Short and sweet success
Like COVID-19 has thrown a spanner in the works of the 2020 Kanga League, wet weather in the 1990 edition nearly caused a null and void situation before a minimum of five matches were possible for Sunder CC to triumph.
The Indian Premier League had to be moved to the UAE after COVID-19 continued to pose a huge danger to the Indian summer slam. Meanwhile in Mumbai, hopes of hosting the much-loved Dr HD Kanga Cricket League have taken a beating.
City cricket enthusiasts would undoubtedly feel deprived and there will be a blank against 2020 in the Kanga League list of champions.
There have been years when the champions could not be decided due to the weather; the most famous one being 1983, when the minimum of five matches required for champions to be decided and promotions and relegations to be effected, couldn't be held.
The 1990 edition very nearly ended up that way but five matches were held and the club which won the first Kanga League — Sunder Cricket Club at Cross Maidan — regained the honour which they achieved in 1948, 1950, 1952, 1954 and 1956. These were premier division wins, apart from 'B' division title triumphs in 1968, 1981 and 1985.
Like the 1970s, Dadar Union dominated the League in the 1980s. They clinched the pennant in 1988 under the captaincy of Sanjay Manjrekar but finished in a shared sixth position with Sunder the following year, in which Shivaji Park Gymkhana (SPG) triumphed.
The 1990 League began on July 29 after two Sundays were washed out and SPG started their title defence on a bad note, with a loss to National CC. The defending champions were bundled out for a feeble 24 in response to National's 155. The bowler to cause major damage was ex-Mumbai and Maharashtra Ranji Trophy pacer Rajendra Lele, who claimed 7-14.
A month later, on September 2, a thriller was witnessed at Cross Maidan, where Sunder earned a one-wicket win over the fancied Cricket Club of India (CCI). The hosts did well to bowl out CCI for 82 through the efforts of Raju Shirke and Paras Mhambrey but encountered turbulence while getting to their target. Young fast bowler Nasir Khan bowled unchanged for more than 10 overs to claim 5-35 and it was left to Sunder's last pair of Ajay Muni (18) and Mushtaq Khan (2) to see their side home. Test player Salil Ankola played his first premier Kanga League game on a maidan and CCI skipper Hemant Kenkre top-scored with an unbeaten 29. Kenkre put on 37 for the last wicket with Kalyan boy Nasir on a difficult pitch.
Dilip Vengsarkar, Sanjay Manjrekar and Sachin Tendulkar turned up to represent their respective clubs the following Sunday, on their return from India's tour of England. Vengsarkar and Manjrekar headed to Khar Gymkhana, where Dadar Union drew with the hosts while Tendulkar's CCI had a similar result against Rajasthan SC.
Tendulkar smashed 63 off 58 balls (7x4, 1x6) as he added 71 for the third wicket with Vinod Kambli (60 off 60 balls, 5x4, 2x6) at the Brabourne Stadium.
Meanwhile, National and Sunder notched up their third successive win, seeing off Karnatak SA and Kandivali CA respectively at Cross Maidan.
SPG clashed with Sunder on September 16 when their young fast bowler Sandesh Kawle bagged a hat-trick. But, Sunder refused to be conquered even as the tin plates on the scoreboard outside the tent showed 73-7. Kawle stood a chance of getting into the Railway Ranji Trophy team and there was another Railways Ranji probable in the opposition — Shrikant Kharge, Sunder's classy wicketkeeper-batsman. Kharge (56 not out) and future Test bowler Mhambrey put on 44 for the eighth wicket to help the team cross SPG's 116, a total SPG were restricted to by Shirke (7-37) and Mhambrey (3-32).
Four wins in four games and Sunder were sharing title dreams with National on the same maidan. Shirke (7-33) and Mhambrey (3-26) were at it again for Sunder when Kandivali came over on September 23. Kharge (44) stayed unbeaten again as Sunder declared at 162-7 before the opposition were bowled out for 81.
Prior to the final Sunday, Sunder led the points tally with 15 followed by National, who ceased to be joint leaders after their loss to New Hind SC.
Rain lashed the city hard enough in the last week of September for the final Sunday's matches to be cancelled. Sunder, who were slated to face the formidable Dadar Union, were declared winners. It was an A division triumph achieved after 34 years albeit without a final round of matches, a rarity if not unprecedented. No cash rewards in those days; the players received caps and kitbags at a celebration party.
There were other rewards for some that year. Kharge earned Ranji Trophy selection for the Railways just like Sunder's skipper Sudhakar Chavan did in 1985-86. All-rounder Shirke (26 scalps in the League) got picked to be part of Ravi Shastri's Wills Trophy-winning Bombay outfit and played a Ranji Trophy game for the city against Baroda. Mhambrey became a much talked-about young fast bowler, who eventually made his Ranji debut in 1993.
Vishal Mahadik, a reserve, was another future Bombay fast bowler in the Sunder tent Sunder enjoyed another good Kanga League season in 1991, emerging third after champions CCI and second-placed Dadar Union. A torrid time in 1992 caused their relegation and they haven't returned to the premier division since.
Sadly, Sunder has dipped to the F division and it will take a massive effort to get nearer to the top shelf. It's a club that once boasted of fielding Vinoo Mankad and Subhash Gupte, Dattu Phadkar (who chose to bat or field depending on what the club's popular groundsman Narayan felt at times) and Ranga Sohoni. And of course, Mhambrey, who earned a Test cap in 1996 and is now mentoring this country's young fast bowlers.
On Tuesday, Mhambrey remembered Sunder's 1990 exploits with fondness, but his "What days!" comment provided a sense of nostalgia and sadness to this columnist. He was team manager of that enthusiastic outfit.
mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello
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The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper
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