The city has produced talent, but more importantly, it has produced fearless street-fighting cricketers, who may never play for India or the cash rich Indian Premier League but will want to play with an ambition to win the Ranji Trophy, writes Shishir Hattangadi
Mumbai cricketers have one significant quality - they respect players who have played for Mumbai as much as they respect Test cricketers.
Somewhere they believe, and it may be with reason, that playing for Mumbai is tougher than playing for India. I have yet to see a club cricketer in awe of a Test player from another state. Yes, there is respect and admiration for what the Test cricketer has achieved, but it ends there.
The perceptible respect for fellow club cricketers is a testimony to the admiration for the wooden-spooned who toils at his game without expectations be it financial or mere recognition. Mumbai annihilated Saurashtra in three days at Pune to win the Ranji Trophy for the 41st time. Mumbai may have had the luck at times, but they cashed in on that good fortune to decimate an overawed opposition.
Mumbai captain Ashok Mankad poses with 1975-76 Ranji Trophy. Pic/mid-day archives
Saurashtra turned up for the game, only turned up. The difference is Mumbai expected to win. Having lost only four finals of the 45 it has played is an awesome stat. I have been a part of at least two of the four that I can remember and I haven't forgotten. I remember my first full season for Bombay, as it was called then. We lost a close one to Karnataka at the Wankhede Stadium in 1983. Sadly, I can take a bit of flak for that one as I floored left-handed B Vijayakrishna at midwicket as he slapped a short one. Game over, championship lost.
Reflecting on scoring the highest number of runs for Bombay that year, I was at a social function almost a month later. I could see my skipper Ashok Mankad observe me closely. I went up to him to exchange pleasantries. “Have you been able to sleep since dropping that catch?” he asked. “Have got over it,” I said. Ashok said: “I am still tossing and turning in bed. You dropped the Ranji Trophy, Shish.” Ashok Mankad's words resonate even today; not winning the trophy meant sleepless nights till he won it again. I was sure it was this do-or-die quality that had helped create a culture, over the years, of winning. Mumbai has produced talent, but more importantly it has produced fearless street-fighting cricketers who may never play for India or the cash rich IPL, but will want to play with an ambition to win the Ranji Trophy. It means the world to everyone involved and not involved in the system.
It may not be an indicative of the game's health and administration but it certainly tells you what winning the Ranji Trophy means to a Mumbai player despite the room for improvement within the system.
While Mumbai celebrates its 41st I can see some of the Bombay stalwarts like Polly Umrigar, Eknath Solkar, GS Ramchand, Ashok Mankad and Dilip Sardesai raise a toast because the Ranji Trophy meant the world to them, as if to suggest Bombay had a patent over it.
Yes 'Kaka' Mankad, I still remember your words and I still wish Mumbai wins every time they play the final because if they don't, I know you will not sleep well in a better world.
Shishir Hattangadi is a former Mumbai captain