As Purshottam Shield enters its 100th year, mid-day highlights the significance of city cricket's big fair weather tourney over the years
If the Kanga League is an integral part of Mumbai cricket, the Purshottam Shield has been a significant fair weather tournament, played by every cricketing great in this city, from Vijay Merchant to Sachin Tendulkar and several stars in between.
Dadar Union Sporting Club with the Purshottam Shield in the early 1970s. Sitting (from left): Ramnath Parkar, Milind Rege, Suresh Tigdi, Vasu Paranjape, Vithal Patil, Daya Dudhwadkar. Standing (from left): Subhash Patne, Shashi Nayak, Sashi Tigdi, Dilip Vengsarkar, Avinash Karnik, Jitendra Bhutta, Urmikant Mody, Subhash Bandiwadekar. Pic courtesy: Late Vithal Patil’s personal collection
The first round matches of the Purshottam Shield's centenary year will be played from December 19. Hemant Kenkre, who was Tendulkar's first senior division club captain, recalled the Shivaji Park Youngsters vs Cricket Club of India (CCI) Purshottam Shield game at Shivaji Park Gymkhana in 1987.
CCI, who Kenkre represented then, had already decided to pick a 14-year-old Tendulkar for their 1988 Kanga League season, but were awaiting the final go-ahead from Tendulkar's coach Ramakant Achrekar. Tendulkar, according to Kenkre, played a fine innings of 60 odd on a rank turner and figured in CCI's team sheet later in the season.
One remembers Shivaji Park Youngsters' torchbearer, the late Sharad Kotnis getting Tendulkar to play for the club again in 1990, a few days after he returned from India's 1990 tour to Zealand, where he missed becoming the youngest ever Test centurion by 12 runs.
PJ Hindu Gymkhana has done well to conduct this tournament that has helped in the emergence of countless first-class cricketers. Administrators like the late Niranjan Shah, who passed away last year, stood out. 'Nirabhai' as he was known in cricketing circles, was on cloud nine when his Hindu Gymkhana team, led by former Test star Dilip Sardesai, won the Purshottam and Talim Shield in the same season during the early 1970s.
Ravi Shastri, the Indian team's Director, too will never forget the Purshottam Shield. While delivering the Dilip Sardesai Memorial Cricket Lecture at the Bombay Gymkhana in 2013, he recalled scoring a double hundred for Karnatak Sporting Association against hosts M B Union with Sardesai watching the action from under a tree at Cross Maidan.
"I was pretty close to getting into the Bombay side and I was on my way to a double hundred. I saw him (Sardesai) under a tree and that really got my juices flowing," Shastri recalled.
When Sanjay Manjrekar was asked recently by mid-day about his favourite Dadar Union victory, he pointed to a last-over win in the Purshottam Shield final under his captaincy at PJ Hindu Gym during the 1980s.
'Energee & Mangola'
"We celebrated that with Energee and yes, we mixed some Mangola in it," recalled Manjrekar. According to Purshottam Shield tournament secretary Maulik Merchant's note on the history of the tournament, "the Shield was donated by the late Purshottam G Sukhadia to be competed by the Hindu clubs only with the Pentangular matches gone and new change of events after Independence, the tournament was thrown open to all, irrespective of caste and creed in 1962-63.
"Two more shields were given to the tournament in 1957-58 by friends and admirers of the late VR Sanzgiri (Hon Secretary of Gaud Saraswat CC), gave a shield for the runners-up and Fort Vijay CC, handed over the Dongre Shield to be awarded to the best fielder. Three years later, came a magnificent present from Paranjay Hazrat, in the shape of the Duleep Trophy to be awarded to the side scoring the quickest runs."
If the standard of Mumbai's club cricket was top drawer in previous years, tournaments like the Purshottam Shield must take credit for that billing.