In Fire in Babylon, the film on West Indies cricket, pace bowling great Michael Holding summed up his team’s dominance on the global scene by underlining that the West Indies did not lose a series from the time New Zealand shocked them in 1980 till Australia beat them in 1995.
“15 years,” Holding stressed in his pleasing Jamaican accent. He added that no other team in history had dominated their sport for so long. He is probably unaware of Mumbai’s 15-year winning spree from 1958-59 to 1972-73.
Yesterday in Pune, Mumbai won their 41st Ranji Trophy title. Even if one discounts those 15 back-to-back triumphs, the remaining 26 still appear impossible to beat. Saurashtra didn’t appear to have the bottle for a fight when their batsmen were befuddled into submission for the second time in the game yesterday and it doesn’t do good for Indian cricket’s credibility when the country’s elite players are busy with international cricket at Ranji Trophy final time. Mumbai cricket does have a list of woes, but their consistent appearance on the roll of honour means Mumbai are way ahead of their rivals.
Yet another Ranji triumph is also a reminder for the national selection committee, along with skippers Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli, to start recognising the performance of Mumbai players like Shreyas Iyer and Shardul Thakur. No cricket guru can guarantee that players will hold their own on the international stage since the chasm between first-class and international cricket is intimidating and huge. Also, no well-meaning selector would want talent to fall into an abyss, but opportunities must be provided.
It is heartening to see players emerging from states that are not well known for their cricketing talent. At the same time, there is no reason to ignore traditional power houses. From the Milind Rege-led selection committee to the players and the support staff in between, Mumbai’s Ranji set-up has a lot to be proud of. Indeed, they have given the lion on the MCA crest a good name.