On 10th November 2017 at Wankhede stadium, Mumbai plays its 500th Ranji Trophy match versus Baroda. In the history of Indian cricket and the 83 years of the Ranji trophy Mumbai has easily been the most successful team. It has gone to the knockout stages of the tournament and won the Ranji Trophy more than any other team.
Let us have a look at what Mumbai cricket has achieved and what it has done for Indian Cricket over the years.
Mumbai has reached the Ranji final a record 46 times. It has also won the Trophy a record 41 times. Mumbai has the longest winning streak in a row with 15 wins coming from 1958-59 to 1972-73. It also has given the maximum number of Test cricketers to the country.
Brief History of cricket in India
Regular Cricket in India started with an annual contest between Parsis and Europeans from 1895 to 1906 alternating between Mumbai and Poona as host venue. The 1st such match however was earlier in 1877 between Europeans of Gymkhana club and Parsis of Zoroastrian Club. Subsequently the Bombay Triangular and Bombay Quadrangular came into existence with inclusion of a 3rd team of Hindus in 1907 and Muslims in 1912. The Bombay Quadrangular then became Bombay Pentangular with the inclusion of a 5th team “The Rest”.
As the Pentangular had communal overtones it was dissolved in 1946 when there was political unrest and rioting in various places. Interestingly, the opinion of Mahatma Gandhi too was sought whether to continue with the tournament or not. His views which are sourced from information in public media are as below;
“Incidentally I would like the public of Bombay to revise their sporting code and erase from it communal matches. I can understand matches between colleges and institutions, but I never understood reasons for having Hindu, Parsi, Muslim and other communal Elevens. I should have thought that such unsportsmanlike divisions would be considered taboos in sporting language and sporting manners. Can we not have some field of life which cannot be touched by the communal spirit? ”
With the Pentangular gone, the Ranji Trophy which had started in 1934-35 swiftly emerged to be India’s premier 1st class tournament.
How the tournament was named Ranji Trophy
This in itself is an interesting nugget of history. BCCI Secretary De Mello proposed a national championship and the Maharajah of Patiala offered to gift the Trophy which at that point of time cost a staggering 500 pounds. He wanted it to be named after Ranjitsinghji. However his rival the Maharajah of Vizianagaram wanted it to be named after Lord Willingdon and in an emergency meeting of BCCI , the decision to call it Willingdon Trophy was taken.
However on getting this news, the Maharajah of Patiala played his own chess moves to ensure that the Trophy be named after the 1st great player from India. Accordingly, when Bombay won the 1st tournament, it was the Ranji Trophy which was given away by interestingly Lord Willingdon.
On a lighter note, does this mean, intrigue, scheming and subterfuge are part of BCCI since inception and not just a recent phenomena of BCCI ?
Great Mumbai players over the years
Mumbai has given India some great cricketers.. At one point of time it was said it is more difficult to enter the Mumbai Ranji trophy team than the Indian cricket team. Let us try to recollect some great Mumbai players.
Mumbai has produced so many great cricketers that it will be difficult to name all. However those who instantly come to mind are Vijay Merchant, Rusi Modi, Dilip Sardesai, Sunil Gavaskar, Ajit Wadekar, Polly Umrigar, Farook Engineer, Vinoo Mankad, Karsan Ghavri, Subhash Gupte, Ramakant Desai, Ashok Mankad, Dilip Vengsarkar, Ravi Shastri, Lalchand Rajput, Sanjay Manjrekar, Sachin Tendulkar, Vinod Kambli Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma..
Any name missed out from above list is inadvertent simply because there are so many. That itself is a tribute to Mumbai Cricket.
Those who missed the Bus
Paddy Shivalkar’s name instantly comes to mind. So also Amol Mazumdar. The fomer had Bedi in the way while for the latter, Sachin, Dravid, Sourav and VVS was too much of a traffic jam.
Shreyas Iyer has already made it to the Indian T20 team. A brief mention is a must about Mumbai’s latest batting sensation, Prithvi Shaw. He has scored 3 tons in Ranji trophy in his 1st 4 matches and appears to be an excellent talent. Prithvi emulated Sachin Tendulkar by scoring a 100 in his Ranji and Duleep Debut. Sachin had a debut Irani 100 as well and as Prithvi hasnt played an Irani match yet, his Irani debut will be eagerly awaited to see if he can match Sachin.
Best ever Ranji Final
This has to be the one played between Mumbai and Haryana in 1991 which Haryana won by just 2 runs.
Mumbai needed 355 in just 3 hours and 20 mandatory overs and Haryana new ball attack was handled by Indian Bowlers Kapil and Chetan.. At 34/3 with Shishir Hattangadi, Lalchand Rajput and captain Sanjay Manjrekar back in pavillion it seemed all over. However veteran Dilip Vengsarkar and 18 year teen Sachin had different ideas. Sachin scored 95 in 75 balls with 5 6’s and Colonel an unbeaten 139 in 137 balls with 5 6’s as well. With 9 wickets down 50 still required an injured Colonel was batting with Lalchand as runner. The injury did not prevent Colonel from attacking batting and he even took a 26 run over. Sadly, debutant Kuruvilla was run out with just 2 runs left and while Haryana players celebrated, Vengsarkar openly cried on the pitch.
His was one of the greatest ever knocks ever in the Ranji Trophy and completely overshadowed Deepak Sharma’s 199 for Haryana.
This then is Mumbai cricket for you. Competitive, combatative and often brutal. In 2015-16, Mumbai won their 41st Ranji Trophy with an innings win in the final. In 2016, they were runners-up , more due to a 6 in an innings by debutant Chintan Gaja and captains knock of 90 and 143( in a stirring 4th innings chase of 312) by Parthiv Patel than due to their own faults. You would feel that a win followed by a Runners-up would be good enough for most teams. Well, not for Mumbai. The coach Chandrakant Pandit was removed and replaced by former Indian wicket-keeper and coach Sameer Dighe.
The MCA has organised a felicitation ceremony on 8th December to felicitate the former captains and players of Mumbai Ranji team. They surely deserve it and more. Cricket in India has been richer due to Mumbai cricket and i am sure that in future too more players from Mumbai will represent the Indian cricket team.
500 Not out. 41 and Counting, that’s Mumbai cricket.