Mumbai lifted the Ranji Trophy, India’s top domestic cricket championship, for the 40th time the other day.
For a city to repeatedly stamp its authority on the game in a vast country like India is a gigantic achievement.
Mumbai’s dominance in this tournament, which is equivalent to the England’s County Championship and Australia’s Sheffield Shield, is a direct reflection of the people’s passion for the game in this city.
Cricket is a way of life in Mumbai.
Despite its bursting population, the struggle of everyday life and the hassles of travel, the game flourishes here. I consider myself fortunate to have started my career as a reporter from this city because it injects an infatuation for the game into you.
Like the Wankhede and Brabourne stadiums, the Shivaji Park ground and Azad Maidan is full with history. Cricket is played in almost every nook and corner in this city. Almost all Mumbai players that have represented India would have played on these grounds and streets.
Everyone enjoys playing the game and lets others play as well. A man rushing to catch the local train could find himself walking behind the slips cordon or a mid-on fielder of an exciting match in progress. No wonder Mumbai is called the “nursery of Indian cricket”.
One of my first reporting assignments was the Kanga League and that is where very often the script of the future of an Indian cricketer begins because those on the field are the present and future stars of India.
Even superstars never miss a chance to play in this league. Leading by example was Sunil Gavaskar, who despite landing from an international tour at night, very often turned up to play the league in the early morning. The league is often hit by rain but that does not stop the match and wash away the excitement to play.
It is with pride that every child speaks of having played in the Harris Shield inter-school tournament. It was in this very tournament that I first saw Sachin Tendulkar in action. This tournament is the stepping stone for all those who later go on to become the legends of Indian cricket.
During every tournament people speak with pride of having witnessed the great knocks by Gavaskar, Tendulkar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Vinoo Mankad and Polly Umrigar, which inspires budding cricketers.
Mumbai’s serial success hence is the reward to the people of this city, for their adoration for the game.
So much so that it is only a matter of time before they celebrate their 50th Ranji Trophy.