The Mumbai Cricket Team: A story of unparalleled success and strong legacy
The Ranji Trophy, the premier domestic first class championship of India, has 27 teams vying for the coveted prize for the 82nd time this year.
The Mumbai Team made it to the finals of the Ranji trophy this year, their first time in the last three seasons. Yet, the team’s rich history and success in this tournament is unprecedented. They have participated in 44 finals till 2014 and have won 40 out of them.
A brief history
One of the most successful teams of the tournament, hands down, Mumbai has won 40 titles, 15 of them on the trot. Bombay won the first-ever Ranji Trophy in the year 1934-35 and followed it with another win in the succeeding season against Madras. From 1955-56 to 1976-77, they won 20 out of 22 competitions.
The team reached a lull in the late 1980s, with zero appearances in finals for five consecutive years. From 1993-94 to 2003-04, under the new name of Mumbai, they won six more trophies.
Players like Dilip Sardesai, who were part of the team that won fifteen titles on the trot, attribute the success of the team to the legendary Polly Umrigar. Famous for commanding respect amongst his peers, Umrigar carried the torch along with his winning attitude and steely leadership.
The basis of Bombay’s astonishing run was laid by the righteous and disciplined Madhav Mantri, who led the team to victory in three Ranji finals. He was a much-disciplined player and planned strategies in the practice sessions itself. The winning nature was rubbed onto subsequent generations and they carried the legacy forward.
The Mumbai team has been bestowed with batsmen of a different pedigree altogether. Naturally gifted and technically sound batsmen have been a regular feature in different eras. The likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar started their careers with a stint in the Bombay Ranji team and went on to become the best in the world.
From Vijay Merchant and Polly Umrigar to Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, the batting prowess of the Mumbaikars has never failed to impress. Each era had brilliant batsmen who held the team’s batting together.
Wasim Jaffer had been a colossal figure in the Mumbai line-up for close to two decades and has churned up more than fifty first-class centuries. He got to play for India too, but couldn’t establish himself to the same pedigree at the top-level. Others like Amol Muzumdar were unlucky to never play for India, despite having an enviable record at the domestic level.
Mumbai’s strength of mind
In the book, A Million Broken Windows, Makarand Waingankar mentions how Mumbaikars are driven by their sense of being “khadoos”. The khadoos attitude gives them the will to perform even in the harshest of conditions. A never-say-die attitude is drilled into youngsters very early in their career.
The sacrificial nature was more than evident when Eknath Solkar, one of India’s best fielders, received the news of his father’s demise, yet continued playing for his team.
Even in the 2014-15 season, Mumbai was staring down the barrel in the initial stages of the competition. With Wasim Jaffer’s injury and Dhawal Kulkarni’s international commitments, the balance of the team was skewed. With Suryakumar Yadav’s resignation and only eleven points in the kitty from five games, Mumbai’s title challenge was in total disarray.
However, the team showed strong character to make a comeback and reach the semifinals, where they were defeated by subsequent champions Karnataka. Shreyas Iyer was in fine form, scoring two centuries and six fifties.
But, the find of the tournament was Shardul Thakur, who was the joint highest wicket-taker for the season, and also took a record 5 five-wicket hauls.
A similar comeback was made in the 2006-07 season when the Mumbai team had lost their first three games of the season. Against Baroda in the semi-finals, they were tottering at 0/5 in the second innings but still managed to win by 63 runs.
Such a relentless approach to the game sets the Mumbaikars apart. The heritage left by great players is being carried forward by the youngsters. Shreyas Iyer and Akhil Herwadkar top the list of highest run-getters this season, as Mumbai topped Group B this season, reaching the finals for the 45th time in 82 Ranji Trophy seasons.