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Steel Man of India Dr Jamshed J Irani: An ardent lover of sports who promoted games and players in Jamshedpur

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Ex-Tata Steel MD was a big supporter of adventure, Everester Bachendri will remain indebted to the great industry man

Mail News Service

Jamshedpur, November 6: Dr Jamshed. J. Irani was not only an industry man but also an ardent  lover of sports  who played a key role in chanellising its activities in Jamshedpur.

The 86-year-old who passed away on October 31, loved sports from the core of his heart and always believed in promoting sports and sportspersons. As managing director he seldom disapproved of sports-related issues put before him by the company’s sports wing.

Dr Irani kept a tab on sports activities in the steel city and was instrumental in jacking up the Jiji Irani Challenge Cup Cricket Tournament. With sports being a way of life in Tata Steel, the bespectacled Dr Irani, a Padma Bhushan who earned the sobriquet “Steel Man of India, religiously managed to maintain that thought.

The parsee cricket tourney turned out to be willow war on pitch, camaraderie outside the boundary lines. The tournament made a comeback to Jamshedpur after a five-year hiatus in 2020.

The 33rd edition of Jiji Irani Challenge ricket Cup Tournament, which was hosted at the landmark Keenan Stadium in Bistupur in 2020, presented a picture of togetherness among around 140 Parsees from Jamshedpur , Calcutta, Secunderabad, Surat and Nagpur. Of them, more than half were players.

The five-day tournament — with two matches of 20-overs-a-side per day — was hosted by the Jiji Irani Sports Memorial Trust (JISMT). Jiji Irani was the father of Dr JJ Irani and it was The Steel Man of India who played a key role in reviving the event. The tournament was started in 1978 by J.J. Irani in memory of his father.

It was during his stint as managing director of the steel behemoth, the Tata Archery Academy was commissioned on October 4, 1996. Needless to say, archery is now the biggest medal spinner (in national and international competitions) for Jharkhand.

“Dr Irani was a nice person and a big promoter of sports. I really miss him. As managing director, he always approved matters related to sports and promotion of sportspersons,” recalls Harbhajan Singh, an Olymoian and former head of Tata Steel sports wing.

According to Singh, Dr Irani approved sports guidelines which went a long way in jacking up sports and players. The guideline was prepared by Tata’s ex-sports persons Satish Pillai and Adrian Kennedy. “Dr Irani had said after approving the guideline that it (the guideline) should be adopted in toto and must benefit the sportspersons. It was Dr Irani who ensured sportspersons get TA while going for competitions,”Jamshedpur-based Singh recollects.

Coming to adventure, the former Tata Steel managing director promoted the activity to the hilt. Bachendri Pal, the first Indian woman to annex Mount Everest in 1984, will remain indebted to Dr Irani for approving her programmes, including the first all women 4,500 km trans-Himalayan Expedition in 1997. The man also backed other expeditions organised under the banner of the steel major.

In 1983, acclaimed mountaineer Brigadier Gyan Singh (leader of 1960 Mount Everest expedition) had approached the then Tata Sons chairman JRD Tata and recommended Pal’s name for the Everest expedition. Singh also solicited Tata Steel’s support in promoting mountaineering and help for Everest expedition. Singh was aware about the climbing skills of Pal and had also organised a camp for mountaineers, including women.

“The application of Singh was routed to the then Tata Steel CMD Russy Mody and, considering Pal’s climbing skills and company’s thought towards promoting adventure, Pal was given a job in the steel major in Jamshedpur in 1983. Pal later annexed the 29,029 ft Everest peak in 1984.,” recalls a Tata Steel Adventure Foundation (TSAF) official.

Former TSAF secretary Pervez Kapadia recalls: “As an MD, Dr Irani always correlated Pal’s achievements with Tata Steel and congratulated her (Pal) whenever she achieved something or received awards. In a way, Dr Irani thought Pal’s achievement will motivate other employees of the company.  “An ardent sports lover, Dr Irani was instrumental in keeping TSAF’s activities sailing. He never declined to approve programmes put forth by Pal. Dr Irani was always into TSAF,” he says.

Himself a cricketer, Dr Irani also headed the erstwhile Bihar Cricket Association and is a patron of Jharkhand State Cricket Association. The officials of the state cricket outfit operated under his guidance and seldom forgot Dr Irani whenever an event was organised in Jamshedpur and Jharkhand.

In 1997, Queen Elizabeth II conferred on Dr Irani a honorary Knighthood (KBE) for  his contributions top Indo-British Trade and Co-operation. In 2007, he was honoured by the President of India who conferred on him the Padma Bhushan award for his services to Trade and Industry in the country.

Dr Irani was an avid stamp collector and a great promoter of sports and education in the steel city and a committed environmentalist.

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