City cricket on a sticky wicket

Aug 30, 2018, 07:30 IST | Clayton Murzello

The Kanga League has lost so much of its sheen that suggestions of discontinuing it should no longer be deemed preposterous

City cricket on a sticky wicket
A Dadar Union SC vs National CC Dr HD Kanga League match in progress at Cross Maidan on August 15. Pic/Atul Kamble

Clayton MurzelloThe Dr HD Kanga Cricket League is in its 70th year. It's now like a batsman who started off steadily, grew in confidence once he got his eye in, played some spectacular shots before reaching 50, survived some close calls in the 60s and is now hanging around nervously in the hope of getting past 70.

One look at the home page of the Mumbai Cricket Association website and you can't miss the words, "Dr HD Kanga Cricket League 2018-19 – 8th July 2018 onwards." What the home page doesn't say is that the monsoon has played spoilsport yet again, leading to the cancellation of seven days. The two days of action have been marred by rain, too.

But can the weather be blamed in totality for this year's mess? Some old faithfuls feel the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) is not doing enough to ensure fewer games are ruined. And while some clubs try their utmost to get wickets ready, the same kind of commitment is not shown among other clubs. Eyebrows were raised a few weeks ago when the days preceding the July 29 round of matches were fairly dry, but the MCA announced the cancellation even as most clubs were ready to host their matches. Apparently, the pitches at Shivaji Park and Matunga were not ready for action.

Last year, there was this ridiculous, almost-unbelievable situation where the League could not kick off due to lack of rain that marred the preparation of wickets. "Hello, isn't this a monsoon league," was a fair question, raised by many.

No one can control the weather and without getting into the blame game, the fact is that the Kanga League has lost much of its sheen and suggestions of discontinuing it should no longer be deemed preposterous. The 'what's-the-point' question keeps coming up. A few years ago, there was much criticism when the tournament adorned a new format where the wettest months were removed from the equation and matches kicked off when the monsoon approached its end. It led to large totals and the absence of the monsoon flavour didn't go down very well with the die-hards. The tournament's monsoon element was brought back, but the charm of old is still missing.

That the Kanga League is no longer significant shouldn't be attributed to top players not featuring in it and this old refrain must be viewed fairly. It's no secret that the grounds are not in pristine condition. The fear of injury is understandable since there is so much more at stake now. If the Kanga League has to be an attractive force, the authorities must leave no stone unturned in terms of top-class organisation and turf. Wickets can be challenging, sticky and uncomfortable but outfields cannot be dangerous and career-threatening.

It appears that a change in Mumbai cricket's landscape has sounded the death knell for the Kanga League. The only monsoon league in the world is drowning because other avenues have opened up to showcase cricketing skills and performances. However, the League must make it to the table of discussion and an agenda must be set for the Cricket Improvement Committee (CIC) to brainstorm over several sessions.

Austin Coutinho, who bowled pace in the League for the more than a decade before becoming a mentor to many first-class cricketers and sportspersons, has a lot of suggestions on how the Kanga League can be relevant again. One of them is to make clubs accountable for preparing wickets and outfields in time for matches.

It may sound outlandish, but authorities may want to think about turning the Kanga League into a T20 tournament; something that Dr Makarand Waingankar, who has a doctorate in Mumbai cricket, advocates.

It will not be easy to get this tournament back on track what with the unkind weather, but a thorough attempt should be made by the MCA to tweak it and make its existence far more meaningful than it is at the moment. A century for the Kanga League is 30 years away but why let this deserving batsman crawl and struggle to that mark when half volleys in the form of expertise, experience and enterprise are waiting to be used?

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

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