even better once I have finished writing this tribute. For more than 20 years, I tried to track him down and it was not until a few days ago that his son-in-law, Joe Desa got in touch with me. He had just read the Johnny Lobo story featured in my blog. I am very indebted to Joe Desa for an immense amount of help with this story.

This is the story of a magnificently determined personality, who overcame adversity despite suffering from polio at a very young age, additionally a snakebite on his right thumb, to compete and excel at the highest levels in sport.

In Karachi, Blaise found a sports heaven at the Karachi Gymkhana Club and St Pat’s school, which produced many hundreds of fine sportsmen and women. He was only 14 when he started but it was not long before he had made the school team. What’s more, he was soon making some pocket money bowling to the senior batsmen in the nets.

This is from a clipping: “Blaise D’Cunha, one of the finest bowlers the school has produced: vice-captain (it was not long before he was captain) of the school team, represented Sind province in the Festival Match against Maharashtra.” He played Ranji Trophy cricket, inter-provincial school cricket at Delhi and Calcutta. “A very steady bat. A student of the school who is master of the willow.”

“Blaise D’Cunha also proved to be a deadly bowler.”

“Hardly 18 years old, with a little coaching will turn out a first-class bowler.”

“A bright century by Blaise D’Cunha was the outstanding feature of a match between St Pat’s and Pakistan Wanderers. The clock saved the Wanderers from defeat.”

Blaise answered a few questions with the help of his son-in-law, JOE DESA:

Please give a brief insight into your early life:

My father had secured a position as a Steward whilst in Goa, India, for East African Railways in the early 1920s; along with my mother and siblings we moved to Masindi, Uganda, where I was born on March 24, 1928, one of 10 siblings. I was baptised Bras Agapito Lucas D’Cunha and was affectionately known to family and friends as Blaise.

My father’s contract with East African Railways expired in 1932, unable to secure any new employment in East Africa, we returned to Goa.

He subsequently secured a position as a steward at the Karachi Gymkhana Club, in Karachi, Pakistan in 1935, where we resided on site, having the ‘run’ of the grounds as kids.

How and where did you learn to bowl?

I was a ‘regular’ in the sports fields, wherever and whenever feasible, initially playing cricket, batting and bowling for fun as a pastime, later on as my bowling techniques improved, bowling to established cricketers who played for the club, additionally overseas touring players, practising for upcoming club and national and international matches, earning monies (they put coins on the stumps and if I bowled them, I was rewarded with the coins)

I attended St. Patrick’s high school in 1937, where despite my handicap; I excelled at sports, high jump, where I was school champion and especially, cricket.

I represented the St. Patrick’s school cricket team from the age of 14, playing local and national venues, including travelling to New Delhi, and the Brabourne Stadium, (Bombay) Mumbai, winning the Cricket Championship of India.

I was part of St. Pat's Goan cricket team, some of whom went onto international and Olympic recognition in their own right

From 1944 -1948, I played in the Ruby Cricket shield, we were winner's for 5 years, Jack Britto (later Pakistan Hockey Olympian, also played in Malawi) was captain, then I took over from him

I played for Pakistan under 18s in Lahore in 1948

When I was 22, I left Pakistan and returned to East Africa, taking a transfer from National and Grindlays Bank in Karachi, settling in Nairobi, Kenya.

I started my cricket career in Kenya, playing for Suleman Virjee Indian Gymkhana Cricket Club.

Before the independence of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, I represented East Africa, when the ‘union’ went their separate ways, I chose to represent Kenya.

I was selected for the Kenyan/East African cricket tour of South Africa in 1956 against the non-white team and the subsequent return tour in Kenya in 1958.

I retired from international cricket in 1965 but played for my club until 1967; thereafter I took up table tennis in 1968 playing for Kenya.

What was so special about the way you bowled?

At a very young age, I contracted polio, which at the time was not initially medically diagnosed, affecting my left leg, leaving me partially handicapped with a pronounced limp. This limited my physical ability; determined not to be ‘left out of the group’, I adapted my skills to suit. 

A snake also bit me on my right thumb, which is still evident today. I found that the enlarged thumb helped me with the spin.

 How did he learn to bat? Were you a batsman or a bowler first?

I was a bowler first and foremost. I was very lucky to have attended St. Patrick's High School in Karachi and at the time, there was a fantastic crop of very talented young men who excelled in sports, especially cricket and hockey. Some of my compatriots included Orlando Ferro, Simon, D’Souza, Douglas Thomas, Michael Braganza, Gulam Razza, Jack Britto, Stanley D’Souza.

Who was the most difficult batsman to bowl to?

There were, as usual numerous … too many to name individually, all having their exquisite techniques and abilities.

Who are cricketers you remember to this day?

Again, numerous. I played against the very best in my heyday. No one particular player above the very many superb, gifted and talented I had the pleasure to have played with and against.

(However, he does recall playing against the mighty West Indies, including the Three W’s, Frank Worrell, Everton Weekes and Clyde Walcott. This was in Kenya in the 1960s)

 Is there one cricket performance that you can remember?

The Kenya tour to South Africa was ground-breaking in its time, apartheid was in place and strictly being enforced.

 You were a champion table tennis player?

After my cricket career ended, I took up playing table Tennis, winning with Jarnail Singh the GI Tournament. I was partnered Viktor Barna (multiple world champion) when he toured Kenya in a doubles competition.

What other sports did you enjoy?

I also enjoyed playing snooker.

What he learnt in Karachi, perfected Blaise as an all-round cricketer in cricket at club and national level.

While the triangular Kenya/Uganda/Tanganyika matches were well supported, it was the annual Asians v Europeans which was probably the star match of the annual calendar. Blaise had a starring role in most of them, if not all.

For example, in 1952, Kenya beat Uganda by 254 runs. In the first innings, Kenya scored 214 (Shakoor Ahmed 58, DW Dawson 58). Uganda scored a measly 87. Kenya in their second innings scored a further 190, thanks mainly to Dawson 78 and a spirited 39 by Blaise. It inspired one reporter to write: “D’Cunha was giving first-rate support and it is surprising that he warranted such a position as No. 11). In second innings, Uganda capitulated scoring only 63. Blaise had match inning figures 7-53.

He also did it against Tanganyika in 1954. He skittled them out for 60 in the first innings taking 6-24 and followed it up with 5-37 in the second for a 233 run drubbing.

Reaching that bowler’s milestone of 100 wickets in a season was never too much trouble for Blaise. On one occasion (1955) while playing for Non-Official Asians against Asian Officials, he achieved the mark by taking a total of 10 wickets in the match.

However, it was the Asians v Europeans where he shone equally with the bat and ball. If he was deadly as a spinner, he was even more so as a daring batsman. There was no, tap-tap pussy-footing with Blaise, rather more calculated carnage as soon as he got his eye in. He cut, drove, and smashed the ball to all corners of the ground. When needed he could be relied on to save the team by smashing a quick 40 or 50 (in 50 minutes or less) or 100. He was ferocious and it was always a delight to see him in action. Once the Asians found their form, they won five or six consecutive matches to reduce 19 match tally to 10-9 to the Europeans.

He fared well against all visiting teams but it was the tour of South Africa that remained memorable for him. For one thing, he met and played against the coloured Basil D’Oliviera, who at the time should have played for South Africa but was not allowed to due to apartheid. Nonetheless, the Kenya Asians side was unbeaten and quite rightly the South African man had warned of Blaise as the dangerman with bat and ball.

You can write to Blaise at

Special thanks to John Noronha for bringing this to my attention: The late Dilip Sardesai, played 30 test matches for India between 1961 and 1972. Dilip who hailed from Margao, opened the batting and his run tally includes significant innings against West Indies and England. He would have to be included on among the greatest Goan cricketers.





Karachi Gymkhana ground 

St Pat's Karachi, where Blaise honed his skills ... played for the school from age of 14

1951-52 Asians v Europeans: standing: N U Diwan (umpire) Kul Bhushan, Peshavaria, A Raoop, Johnny Lobo, Om Kumar, Chaggan, EJ Cohen (umpire). Seated: Gaffoor, Chandrakant, Ramanbhai (captain) Harbanslal, D'Cunha

1958-59 Asians v Europeans

Seating: Gafoor Ahmed, Chandrakant Patel, Ramanbhai Patel (captain), Harbans Singh (President of Kenya Cricket Association), Blaise D’Cunha, Gursaran Singh, Mehboob Ali.

Standing: Higgs (umpire), Halim, Shashi Patel, A Aziz, R.B Patel, Robert Bresson, V.V. Bhandari, Harshad, N U Diwan (umpire)

Also see for tributes and photos.










  This invaluable collection of photos was sent to me by David Mungai. He says it is “for the acknowledgement of Kenyan History, the celebra...