Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Mumbai cricket.. where art thou ??

40 odd Ranji titles, 16 in a row from 1958 to 1973, a team who could jolly well make up an Indian side and give any world side a run for its money, a team whose mere presence on the field intimidated the opponents (called 'dadas' of the domestic circuit).. that used to be how Mumbai was defined !!.. Yes, the operative word is 'used to'... though Mumbai has still won the Ranji Trophy 4 out of the last 7 seasons, the aura about it is long gone.. and today, as Karnataka beat Mumbai outright for the first time in history (and that to me, is an awesome statistic, given how strong the Karnataka team has been over the years - Vishy, Brijesh Patel, Prasanna etc to name a few), it is time to introspect and ask, Mumbai cricket - where art thou ?
Now before one says that today's Mumbai side was hardly their first choice side (Abhishek Nayar and Dhawal Kulkarni are injured) and that after a long time, Mumbai boasts of three members in the Indian side (Rohit, Rahane and Zaheer), the fact remains that the assembly line on which young Mumbai cricketers burst on the Ranji scene, has been running dry for long. Sample this: in the last game, Mumbai gave a debut to 42-year old Pravin Tambe. While this was celebrated in the media mainly because of Tambe's IPL exploits, no one looked at hard reality: what message does it send to the world when you give a debut to a 42- year old, no matter how good he might be ? Similarly, in the game against Karnataka, near 30-year old D Subramaniam made his debut. All this does not bode well for the future of Mumbai cricket. While the junior cricket in Mumbai continues to make news (Arman Jaffer and Sarfraz Khan are already well-known names, and of course, someone by the name of Arjun Tendulkar is beginning his long journey), the graduation from school cricket to Ranji cricket is not happening.
In my opinion, the sudden retirement of Ajit Agarkar at the start of this season was the biggest blow. Sachin was expected to retire anyways, and Rohit, Rahane and Zaheer were expected to be part of the Indian team. In their absence, Agarkar was to be the guiding light of the team, along with the warhorse Wasim Jaffer. Now, in Ajit's absence, Jaffer has to burden the responsibility as the senior-most member of the team. And his getting out cheaply, as today, can mean a batting order collapse. And now, Mumbai find themselves at 3rd position in the table, and fighting for a quarter-final birth with one game (against second-placed Gujarat) to go. Missing the knockouts is going to be a very bitter pill to swallow.
But there is cause for hope. Last year, Mumbai won (if memory serves me right) 3 out of 4 domestic title across various age groups. So the junior cricket itself is doing pretty well. And the senior side hopefully is a squad in transit. Guys like Siddhesh Lad (21), Suryakumar Yadav (23), Javed Khan (23), Iqbal Abdullah (24) and Kaustubh Pawar (23) still have a long way to go and should hopefully have long careers with Mumbai. And once Nayar and Dhawal return (and Rahane available while India plays ODIs), this will be a stronger side. And if Arman Jaffer, Sarfraz Khan and Prithvi Shaw (he of the 546-run innings in the Harris shield) can make a successful transition to the senior side, there is no doubt that Mumbai can look to regain their lost glory. But till that time, Mumbaikars like me will have to contend with many days and games of pain and eminent people like Ramchandra Guha expressing unbridled joy on twitter over his (Karnataka) team's defeat of the erstwhile domestic 'dadas'.
Picture abhi baaki hai mere doston !!

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