If cricket is a religion in India, then it is an obsession in Mumbai. Over the
years, the city has produced several outstanding cricketers who have done their
city and country proud. The roll of honour comprises batsmen; accomplished
technicians as well as belligerent buccaneers, bowlers; canny spinners as well
as hostile and accurate speedsters, quicksilver fielders, and marvellous
wicketkeepers. For every one cricketer who has made it big at the highest
level, there are 20 others who have been as talented, but perhaps not as
fortunate to be 'noticed in the right place at the right time'. Yet, there has
been no room for jealousy. The history of Mumbai cricket is replete with
instances of experienced stalwarts going out of their way to encourage a
promising youngster, even at the cost of their place in the team.
The city's cricketing grapevine is to be experienced to be believed. An
outstanding batting, bowling or fielding performance at the inter-school,
inter-collegiate or even inter-club level has to happen, only for the news to
spread all over the cricketing circles. The performers are immediately
earmarked for special attention, and it is almost as if an entire city gets
involved in the grooming process. The manner in which Sachin Tendulkar and
Vinod Kambli were 'groomed' from February 1988, when they added a record 664 in
an inter-school match, till they made their respective debuts for India, is a
case in point.
When Raj Singh Dungarpur, former captain of Rajasthan and one of the greatest
cricket-lovers on the planet, recently opined; "The Mumbai team of the 1960s
would have easily defeated the current Indian team, Tendulkar included",
chances are that many people from other parts of the country would have been
shocked. But Mumbai's cricketing fraternity wasn't.
A stubborn, 'khadoos' attitude towards the game, and an unrelenting will to win
have been integral components of Mumbai's cricketing ethos. Mumbai have won the
Ranji Trophy a staggering 36 times, six times more than any other cricket team.
Of those 36 triumphs, 15 were achieved in a row, from 1958-59 to 1972-73. The
roster of Ranji Trophy winning captains stretches from L.P. Jai in 1934-35 to
Sairaj Bahutule in 2003-04. Mumbai won the title in its first year, 25th year
(1969-70 - Capt: Ajit Wadekar), 50th year (1984-85 - Capt: Sunil Gavaskar) and
60th year (1994-95 - Capt: Sachin Tendulkar).
There was a time when Indian cricket was synonymous with Mumbai cricket. The
presence of nearly half a dozen, sometimes even more 'Mumbaikars' in the Indian
eleven for a number of years was commented and frowned upon by people from
outside the city, but even the most strident detractors of Mumbai cricket could
not doubt the credentials of the players produced by the gullies and maidans of
the metropolis. In recent times, other teams have 'caught up' with Mumbai, but
a reduction in the number of Mumbai players making their international debut
(refer to the table given below) cannot be attributed to a slump in standards.
Notions of a 'decline', if any, have been dispelled by the back-to-back
triumphs in the Ranji Trophy in 2002-03 and 2003-04. The 2002-03 triumph was
all the more remarkable, achieved as it was without 'stars' like Tendulkar and
Kambli, who did not play a single game due to other commitments.
Mumbai's current cricketers are aware that they are the torchbearers of a
tradition that began more than a century ago. They have an entire city, India's
largest, behind them, as they continue to strive towards achieving glory at the
higher levels, never mind the whispers, which suggest that Mumbai will not be
allowed to regain its place of pride in Indian cricket.
THE WHO'S WHO OF MUMBAI CRICKET
L.P. Jai, Vijay Merchant, Polly Umrigar, Madhav Mantri, Naren Tamhane, Nari
Contractor, Vijay Manjrekar, Subhash Gupte, Madhav Apte, G.S. Ramchand, Arvind
Apte, Dattu Phadkar, Bapu Nadkarni, Ramakant Desai, Farokh Engineer, Dilip
Sardesai, Ajit Wadekar, Ashok Mankad, Padmakar Shivalkar, Sunil Gavaskar,
Sudhir Naik, Eknath Solkar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Karsan Ghavri, Sandeep Patil,
Ravi Shastri, Balwinder Sandhu, Ghulam Parkar, Raju Kulkarni, Sanjay Manjrekar,
Chandrakant Pandit, Sachin Tendulkar, Vinod Kambli, Sairaj Bahutule, Nilesh
Kulkarni, Abey Kuruvilla, Salil Ankola, Amol Muzumdar, Ajit Agarkar, Paras
Mhambrey, Ramesh Powar.........
PERCENTAGE OF MUMBAI PLAYERS IN THE INDIAN TEAM, FROM 1932 TO 2004:
By a Statsman
TEST CRICKET ONE-DAY