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Mumbai cricket has not gone places in last 4 years: Dilip Vengsarkar

Erstwhile India captain Dilip Vengsarkar, who will contest for a vice-president's post at next month's  Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) elections, tells mid-day what ails city cricket

Dilip Vengsarkar went on a sabbatical as it were after losing out to late Vilasrao Deshmukh for the president's post of the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) in 2011 elections.

Dadar Union's Dilip Vengsarkar hits out during a festival match against SPG on December 25, 2014 as wicketkeeper Bharat Nadkarni looks on.  Pic/Atul Kamble
Dadar Union's Dilip Vengsarkar hits out during a festival match against SPG on December 25, 2014 as wicketkeeper Bharat Nadkarni looks on. Pic/Atul Kamble 

Although that loss still rankles, the former Mumbai and India skipper is set for a fresh innings in cricket administration. Recently, he decided to contest for the vice-president's post in the June 17 elections.

In an interview to mid-day, Vengsarkar opens up on his decision to contest and why he chose to rejoin the ruling Bal Mahaddalkar group with whom he had a successful tenure as vice-president from 2002 until his loss to Deshmukh.

Excerpts:

What made you jump into the fray this time?
Mumbai cricket has always been very close to my heart. I was extremely disillusioned after I lost narrowly to Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh for the President's post four years ago. Though I had a lot of regards for him as a political leader, during his tenure as the vice-president, unfortunately he neither showed any interest in the game nor did he attend any meetings except one and that too for five minutes during for the entire term of two years. I understand that he came from a different background where his knowledge of the game was minimal. Losing the cricket administration election to him was very disappointing to say the least. After all, I've been associated with Mumbai/Indian cricket for the last 40 years in various capacities and given it all for the betterment of the game in the city/country with excellent results. Any cricketer who has given his blood, sweat and tears for the game at various stages in his career would like to see the game at its best all the time and more importantly, get back its (Mumbai's) lost glory.

How do you plan to restore Mumbai cricket's pride?
First and foremost, I wouldn't like to believe that Mumbai doesn't have quality players as has been said of late. I feel there is a lot of talent in the city that has spread up to Dahanu, Badlapur and Panvel. The talent needs to be spotted and groomed. It requires programs, schemes and expert guidance and I am sure in time to come, Mumbai will boast of the most talented cricketing hub once again.

Was it a boon or bane to stay away from MCA administration since losing the elections in 2011?
Well, I might not have contested the election in 2013, but during that period, I concentrated on my cricket academies, enhance the quality of cricket being played and mentoring young cricketers. I have three now academies — two in Mumbai (Oval Maidan and Mahul, Chembur and one at Chinchwad, Pune). In fact, the results at Pune are so encouraging that many players from my academy are playing for Maharashtra in various age-group tournaments of the BCCI and some of them are leading teams as well. Considering its performance over the years, at present, it is by far one of the best if not the best cricket academy in Maharashtra, for it even beat the Mumbai under-19 team in the Varroc Cup in Chinchwad, Pune.

Which areas need improvement in MCA's administration?
Any cricket association must concentrate more on the development of game. The game has to be its top priority. Elections come and go, but elected candidates must work together for the betterment of Mumbai cricket. They are the custodians of game in the city which boasts of a great history and tradition. Sadly, if you look back on four years, Mumbai's cricket has not really gone places which I feel has a lot of potential to do so.

You have been very vocal about Kanga League's revamp. Will you try to bring back the monsoon flavour to the tournament?
I played Kanga League since I was 13 and enjoyed every season immensely. I started with Hind Sevak in the G division with most of my Bombay school teammates and later played for Dadar Union for almost 25 years. Winning the 'A' division Kanga League in the 1970s for five consecutive years was extremely satisfying. The league might have started decades ago for Mumbai batsmen to get acclimatised to the uncovered, wet wickets in England, it helped the young Mumbai cricketers to tighten up their technique, as one had to bat either on a soft, drying or a good batting wicket with two- feet tall grass grown due to the monsoons. To score runs required not only skill but guts as well and the experience separated Mumbai players from others. I feel club cricket is the heart and soul of Mumbai cricket simply because a 15-year-old boy gets an opportunity to play alongside a 40 year old and thereby learns the tricks of the trade early in his career. Now, whether to restart the Kanga League or not would depend on the cricket improvement committee.

Your group members will back Sharad Pawar for another tenure as president whereas you have been critical of politicians being at the helm...
When I started playing school and later collegiate cricket, we had Mr SK Wankhede as the president, who was a leading politician of Maharashtra. When I scored 240 versus Sydenham College in the inter-collegiate semi final (for Podar) at Wankhede Stadium, I vividly remember him watching the match for all four days and coming to the East Stand where we had a makeshift dressing room, to congratulate me. Later for the BCCI, we had people like Mr NKP Salve, Mr Wankhede and later Mr Madhavrao Scindia. In fact during one Test match, Mr Scindia requested me for my Gunn and Moore bat. I immediately gave it to him as a present and after a couple days he called me to say very proudly that he scored 80 runs with it in one of the matches in Delhi. Mr Sharad Pawar, on his part, helped MCA build the Sharad Pawar Gymkhana and indoor cricket hall at BKC and the Sachin Tendulkar Gymkhana at Kandivili. These grounds have helped Mumbai cricket to stage various cricket tournaments as well as practice sessions. Whoever takes charge must spend time for the game. Whether he is a politician or a businessman or a lawyer or a doctor, it's very important to be hands-on.

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