Ajit Wadekar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sachin Tendulkar, Sanjay Manjrekar, Madhav Apte, Ajinkya Rahane, Ajit Agarkar and many more on one stage.
Sounds amazing and unbelievable, doesn’t it. Well, it actually happened. How and Why? Read on.
To celebrate the occasion of Mumbai playing its 500th Ranji Match, the Mumbai Cricket Association organised a commemorative celebration function at MCA, BKC in which yesteryear and current cricketers were felicitated. Little known incidents of their careers were shared by them which came as a revelation for all.
Let’s go through the reminiscences of these cricketers.
The Veterans; Madhav Apte, Ajit Wadekar and Sudhir Naik
Madhav Apte starting the evening was apt as this sprightly 85 year veteran was a terrific opening batsman of his time. Madhav spoke about cricket in the war years and how an army hero came to the CCI and got a member clean-bowled. When asked his name, he said Hedley Verity. The member always used to say “I am privileged I got bowled by legend Hedley Verity”
Madhav also spoke about the Pentangular and said that though it was criticized for being a “communal” tournament as it had teams of Europeans, Parsis, Hindus, Muslims and Rest, it was actually played with sportive spirit and friendly but fierce competitiveness.
Ajit Wadekar who had the honour of leading Mumbai to 4 Ranji wins in a row said that the difference between Mumbai and other teams was its fielding. As the team was very good it was easy for him to captain it. Wadekar said that since Mumbai was very strong other teams would always want to defeat it by hook or by crook. He gave the example of the 1972-73 final where Tamil Nadu had prepared a rank turner. However, Wadekar said that Tamil Nadu had forgotten that Mumbai Batsmen were brought up on terrible wickets in the Kanga League. Hence the ploy backfired and Paddy Shivalkar with 13 and Eknath Solkar with 6 wickets spun Mumbai to victory
Sudhir Naik had the honour of captaining Mumbai to a win over Maharashtra in the final without 5 of their Test stars who were on Test duty abroad. He said it was extra special since they had lost to Maharashtra in the League with the 5 stars playing. He spoke about the Mumbai tradition of senior retired players coming to the dressing room and giving valuable advice tips. In that final, Ramakant (Tiny) Desai came and said “Bounce Saldanha”. Accordingly, Sudhir Naik asked Abdul Ismail to bounce and Saldanha got caught in the deep.
The Giants; Dilip Vengsarkar and Sachin Tendulkar
Dilip Vengsarkar spoke about his famous Irani 100 and the background to it. The entire previous season as a 18 year teen he was on the bench as Mumbai had a strong team. That year for one match he got a chance as Solkar was injured and he thought his career was over as he got a duck. However the next match too Solkar was injured and Dilip seized the opportunity hitting a fast 110 with 11 4’s and 7 6’s with Bedi and Prasanna in the attack.
Lala Amarnath said the knock reminded him of Colonel CK Nayudu and the nickname Colonel has stuck to Dilip even today.
Colonel on being asked about the best ever Ranji Final between Mumbai and Haryana said that as they were 35/3 chasing 355 in just 190 minutes and 20 overs he met Kapil Dev in the rest-room and Kapil said, ‘let us win one time”. Dilip said “We are 35/3” but Kapil said, “You are there”. Colonel hit a majestic unbeaten 139 and Sachin 95 in 76 balls which Colonel says was an amazing knock. 50 runs were required with 1 wicket left and Colonel exploded, hitting 26 in 5 balls of an over with 3 6’s and 2 4’s. The last pair added 22 runs more but Kuruvilla was run out with just 2 runs left to win.
Vengsarkar said it was the saddest day of his life and he was more sad than when he lost to Vilasrao Deshmukh in MCA elections.
Colonel spoke about Vinod Kambli and how he had surprised him by hitting his 2nd ball in Ranji trophy for a huge 6 and after hitting a quick 50 having a Thums Up and saying “Cheers Mates”. He said Vinod’s clothes were extraordinarily flamboyant.
Sachin Tendulkar spoke about his debut 100 and how the seniors in the team made him comfortable especially since the entire earlier season he had been in the team as a 14 year boy. For his debut 100, he mentioned Alan Sippy, Lalchand Rajput and Shishir Hattangadi for encouraging him. For his technique, he gave credit to Mumbai veteran bowlers who would keep on bowling to him with imaginary fielders around the bat and asking him to tighten his defence and strengthen his attack.
When asked about his best Ranji ton, Sachin said it was the 200 he got against Tamil Nadu in the 1999-2000 season when he and last man Santosh Saxena got Mumbai the lead. He said that as the ball was reverse swinging he stood outside the crease and when Hemang Badani gave the bowler instructions in Tamil Sachin went back in. He also did the reverse by standing back and then moving forward. He did that alternatively throughout the innings. One ball hit Saxena’s leg and Sachin says he screamed not out before the Umpire could decide. Finally, they crossed the Tamil Nadu Score and Sachin says that he then told Hemang Badani that he understood Tamil.
The Stalwarts; Sanjay Manjrekar and Amol Mazumdar
Sanjay Manjrekar also spoke about the Mumbai-Haryana final and said that due to Sachin Tendulkar’s frantic instructions/requests for the last few overs no one could move from where sitting due to superstition. Though he was the captain he could not even see the last few minutes and his only memory was of noise and not of sight. However of course after having played quite a bit of cricket he said one gets to know whether its a 4 or a 6 or a dot ball.
Sanjay too mentioned Vinod Kambli and said that like Vengsarkar spoke about his flamboyant clothes he remembered Kambli’s earrings and that it was only Mumbai cricket which accepted and welcomed him as it had never differentiated on any basis while other conservative Ranji teams might not have accepted him.
Amol Mazumdar spoke on how small things can fire up a team. He spoke about the 2006-07 season and how the entire Hyderabad team including their administrator Shivlal Yadav started celebrating with champagne near the boundary ropes even though 20 runs were left. He said that he had harsh words to say and this fired up the team and they went on to win each and every match and they went on to win the Ranji Trophy.
Amol also spoke about how Mumbai were 0-5 and Vinayak Sawant played a terrific knock and they won the match from that precarious position.
Finally, the Current Mumbai Captain Aditya Tare also spoke briefly. He gave credit to former coach Praveen Amre for his contribution in the 2015 Ranji Triumph by setting the team on the right path. He expressed confidence that Mumbai would win the Ranji Trophy many more times in future as well.
Veteran Cricket Administrator Sharad Pawar and current MCA President Ashish Shelar spoke on the occasion. Many other stalwarts of Mumbai Cricket such as Karsan Ghavri, Ajit Agarkar, Ajinkya Rahane, Praveen Amre, Vinod Kambli, Nilesh Kulkarni and Rohit Sharma were felicitated in the function.
A special moment was felicitation of young 16 year Jemimah Rodrigues of Bandra, Mumbai who just a few days ago had smashed an unbeated 202 in 163 balls against Saurashtra in Under-19 cricket.
Overall it was a memorable evening full of nostalgia.