Death stops play at MCA

13 June,2024 01:03 PM IST |  Mumbai  |  Clayton Murzello

The passing away of a leading Mumbai Cricket Association administrator while in office—in this case, president Amol Kale—is not unprecedented; the pieces have to be picked up

The late Mumbai Cricket Association president during the inauguration of the MCA President’s Cup T20 tournament for women at Wankhede Stadium on February 2, 2023. Pic/Ashish Raje


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Two weeks ago, in the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) car park, I saw the cricket body's president walking energetically towards his vehicle after an Apex Council meeting. A fleet of cars followed his vehicle out of the Vinoo Mankad Gate.

Little did we all imagine that Kale, probably the youngest elected president of the MCA, would have a health issue, leave alone losing his life. Although unusual, the passing away of a leading official while in office is not unprecedented where the MCA is concerned. Sheshrao Krishnarao Wankhede, 73, expired on January 30, 1988 when he was in his record 24th season as president of the country's premier association. Like Kale, he was born in Nagpur.

"My association with this organisation [MCA] dates back to 1963-64, when I was invited to take over the Presidentship and steer the affairs at a time when the Association had suffered a severe jolt by the sad and sudden demise of Shri Vithalbhai J Divecha, who had nursed and nurtured it as a mother would her child. It was a void difficult to fill and I took more than six months to take the decision," Wankhede wrote in the MCA's Golden Jubilee Commemoration Volume released in 1981.

According to statisticians Anandji Dossa (deceased) and Sudhir Vaidya, Wankhede took over the hot seat from former Mumbai player Khandu Rangnekar, who was acting president in between Divecha's January 23, 1963 death and Wankhede's elevation to the top post. Wankhede's death triggered off tributes from all over the world and the role he played in building Mumbai's third Test ground was mentioned in the 1989 edition of the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack.

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"It was as president of the Bombay Cricket Association from 1963-64 that he played his most far-reaching role in Indian cricket affairs. For more than 30 years the Association had been dissatisfied with a situation which saw them beholden to the Cricket Club of India for the distribution of profits from Test and first-class cricket at the Brabourne Stadium, which the CCI owned, and for the allocation of seats for Test matches there. When in 1971, with England due to tour India in 1972-73, the CCI would not agree to provide more seats for the Association's member clubs, the BCA at Wankhede's instigation decided to build its own stadium and so vacate its tenancy of the Brabourne Stadium, leaving this famous, splendid ground with little more that its history."

Sunil Gavaskar was more glowing in his editorial for Sportsweek magazine. "Indian sport has lost a giant in the death of SK Wankhede. He was a true lover of sports and always ready to help a sporting cause. His death has left a void that cannot be filled. Personally, Wankhede Stadium will never be the same again without Baba's presence to greet and welcome me to the ground," wrote Gavaskar, whose maternal uncle Madhav Mantri took over from Wankhede as head of the association, a post he held till the early 1990s.

In May 1998, Gavaskar was nominated to replace the deceased Ramakant Desai as vice-president of the association. India's batting titan did not wish to contest the December polls as he did not feel comfortable fighting elections against his senior teammates. The late Polly Umrigar, then 72, decided to contest for a vice-president's post. Ditto Ajit Wadekar. Ultimately, Wadekar triumphed.

Another leading MCA official to pass away while in office was Vilasrao Deshmukh who was president for 13 months after defeating Dilip Vengsarkar in the 2011 elections. Ravi Savant, the then treasurer, became MCA's next chief.

Deshmukh, the former chief minister of Maharashtra, endured a torrid term during his MCA years. He had to deal with the Shah Rukh Khan-MCA security guard issue during the 2012 edition of the IPL apart from the World Cup 2011 ticket mess which involved 405 World Cup final tickets going unsold. His dream was to have academies in places like Goregaon, Badlapur, Panvel and Virar, but that remained a dream.

Kale too had big plans for cricket development through academies particularly in the outskirts of the city. The MCA is in a better position to bring those plans to fruition. That will be the best tribute they can pay Kale.
Kale's death at 47 meant his tenure as MCA president ended less than two years of taking over. Some will feel he played a valuable cameo. Indeed, the rest of the batsmen have their task cut out. In the space of three months, Mumbai cricket has experienced joy (Ranji Trophy title No.42) and despair. The game must go on.

mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance.
He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com
The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper.

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