Of all the cricket centres in India, nothing matches the Cricket Club of India (CCI) in Mumbai for sheer atmosphere. The CCI first staged a Test in 1936 and quickly became the “home” of cricket in India, the equivalent of Lord’s, Melbourne Cricket Ground and the Wanderers.
Unfortunately, due to an ugly internal dispute, international cricket shifted to the Wankhede, a concrete eyesore which lacks aesthetics and cricket culture. As a result, the CCI, rich in tradition and cash (a corpus in excess of Rs 300 crore) has remained starved of cricket. All it gets is the odd practice match against visiting sides or the occasional Ranji game.
The other day, Mumbai played Rajasthan at the CCI on a wicket that had decent bounce and some turn, a typical red soil track prepared by curator Prakash which gave little joy to the bowlers.
Veteran Hrishikesh Kanitkar, within touching distance of 40, clinically defeated the nine bowlers employed by Wasim Jaffer to score a hundred. Later, Rohit Sharma smashed the Rajasthan attack to score a century and Abhishek Nayar did one better by making a big double.
But despite batting deep, Mumbai are not as formidable as in the past. The same holds for Delhi, who have a deserving (and dubious) reputation of consistently underachieving and getting dragged into controversy. Even without their top stars, absent because of India duty, Delhi have serious talent and there is optimism over opener Unmukt Chand and left-arm spinner Vikas Mishra.
There are other left-arm spinners too who have had a good run this Ranji season. Ravindra Jadeja is taking wickets (and scoring runs) for Saurashtra, Karnataka’s Appanna ran through the Railways, Iqbal Abdulla is Mumbai’s star spinner and Maharashtra’s Akshay Darekar’s eight for 20 helped rout Hyderabad for a meagre 54.
Among the seniors, there is little success for Harbhajan Singh or Amit Mishra but Irfan Pathan struck form with the ball for Baroda.
Ranji is interesting but as always, it is not without controversy. Goa captain Swapnil Asnodkar is in the dock for a dodgy decision to call off play, and Orissa captain Haladhar Das was removed from the job for having a drink too many.
By the way, UP set a new record of sorts by giving all 10 fielders a bowl, everyone except the ’keeper against Saurashtra.
Amrit Mathur is CEO of Delhi Daredevils