The gift of Mumbai cricket

Mumbai has a tradition of picking and dropping players on merit.

July 09, 2015 12:02 am | Updated 01:08 am IST

Mumbai cricket was a trail-blazing institution in the history of Indian cricket. Off the field too, the decision-making ability of its stalwarts showed not only the depth of their knowledge but an unflinching ability to take risks to win.

This is exemplified best when it comes to the appointment of Indian team captains. All appointments right from picking Ajit Wadekar to M.S. Dhoni to lead India have worked well.

However, those decisions did not always seem like such an obvious choice, especially in the context in which they were taken. That is the most striking bit about the uncanny tradition in Mumbai cricket to produce leaders.

Masterstroke When Vijay Merchant appointed the inexperienced Ajit Wadekar Indian captain he was replacing none other than M.A.K. Pataudi. The decision turned out to be a masterstroke. Another Mumbai legend, Dilip Vengsarkar’s decision to appoint Dhoni captain shocked everyone then, and we know how that decision turned out now.

This is nothing new to Mumbai cricket. There is a tradition of picking and dropping players on merit.

Vijay Manjrekar exemplified that method when he picked a player for an under-22 Mumbai side even though a regional political party objected to his selection in writing. The player, who later played for Mumbai and Tamil Nadu, proved his calibre by scoring two big hundreds at Baroda.

While that was bold, the decision making in the case of Ashok Mankad was clinical. Mankad was one of the finest captains Indian cricket ever had. However, he was never chosen as the captain for a season as the State selectors felt that Wadekar’s deputy should be Gavaskar. Compared to Mankad, Gavaskar was regular in the Indian team. Mankad’s appointment would always have been a stop-gap arrangement in the context.

In another case, when five of Mumbai’s stalwarts were on the tour of the West Indies in the 1970-71 season, a 24 year-old Sudhir Naik led a young Mumbai team, which comprised mostly collegians, to victory in the Ranji Trophy final. He spent the next season carrying drinks. Now, Sandeep Patil seems to be following in that decision-making tradition of Mumbai cricket which is guided only by success.

Patil, who is from Mumbai cricket, has appointed a new Indian captain in Ajinkya Rahane. Curiously though, Rahane has never led even his Ranji side.

Is Rahane ready? Rahane has been known to be systematic in his approach on a day-to-day basis. Now, he has been chosen to lead his country. Is he ready for the job?

Rahane has been selected over some of the seniors. Though Rohit Sharma has already shown his creative leadership with the IPL team Mumbai Indians, the selectors must be looking for other options. Perhaps Rohit’s inconsistent performances must have prompted the selectors to appoint Rahane, who is known to utilise his time at the batting crease responsibly.

The young Mumbaikar now has the opportunity to not only play more match-winning knocks but also lead the country. If his leadership clicks it will be a great investment for the future of Indian cricket. He will add to the long list of captains Mumbai cricket has provided to India. The tour to Zimbabwe will decide if Rahane is capable of leading the national team.

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