After 36 years, Wankhede head groundsman Vijay Tambe witnesses last game
Sixty-year-old Vijay Tambe, the head groundsman at the Mumbai Cricket Association’s (MCA) Wankhede Stadium, ends his innings at the end of next month.
Groundsman Vijay Tambe at the Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday. Pic/Atul Kamble
Yesterday, he witnessed his last game at a venue he has attended to for 36 years. It ended for Tambe with an Indian Premier League game which Mumbai Indians won against KKR; it started with a Test match — a landmark one for India in 1980.
“I still remember my first big game when we prepared the main and practice wickets at the corner of the old Wankhede Stadium. It was the BCCI’s Golden Jubilee Test in 1980. In those days, we used ‘durwa’ a kind of grass to prepare the wicket and India lost by 10 wickets to Mike Brearley’s England team,” Tambe told mid-day. It was in this Test that Ian Botham scored a century and claimed 13 wickets. Apart from several IPL and first-class tracks, Tambe helped to prepare 18 Test pitches and 20 one-day international Wankhede Stadium pitches, the first of which was the India vs Sri Lanka tie in 1987. India scored 299 for 4 in 40 overs to which Sri Lanka replied by falling short by 10 runs.
Vijay Tambe with MI skipper Rohit Sharma prior to the match between Mumbai and Kolkata at Wankhede Stadium yesterday
From 1992, he served as assistant groundsman to Mukund Pawar and was promoted in 2005 to head groundsman. “I liked to watch cricket right from my childhood. I always dreamt of watching cricket matches from close quarters and that is why I became a groundsman. I learnt a lot by observing how Polly Kaka (former India and Mumbai captain Polly Umrigar) prepared wickets. Sudhir Naik too guided me and liked the way I prepared pitches,” said Tambe.
Tambe is proud to have been appreciated by some legends of the game. “Sachin Tendulkar not only used to ask me about the nature of the wicket, but also enquire about my health and family,” he said.
“I liked the way Amol Muzumdar scored runs. He is my favourite cricketer. I don’t remember the exact games, but I always cherish Sunil Gavaskar’s century, Kapil Dev’s five wicket-haul, Tendulkar’s last Test and 2011 ICC World Cup final at this venue.”
Muzumdar hailed Tambe’s contribution: “For me, Wankhede groundsmen are precious. I have always had high regard for them. Vijay (Tambe) is a hard worker… very thorough.
“When I was Mumbai captain, I used to check with him about the water content and amount of grass on the pitch before every match. He used to give me some knowledgeable inputs. I wish him all the best,” he added.