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The most <i>khadoos</i> of them all

Mumbai players from across eras speak about their team-mates who best exemplified the side's hard-as-nails attitude and did not flinch from a challenge

Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar signs an autograph at the event, The Insider, Mumbai, September 4, 2015

ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Khadoos is a term synonymous with the Mumbai school of cricket. It literally means "stubborn". Applied to Mumbai cricket, it takes different meanings including not giving up, showing character and being ruthless, to name a few. As Mumbai play their 500th Ranji Trophy match, ESPNcricinfo asked a bunch of Mumbai players from across eras to pick their choice of the most khadoos player. On each of the next four days, two players will talk about their pick.

Sanjay was precise in his words and thoughts

As we were walking back on the fourth evening of the 1997 Ranji Trophy final, which was a day-night match, I distinctly remember Sanjay Manjrekar pinpointing something. Sanjay, who was the Bombay captain, mentioned Delhi might have fallen short by at least 30-40 runs on the penultimate evening. He was sure Delhi had left too much work to be done on the final day.
I did not understand why he said that because to me Delhi were in a commanding position in reply to our mammoth 630. On the final day Delhi needed just 265 runs with the pair of overnight centurions, Ashu Dani and Ajay Sharma, still at the crease.
At about 1 o'clock in the morning I was woken up by a phone call in my hotel room. It was Sanjay. "Room madhe ye, bolaya cha aahe (come to my room, need to talk)." I was like "aatha (now)?" I went to his room as I was ordered. Also present were Ballu [Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Bombay coach] and Nilesh Kulkarni, Mumbai's lead spinner.
In the next hour or so Sanjay laid out precise plan for the final day. We won the title because of that plan. The wicket being so flat, Sanjay said that we have to bowl at least four balls wide outside of off stump, on the fifth or maybe even the seventh stump, and two bouncers. Manish Patel and Paras Mhambrey will bowl from one end and Nilesh would bowl from other the end, over the stumps, into the rough, on the batsman's pads.
Sanjay's mind was in overdrive even so late into the night. He wanted to make sure no stone was left unturned. If that meeting would not have happened we would have missed the bus. Sanjay's analytical mind was terrific.
I remember after Bombay had crossed 600, I was batting with Paras. I had already scored a century. So I started to play my shots without any inhibitions. Promptly a message came via the 12th man from Sanjay. I was told: "Chakkugiri kami kar ani gupchup doka khali thevun batting kar (Stop slogging and put your head down and score as many runs as possible)." Sanjay did not know how many runs was safe on such a pitch and hence he alerted me with such a message.
Sanjay was a methodical captain and player. He was precise in his words and thoughts. That was my first match as Bombay's vice-captain. It was my fourth season. And I learned a lot from him. He was a dada.

Ashok, the best opponent

Ashok Mankad would deny you a win at all costs. His eye and mind would not miss much. My best memories of his captaincy came in the Times Shield. Ashok was Mafatlals's captain while I was playing for Tata Sports Club. Each time I played against him, Ashok made sure to tell his batsmen not to take risks against me, to take it easy against me. Ashok knew that the other bowlers in our team were not as dangerous.
I actually do not remember getting Ashok out. Being an opponent Ashok would never talk to me on the field. That was his way of stirring emotions inside me, the opposition's strike bowler. That does not mean I did not take wickets against Mafatlal. I had my own way to probe and get my job done, but he was the best opponent.
He would change the batting order, making frequent bowling changes, moving the field frequently, and get into the head of the opposition by doing all that. He would ask his batsmen, even the good ones, to wear spikes to create an advantage for his spinners. He had good players at Mafatlal like Dhiraj Parsana leading the Mafatlal bowling while Parthasarthi Sharma and Brijesh Patel led their batting.
He took the opponent out of the game with his strategy and tactics. He gave that appearance that you are my enemy. There is no friendship, nothing to talk about, no jokes to crack. He was unlike the other successful captains like Ajit [Ajit Wadekar] and Sunil [Sunil Gavaskar]. Ashok was always khadoos.

Ashok Mankad, the cunning genius

ML Jaisimha's Hyderabad had taken the edge against Bombay in the 1976 Ranji quarter-final at Wankhede Stadium, with a decent first-innings lead of 59 runs. Ashok Mankad, our captain, told me on the penultimate (third) evening that if Rahul Mankad (his brother) got out, I would need to walk in next morning. He had asked me to put my spikes on. I was not sure what the plan was.
Rahul was out inside the first hour of the final morning and I walked in as No. 5. Ashok asked me to run on the pitch. I started doing that and the Hyderabad wicketkeeper noticed that and complained to Jaisimha. After the umpire warned me, Ashok tells me: "Abdul bhai, step out and play." The plan worked as we ended up scoring a big partnership of 82 runs, and Ashok was rubbing his hands in excitement. He declared at the stroke of lunch, when our lead was 216 runs.
By asking me to walk on the track and step out, Ashok simply wanted my spikes to create the rough for our spinners. Our spin twins, Rakesh Tandon and Paddy Shivalkar quickly wrapped up Hyderabad, and Bombay entered the semi-final with a 70-run win.
That was Ashok Mankad - a shrewd, intelligent, calculating captain. Even while leading Mafatlal in the Times Shield, he would tell the bowlers and fielders to add pressure on the opposition and the umpires, appeal loudly and always be in the batsman's ear to distract him. He was a cunning genius.
Ashok had more confidence in me than I had in myself. As a captain, he would throw the new ball to me and say "Iska wicket mangta hain." (We want his wicket). He was relentless and very intelligent. A month after the Hyderabad match, Bombay were playing Bihar at Jamshedpur in the Ranji final. I got a couple of wickets opening the bowling. But for some reason, I bowled a short spell. But as soon as Ramesh Saxena came in, Mankad brought me back. He told me, "I want his wicket." Saxena was very good against spin but was vulnerable to pace. He was dropped in the slips by Mahesh Sampat. Saxena failed to capitalize on the reprieve and he edged back to the keeper. After that Ashok sent me in the deep and asked me to rest.

The ziddi cricketer

Ziddi cricketer hota toh (He was a stubborn player). Amol Muzumdar was always different. He wore the Mumbai Lion on his chest. He was not just emotional, but he was practical. He would say we had to play with an attitude irrespective of whether Mumbai won or lost.
Because of such an attitude, Mumbai would more often than not win matches and tournaments. It also brushed off on us players, who started buying into the win-at-all-costs motto by putting in efforts. Even if there were 30 runs to defend and there were seven wickets to be taken, we would go and just do that.
As a strike bowler, which I was many times as I was the lead spinner, working with Amol was completely fun. He might have scolded me a couple of times, especially when I would remove a fielder from one spot and bowl in an area where the batsman would pick the gap. He acted like a big brother of the team: he scolded us, but he also supported us. He would tell us that if something was not good, we could never do it.
There was a discipline about him, from which he never shirked. He was very khadoos in the nets. He never gave us the wickets even in the nets. My target was just to get the better of Amol and Wasim [Jaffer]. Wasim was solid on the back foot while Amol used to come out and sweep or drive. So our practice was as good as a contest in a real match. The nets were not some routine affair we just had to tick. We used to compete, and hence we developed that fighting spirit.
Basically, Amol was out-and-out khadoos. He would never give up and he carried that personality for a long period of time. He earned that respect. The reason I liked him was not that he was my captain or senior, but it was that attitude. I knew he would stand behind and back his player at all times. At the same time, if Mumbai were in a bother, he would not flinch telling you, "Boss, you need to pull your socks up." And if a player was not giving his best for the team, he would make his life difficult.

"See you in the final, if you qualify."

He played with a lot of passion. He hated losing. His khadoos attitude never allowed him to give his wicket away, no matter what. His temper would be frayed if Mumbai were in a bad position. Amol Muzumdar is my automatic choice as the most khadoos player in my time.
All of us entered a match or a tournament with only the thought of winning it. Mumbai never went in as a defensive team. Everybody hates losing, but some show their emotions and others don't. Amol was not afraid to bare his emotions - he was very fierce, very competitive.
Mumbai had an absolutely miserable start to the 2006-07 season. The first two matches - against Bengal and Punjab - were both draws and we didn't get a single point. Then Hyderabad embarrassed us by inflicting a nine-wicket defeat. I was away on India duty in the league matches but heard about an interesting exchange. While he was shaking hands with an ecstatic opposition, Amol told Vivek Jaisimha, Hyderabad coach, "See you in the final, if you qualify."
Mumbai needed to win the last three league matches outright to qualify for the knock-outs. Amol made sure the dressing room was totally charged and focused at all times. We beat Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra, all with a bonus point, to qualify for the semi-finals.
In the semi-final against Baroda at Moti Bagh, it seemed like they had one foot in the final after we were 0 for 5 in the second innings. We were undeterred and bounced back under Amol's leadership. In the final, Sachin and I got centuries and Zaheer bowled a lovely spell of fast-bowling in a classic against Bengal.
When the match is on the line, when your team's place in the tournament is on the line, you need the intensity to get the players together and fight. Amol had that intensity. If anyone committed a mistake or their attitude slumped, he would get an earful from Amol. But he also lifted the spirits of the dressing room. Mumbai hated, and continues to hate, losing; some players like Amol hate it more.

"Rajput typified Mumbai batsmanship"

Sunil Gavaskar was the all-time khadoos, who got centuries almost at will. Sachin Tendulkar was the ultimate khadoos, who never wanted to get out and was the hardest wicket to pick. These two are the obvious choices, but I would like to talk about a lesser-known Mumbai cricketer, who also typified that attitude - Lalchand Rajput.
Lalu always opened the innings, regardless of the opposition. At the India level there were a few top-order batsmen who wanted to avoid a tough opposition and wanted to bat lower down. Not Lalu. He enjoyed the short stuff, stood up to it and got runs against quality bowling. When I was starting off as a Mumbai player, he was one of the players whose attitude rubbed off on me. He typified Mumbai's batsmanship.
I remember in 1987 I was returning from a face injury in a tour match against the West Indians in Vizag. It was one of the worst pitches I have played on. Lalu did not make runs, but showed enough character as an opener in the little time he spent batting. I was wearing a grille on my helmet, but it popped out after being hit by a short delivery. I had to put the screws back on and continue batting. That was what being a Mumbai batsman was: there was no chance of finding a way to get out of a situation like that because we were always afraid of the gossip. Log kya bolenge? (What would people say?)
Lalu played for India a bit (two Tests and four ODIs), but not with as much self-confidence. What he get exposed with was his own limited ability, his technique. But his attitude was never in doubt even at the highest level. He was the ultimate: he would stand at forward short leg, bowl off spin to break a big partnership, was always an in-your-face kind of player.
Today Lalu is a coach and talks about cricket with pride and self-respect because he played it the right way. He was the product of the Achrekar school of cricket (Ramakant Achrekar, coach to many Mumbai batsmen including Tendulkar, Vinod Kambli, Muzumdar). Lalu came from humble beginnings, but he was a hard cricketer, who was happy to do anything. He treated the opposition as an enemy and wanted to win at all costs.

Sunny, the ultimate khadoos

Sunil Gavaskar was the ultimate khadoos. He opened the batting, faced fast bowling at about 90 mph, went across the globe and scored runs. Flamboyance alone cannot get runs, you need courage. Khadoos pana in Gavaskar was not wearing a helmet. When fast bowlers are looking for your head or your nut you have a choice to hit your way and get away. Or you get behind the ball and score runs. Gavaskar displayed the courage to bat for hours by getting behind the ball.
Being khadoos is when it is hot under the collar, you stay there in the middle and play the time till things settle. You do not look for any shortcuts or escaping. No one showed that better than Gavaskar. He never missed out on showing his prowess in the big matches: Bombay v Delhi, West Zone v North or Bombay v Rest of India. He would set an example by putting a price on his wicket.
Even when I became Bombay's captain, the only man I wanted to emulate was Sunny. He was my first captain. I had seen enough of him on and off the field to understand what I need to do to be a successful captain.
You do not need to be in a Ranji Trophy dressing room to understand the Mumbai culture. You can be on the maidans and clubs to hear stories. But I always believed in getting out there, proving yourself and performing so that stories are told about you. Gavaskar did exactly that.

"Crying will not work. This is Bombay"

Ashok Mankad was my first Bombay captain when I made my Ranji debut along with Vijay Mohanraj and Rahul Mankad in 1976. All three of us were picked from the Bombay University team. One thing Ashok made clear and ingrained straightaway into our mindset was - put a price on your wicket. He would repeat it in the nets, before the match, on the eve of the match, and whenever we sat down. He drilled it into us to take pride in playing for Mumbai. "You have been selected, so make it count and play with the never-say-die attitude," he said.
In my debut innings, I got a duck against Hyderabad, caught bat-pad by Jyothiprasad against the offspinner V Ramnarayan. It was the farewell match for the Hyderabad duo of Tiger Pataudi and Abbas Ali Baig. Hyderabad took a first-innings lead of about 60 (59) runs, but Bombay fought back after Ashok scored a spirited century. Mumbai won by 70 runs eventually.
But personally, the memory that stands out for me came on the first day when I returned to the dressing room after getting a first-ball duck. I was crying. Ashok came in and said, "This is Bombay. All this crying will not work. This is not school or gully cricket. Come out and watch how your other team-mates are battling." Instead of sulking, he wanted me to watch the match and learn from others. Mind you, I played my first season primarily as a medium-fast bowler. Against Hyderabad, I bowled 61.4 overs and got four wickets, all of them in the first innings. But I would never forget getting ML Jaisimha and Abid Ali as one of my first wickets.
Ashok was the one who encouraged me with both batting and bowling. He kept telling me that I was not a bowler. He would say I was a batsman. I started at No. 9 just before Paddy [Padmakar Shivalkar] and Abdul Ismail. It was Ashok who played me at No. 6 against Delhi (in 1978-79) when I scored 145 in the semi-finals.
Ashok had a knack for controlling the game and the situations. Simultaneously, he would encourage youngsters and make us feel like one of the seniors. He told all three of us debutants that we will be playing the three remaining matches of the season, as Bombay won the final in 1976.
In that first season, Ashok would ask me what field I wanted, and he would also assure me that I would not just bowl short spells, but sessions. I bowled about 130 (136 overs) in the three matches in my first season. I got the confidence I have a captain who will back me.
With my batting too, Ashok asked me to express myself. I was a hulla-gulla (slogging) batsman. In our times, Dadar Union represented technique and Shivaji Park symbolised flamboyance. The captain's job was to make sure the player got the right combination of these two methods. Ashok made sure I was not gripped by fear of failure. He made sure it was not a one-man show. For him, every player on the field, as well as the reserves in the dressing room, played the part in the team's success. I salute Ashok for what he did.
As told to Nagraj Gollapudi