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2nd February 1935: Mumbai (then Bombay), led by L.P. Jai, squared up against GEB Abell's Northern India in the first-ever Ranji Trophy final. Bombay won the three-day encounter by 208 runs, to become the first winners of India's premier domestic tournament.

Mumbai's young veterans (from left) - Sachin Tendulkar, Sameer Dighe, Ajit Agarkar and Sairaj Bahutule

Mumbai had established itself as the hub of Indian cricket long before this historic win. It all began in the middle of the 19th century when the Parsees became the first Indian community to take to the game. They learnt the basics by watching the Englishmen in action at the Bombay Gymkhana, and practised it at the other end of the Esplanade 'maidan', of which the Bombay Gymkhana was a part. They were soon emulated by the Hindus and Muslims, and the annual Presidency match between the Europeans and Parsees that was instituted in 1892, grew into a Triangular in 1907 with the entry of the Hindus, became a Quadrangular when the Muslims joined in 1912, and then a Pentangular, when the Rest (Christians and Anglo-Indians) entered the fray in 1937. The annual Bombay Tri / Quad / Pentangular, was the most prestigious cricket competition in the land until its communal overtones prompted many people to call for its abolition in the mid-1940s.

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.

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.........

By a Statsman

TEST CRICKET                                                  ONE-DAY INTERNATIONALS

Decade Total no. of players who represented India No. of Mumbai players who made their Test debut % of Mumbai players in the Indian team Total no. of players who represented India No. of Mumbai players who made their ODI debut % of Mumbai players in the Indian team
1932-39 27 6 22.22
1940-49 25 9 36.00
1950-59 46 16 34.78
1960-69 28 9 32.14
1970-79 24 6 25.00 28 8 28.57
1980-89 40 10 25 50 10 20.00
1990-99 37 6 16.22 53 8 15.09
2000-04 21 2 9.52 24 2 8.33
Total 248 64 25.81 155 28 18.06


* Only those players who have represented Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy have been considered.
* India played its first test in 1932 and first one day in 1974, both against England in England, at Lord and Leeds respectively .
* In addition to the players considered in the above table, Anwar Hussain and S.C.Stayers, who played for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy, went on to play Test cricket for Pakistan and West Indies respectively.
* The table has been updated as on August 22, 2004.


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