Bhosale played junior cricket with Sachin Tendulkar and went on to play Ranji Trophy for Railways
Auckland: In the drawing room of a house in Royal Oak's Manukau suburb here, Mumbai cricket is often passionately discussed. And the common inference is that it is spiraling downwards. Former Railways first-class; Mumbai under-17 and under-19 all-rounder Sangram Bhosale has been living in New Zealand for over a decade now.
Sangram Bhosale is standing third from left in this Mumbai under-17 team photograph shot at Baroda in 1987.Paras Mhambrey is to Bhosale's left. Sitting (left to right) are: Deepraj Kerkar, Sachin Tendulkar, MS Rao (manager), Mayur Kadrekar, Hemu Dalvi (coach), Jatin Paranjape and Vinod Kambli. Sairaj Bahutule is kneeling (extreme right). Pic Courtesy: The Making of a Cricketer by Ajit Tendulkar
Sangram (42) moved here after the Railways decided to derail his cricket career. In the opinion of several pundits, his father Vijay too got a poor deal and could not go beyond playing for Baroda, Maharashtra and Mumbai. Vijay (77) left for Mumbai a few days before Saturday's India vs Zimbabwe World Cup match at Eden Park and will be back in Auckland soon.
The Bhosales are now hopeful that their third generation, six-year-old Vivaan, will one day go on to represent New Zealand at the highest level. In an interview with mid-day, Sangram spoke about his early days in cricket, coping with the fact that his father was a Mumbai selector.
On growing up as Sunil Gavaskar's neighbour:
As a nine-year-old, I remember in those days, to have a video cassette player was a luxury. I used to spend hours going to Gavaskar's house in the building next to ours at Hindu Colony, Dadar and making his mother play out his batting videos for me. I would particularly watch his double century in England (221 at the Oval in 1979). Whenever Gavaskar would be back from tours, he would join us kids for some cricket in the building. Even his brother-in-law Gundappa Vishwanath would join us for a game whenever he came visiting. Later, Vishwanath would come over to our place and have a drink with my father.
Sangram Bhosale with wife Ketki, son Vivaan and mother Sunita at their home in the Royal Oak region of suburban Auckland. Inset: Vijay Bhosale
On playing junior cricket with Sachin Tendulkar:
I played my junior cricket (u-15, u-17, u-19) with some very talented cricketers, many of whom went on to play for India (Sachin Tendulkar, Vinod Kambli, Paras Mhambrey, Jatin Paranjape, Nilesh Kulkarni, Sairaj Bahutule and Sanjay Bangar). The under-19 team was so good that when Sachin first got picked for India – for the 1989 Pakistan tour – his absence didn't really affect our team. I replaced him as No 4 in the first game we played at Rajkot. Of course, I didn't get any runs and was later replaced by Amol Muzumdar, but the point is that though Sachin was an extraordinary talent, his absence was hardly felt because this whole group was overflowing with talent.
On missing out on a Mumbai Ranji cap:
My father was one of the Mumbai selectors but he was a man of principles and would never recommend my name. In those days, there were many famous fathers, who pushed for their sons and many felt that I was in the reckoning due to the same reason. But that was far from the truth. In fact, it so happened that Ramakant Desai, who was the chief selector, had noted that I had got some good runs – a double century in the Comrade Shield against Rajasthan SC and a century against Islam Gymkhana in the knockouts besides some good scores in inter-collegiate cricket too – so he (Desai) decided to recommend my name at the selection committee meeting. But when he did so, my father simply walked out of the room not wanting to be a part of the discussion. Back then, I felt that my father should have pushed for me, but now I realise where he was coming from. I made my Ranji debut for Railways in 1992-93 and then went to England to play as a professional for Dorking CC in the Surrey League, where I finished No 8 in the batting averages, No 12 in bowling averages and No 5 in the list of all-rounders. Then, I returned to play club cricket in India and suffered a horrific back injury while diving to stop a ball. I was bed-ridden for around six months and could not fulfil my England contract the next year. But I worked hard and returned to cricket only to be left out by Railways following a tough three-month selection camp. I was very upset and questioned the authorities. That ensured I would never be called to play another game for Railways. I was just 22. I learnt that honesty is not the best policy in Indian cricket. How does one justify my father not playing for India? But I guess politics and cricket go hand-in-hand in India. I went on to pursue my MBA and worked in India and then Australia before joining my sister here in NZ, where I work as a business manager with ANZ Bank. My parents and my wife Ketki have been very supportive and I'm a happy man today.
On the emotional connect with Mumbai cricket...
My father feels terrible whenever Mumbai fail. He has played for different teams – Mumbai, Maharashtra, Baroda, but Mumbai remains closest to his heart. When Mumbai lost to Jammu and Kashmir in the Ranji Trophy last year, my father was depressed and so was I, because I have also grown up with Mumbai cricket in my blood. My father was manager of the Mumbai team that lost to Haryana by one run in an epic final at the Wankhede Stadium in 1991. Abey Kuruvilla was making his debut and Haryana had Kapil Dev and Chetan Sharma in their ranks. I watched that game and remember feeling terrible. My father wonders what's wrong with Mumbai cricket now and hopes that the glory days will return before he dies. My father also wants his grandson to achieve what both he and me couldn't – to play cricket for his country, which is New Zealand. Vivaan is just six and plays for the Cornwall Club here. He enjoys batting. Hopefully, he'll be a Black Cap.