Mumbai Cricket team achieved the faith of its fans and going great guns with 41 titles and 242 wins in the National Championship. As a qualified umpire and a statistician, I had the opportunity to be a part of Mumbai Cricket and I cherish the memory on that glorious chapter. Mumbai suffered 26 defeats and number of them in recent times to a tenacious Tamil Nadu side and as a TNCA panel umpire I feel proud to co-opt with both the associations.
In the glorious days of Mumbai cricket, I am able to visualise the way the game is played in the maximum city and how the selection process takes place. From the school level the competition is tough and very challenging. Under 14 selection is not so tough as players, who are having high influence are picked to play in the final team. From thereafter, Under 19 and Under 22 selections are really challenging. Mumbai Team has won all the major trophies in national tournaments and the Mumbai Indians side won the Champions Trophy and IPL tournaments in a fitting way.
Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar made mark from the young days in national Cricket. Gavaskar played more in Ranji Trophy and got hurt once at Nashik, playing against Pandurang Salgaonkar, the controversial curator at MCA Pune most recently. But the seasoned Sunny once batted left handed in a Ranji game against Karnataka at Bangalore. In the semi-final of the 1981-82 Ranji season, with Karnataka left-arm Raghuram Bhat spinner coiling webs around Bombay’s batsmen, Sunil Gavaskar walked out as a left-hand batsman to negate him in the second innings. Gavaskar went on to score an unbeaten 18 and save Bombay from outright defeat.
Tamil Nadu side defeated Mumbai at Tirunelvelli and Aushik Sriniwas caused flutter in Bandra Kurla MCA Ground few seasons back. In the last encounter Tamil Nadu annexed first innings points in a crucial game this year. Tamil Nadu gave tough fight and the rivalry was going on for some time and in recent times Tamil Nadu did make an impact against Mumbai. Perhaps, the monsoon season saw few higher level matches played in Mumbai and at the same time Tamil Nadu side is better prepared with Buchi Babu Tournament to outwit the opposition in the conventional form of the game.
As an ardent fan of Cricket, I watched Mumbai vs Delhi match at Kotla grounds in Delhi. When Sunil Gavaskar was caught and bowled by Bishen Bedi the fans entered the field to congratulate Bedi and as an onlooker I crossed from stands to the other end of pavilion to watch the game in the afternoon session. I still remember fond memories. But the most memorable was the one played at the Wankhede Stadium ground. Kapil Dev’s side won the prestigious final by 2 runs, with Dilip Vengsarkar fighting a lone battle and remained not out in the end. I was fortunate to watch the thrilling final.
In my narrative about Mumbai Cricket, the star batsmen of the side were having a tough time playing spin and some of them were foxed by left arm pace as well. This is a very obvious weakness for a champion side like Mumbai. Mumbai did produce quality pace bowlers and Ramakant Desai tops the list with his well directed bouncers. He kept the then world’s best opening batsman, Hanif Mohammad on check with his pace. He was lovingly called Little Desai by Vizzy.
As far as captaincy is concerned I like the way Ajit Wadekar shaped things for Mumbai successfully. When he led the Indian side in 1971, he did won a series in West Indies and one in England during that golden period of Indian cricket. But the most attractive one was that M.S. Hardikar. He led the side when test stars were not present in the Mumbai side and still Shivalkar played a significant role in helping the side come out of tight situations and win the coveted Ranji trophy. Polly Umrigar was the most polished of all the Mumbai captains.
But the most attractive of all was pocket size all rounder Eknath Solkar. He was everywhere in the field, bowled the new and old balls and switched over to spin and over and above guarded the silly point and forward short leg position as a live wire and effected number of stunning catches, which ultimately paved the way for Indian team’s facile wins at home and abroad. In all Mumbai cricket means business all the time.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)