At one time, to play a first-class match in Mumbai, whether at the Brabourne or Wankhede, before television brought cricket into our drawing rooms, was to be watched by some of the greatest names in Indian cricket - Vinoo Mankad, Polly Umrigar, Vijay Manjrekar, Madhav Apte , Hanumant Singh, to name a few. There were other cricket fanatics like Raj Singh Dungarpur, with his exuberant passion for the game, and Vasu Paranjpe, whose acute observations from the pavilion on the technique and methods of individual players and on team strategies added a touch of drama to the proceedings.

To a visiting cricketer, all this could be morale-boosting and exciting, imparting a new spring in his step. Not only that, if he was a good learner, he invariably went back a wiser cricketer, enriched by his contact with these greats of the game. Imagine how much richer the experience of a cricketer brought up in Mumbai cricket, reared on good turf wickets, taking part in tournaments, rubbing shoulders with stalwarts of Indian cricket from Vijay Merchant and Mankad down to Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, living and playing through the Sachin Tendulkar era.

In his A Million Broken Windows - The Magic and Mystique of Bombay Cricket, Makarand Waingankar - journalist, talent spotter, administrator and former cricketer - tries to explain what lies behind the extraordinary success of the city. While the title of the book is probably the result of a copy editor's fantasy, Waingankar brings an altogether more clinical eye to bear on his subject, while unravelling the factors underlying the phenomenal success and durability of Bombay cricket. He confesses to finding the task beyond him, but the many stories from local cricket and first-class matches, and the many personalities and anecdotes featured, more than do the job. The book also rues the falling standards over the last decade, and tries to understand why Mumbai rarely produces world-class bowlers.

Particularly illuminating are the chapters on the Kanga League, played during the monsoon in soggy, unpredictable conditions (a seemingly bizarre innovation by Merchant that gave Bombay cricketers a taste of English conditions before covering of pitches became mandatory), and Ranji Trophy matches in which the gallant, never-say-die spirit of Bombay cricket comes to the fore. Time and again we have watched in awe as the city's cricket team turned hopeless situations around to win. This reviewer was at the receiving end once, in 1976 - and the chapter is an inspiring retelling of a number of such games. In the midst of these heroic tales glitters the story of Dilip Vengsarkar's epic failure to win a Ranji Trophy final, by just two runs, against Haryana, after a 45-run partnership with the No. 11, Abey Kuruvilla, that ended in Kuruvilla getting run out.

MAK Pataudi, one of many cricketers whose thoughts on Mumbai cricket figure in the book, refers to the structure of school, college and club cricket in the city, as well as to the inter-corporate tournament that helped a cricketer's livelihood. In these games, he found the cricket "tougher than some of the Ranji Trophy matches". Rahul Dravid attributes Mumbai's longevity as a cricket centre to its cricket culture, its excellent facilities, and the good turf wickets a Bombay player grows up on. Nari Contractor describes the qualities a player needs to succeed in the Kanga League: "To survive on those sorts of wickets, a batsman had to adjust all the time. You had to play with soft hands. Since there was tall grass, we had to run quick singles because you just couldn't hit a boundary." (Unless you were Sachin Tendulkar, as the book reveals elsewhere.)

While the most poignant stories are about the kind of team men Bombay cricket has produced, like Eknath Solkar and Wasim Jaffer, who put personal tragedy behind them to serve their team, there is at least one that brings a smile to the reader - that of Sudhakar Adhikari, who rushed straight from the muhurat of his wedding to the stadium to play a Ranji Trophy match.

A Million Broken Windows is as much about the VS Patils, Paranjpes, Amol Muzumdars, Milind Reges and other fine players and coaches below Test level, as it is about Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar. It is a fascinating celebration of the Bombay brand of cricket - khadoos (win at all costs), shrewd, indefatigable. It may fall short of expectations in terms of style, but offers substance in good measure.

A Million Broken Windows
The Magic and Mystique of Bombay Cricket
By Makarand Waingankar
Harper Collins India
288 pages, Rs 399

V Ramnarayan bowled offspin for Hyderabad and South Zone in the 1970s. His latest book is Third Man, Recollections from a Life in Cricket