Reflections on the Ranji Trophy January 11, 2011

Bring back the Mumbai pride

There is evidence to suggest Mumbai's early exit from the Ranji Trophy was a setback waiting to happen. Thorough and quick action is needed to revive Mumbai cricket

Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character. And when a team that is a sure-shot winner doesn't deliver, all the decision-makers face the wrath. That's what happened when Mumbai were crushed by Rajasthan in the Ranji Trophy quarter-final.

The day Mumbai were shoved out of competition by Rajasthan, there was a reaction from Salim Durrani - who played for Rajasthan - that the souls of both Rajsingh Dungarpur and Hanumant Singh will feel avenged. Dungarpur went to crazy lengths to ensure a win. He went to the extent of resorting to superstitions: He placed a gentleman whose very presence was supposed to bring bad omen to the team outside the dressing room. Yet Mumbai won.

Dungarpur figured in seven Ranji finals against Mumbai and lost all of them. So he got a replica made of Ranji trophy and placed in the lobby of the Cricket Club of India. When asked he said, " I couldn't lay hands on the real trophy so I got this made". He would touch the trophy first thing when he entered the club.

Why are Mumbaikars raising a hue and cry over losing to Rajasthan? Didn't they fail to qualify for the knockouts on two occasions? The one factor that irks an average Mumbaikar is that after producing a genius like Sachin Tendulkar, Mumbai hasn't given a top cricketer to the country in past decade. Zaheer Khan may have played for Mumbai but he is an import. A couple of other Mumbai players have indeed played for India but they weren't consistent and couldn't leave a lasting mark.

The exploits of Tendulkar certainly have raised the expectations of Mumbaikars who boast about their cricketing heritage: Eighty-three tournaments are played on 66 turf pitches with 18,200 registered cricketers on its roll. I have watched and covered Mumbai cricket for over four decades. The difference in the teams of yesteryears and recent ones is that of single-minded commitment. The present generation, too, has the drive and passion, but when it needs to be converted to performance, it is not as consistent as its predecessors.

I recall that in the 1968-69 Ranji final between Mumbai and Bengal, Eknath Solkar suffered a family tragedy but fought on for his Mumbai. He was overnight on six and Mumbai needed 67 to take the vital first-innings lead with tailenders to follow. Solkar performed the last rites of his father and rushed to the Brabourne stadium from the crematorium with moist eyes to score the runs that helped Mumbai win.

Another instance is that of Sudhakar Adhikari. In 1961 Adhikari, an opener, rushed to the Brabourne stadium to play a Ranji match after getting married at 9.03 in the morning - those days match would start at 10.30 am - and after scoring a century, he returned for the reception party in the evening.

The difference in the teams of yesteryears and recent ones is that of single-minded commitment. The present generation, too, has the drive and passion, but when it needs to be converted to performance, it is not as consistent as its predecessors

In 1976, a depleted Mumbai had conceded a lead of 59 runs to a strong Hyderabad, which boasted the likes ML Jaisimha, Tiger Pataudi, Abbas Ali Baig , Abid Ali, and Jayantilal. However, on the third day, with 216 to chase after lunch, Hyderabad were made to dance to the guile of legspinner Rakesh Tandon ( 6 for 62 ), shrewdly handled by captain Ashok Mankad and lost the game.

And then there was a match against Baroda in 1972. On a chilly morning, the ball swung prodigiously on the Moti Bagh Palace ground in Baroda and Mumbai stumbled to 76 for 6, and were shot out for 129. I remember Vijay Manjrekar ordering the caterers not to serve the lunch to the Mumbai team led by Dilip Sardsesai.They fought back gallantly and Baroda were tottering at 9 down 19 before they were bowled out for 42!

In 1976 in Kolkata, the Mumbai team collapsed from 161 for 1 to 256 for 8 and required a further 74 runs to overcome Bengal. That night all the players assembled in the overnight batsman Sharad Hazare's room to motivate him. Though he was hit on the face on the first day while keeping wicket and was spitting blood whole day, he kept wickets manfully. For three days he was on liquid diet as he just couldn't ingest food. Next day in the company of Rakesh Tandon, Hazare got those vital runs and with whatever strength he had, he shouted "Mumbai is Mumbai '.

What then ails Mumbai cricket? Is it that the city lacks quality cricketers or wants to rest its laurels on Tendulkar's success? Do the players lack the pride and gumption that are required to be a successful team? History records a stupendous contribution of Mumbai in terms of winning 73.62 % matches outright. Out of a total of 417 matches till the year of 2008-9, Mumbai won 307 matches outright. And in 76 years of the Ranji Trophy, Mumbai entered the final 43 times, and won 32 out of 39 finals outright.

Mumbai has known to be ruthless. But this season, the way they played against the veterans of Railways and minnows Assam, they looked like pussycats. As captain Wasim Jaffer admitted, Mumbai were complacent and arrogant. They paid the price against Rajasthan when on a fresh pitch they preferred to face the in-form Pankaj Singh and the new sensation Deepak Chahar. Mumbai teams were always arrogant because they had strong self belief and the talent to back it up.

Where has that Mumbai gone ask the old timers. The managing committee of the Mumbai Cricket Association investigated for four hours the reasons for Mumbai's loss to a team from the Plate Division. They felt the need to question the selection committee and the coach. The Cricket Improvement Committee ( CIC ), whose chairman Sunil Gavaskar couldn't attend the meeting, heard the selectors and referred the matter back to the managing committee. The managing committee discussed the minutes of the CIC meeting of the previous day and referred the matter back to CIC. So a cricket association is happy indulging in a game of ping pong.

The basic question is what made Mumbai perform badly. The issue needs mature and not emotional handling. The question that needs to be addressed is was this loss waiting to happen or happened unannounced. There is enough evidence available that it was waiting to happen. Unfortunately, Mumbai kept winning the league matches but not comfortably.

The cricket followers of Mumbai are pessimistic about the future with an election coming up in the next four months. The situation calls for thorough scrutiny and quick action from Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar and Sanjay Manjrekar along with other first-class cricketers in the association. Any delay will be termed as political and its consequences will be tragic.

Makarand Waingankar has spent four decades covering the grassroots of Indian cricket . He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Atul on January 13, 2011, 20:08 GMT

    I am just writing here to bring attention of some editor/writer/columnist towards BCCI members being involved in IPL and salary cap on domestic players. Srinivasan/Kumble holding key positions, player can possibly jeopardize his career by not being selected in domestic teams. Selection might not but not selecting a player can be done. Domestic performances help in getting into national team but what if these uncapped players are not picked in domestic teams. I ask respected Gavaskar and Ravi Shashtri, how could you come up with this unfair idea of salary cap on domestic players to maintain their interest in playing for India? Sourabh Tiwari got 1.6 million but Ryadu, Manish Pandey and few others are getting only 20 lakhs. Just because Tiwari played 3 ODIs (Pandey has better domestic record). I know you can't do anything about Kumble and srinivasan but help in removing salary cap to prevent arm twisting.

  • Aravind on January 12, 2011, 17:42 GMT

    @ indicricket. Sir, What the editor was saying that Mumbai know to continiously produce great cricketers did'nt have any significant player other than Sachin. If u look back every dacade had great players, Vijay Manjrekar, Dilip Sardesai, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sunil Gavasker, Sanjay Manjrekar, Sachin Tendulkar etc. But off late no more permenent Mumbai players. Agarkar made his debut in late 90s and did'nt paly much after the 2001 WC fiasco. Jaffer had a start-stop Test career. that is it. Rohit is still considered a bright prospect.. but not permenent. After Sachin, if fear we might not even have a single player from Mumbai.. which is very bad for Mumbai pride.

  • Dummy4 on January 12, 2011, 7:21 GMT


  • Dummy4 on January 11, 2011, 19:59 GMT

    As much as columnist anticipated this defeat,so much did i regarding article about hue and cry as such which is very predictable with Mumbai .

    i wonder these articles are always ready with Mumbai team , whenevr they exit,next few days you get to read all this.

    actually speaking ,its not only mumbai but thers complete dearth in terms of quality cricket across the all the domestic teams especially new ball bowling.

  • Sanket on January 11, 2011, 18:26 GMT

    Great article but I would like to add 1 more point. Earlier, cricket was confined to urban areas and hence Mumbai had a much larger talent pool than most other associations. With the increasing popularity of cricket, this distinction is being eroded fast.

  • Stud on January 11, 2011, 16:03 GMT

    Wasim Jaffer can still make to the India Test Team at no.3 (in place of Dravid). rohit sharma is all promise but no performace.

  • Dummy4 on January 11, 2011, 15:22 GMT

    very nice article makrand but i doubt will it make any impact? after sachin debut in 1989 hardly 13 players from mumbai have represented india in teste and odis. barring a few have played more than 10, 20 is a sad commentary on mumbai cricket.

  • Dummy4 on January 11, 2011, 8:15 GMT

    As always, a great analysis. I am an ardent devourer of your articles. Just wanted to know if Eknath Solkar hit the winning runs in 1968 final. The scorecard shows that the match was drawn (chasing 249 for victory, Mumbai were on 225 for 5) and the trophy was shared by Mumbai and Madras.

  • Suresh on January 11, 2011, 7:02 GMT

    Mumbai hasn't given a single cricketer to the country in past decade....What about Agarkar and Jaffer?

  • Dummy4 on January 11, 2011, 6:21 GMT

    What I noticed about Mumbai was the complacency part. They managed to take leads in matches this season but would still go and play the second innings to increase their averages. Arrogance - yes, this was very much visible in last years Ranji finals as well. It has come back to haunt them this season. I cannot see a reason why Jaffer is not able to control their arrogance if he is aware of the reason of failure !

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