The Harris and Giles shields form the very basis of Mumbai cricket. They are institutions we have looked up to and learnt from; and they are symbols of this city’s great cricket culture. But the importance of these tournaments has diminished in the last few years, mainly because there are too many tournaments for schoolboys nowadays.
We need to cut down on the number of tournaments to revive interest in the Harris Shield. That is necessary because the Shield has so much history, and it is the one institution cricketers for the future will come from.
Media coverage is a key factor in this revival. Earlier, it would be comprehensive; now, it’s sporadic. We often say there are no spectators for the games, but I’d love to see a Harris Shield match if, say, the papers told me where a young cricketer like Prithvi Shaw was going to play.
A third, vital, thing is that we must be strict with rules regarding age. Ban teams that lie about the age of their cricketers. Even a difference of two years matters a lot at a very young age — someone who’s 17 or 18 will smash a 14-year-old. Show zero tolerance for cheating, and you’ll see better quality.
There’s a lot of talent out there which needs nurturing, and hundreds of coaches too, but they need to focus on quality, not quantity. We had (Ramakant) Acharekar sir, Anna Vaidya, Vasant Amladi and Vasu Paranjpe to guide us. Acharekar sir would always retain a player’s natural style and mould him accordingly. We are increasingly getting too technical in our coaching.
It is good that league games in the Elite division are played over three days. We (Shardashram High School) once defeated Balmohan Vidyamandir in the first round, and the fun of the tournament was over. The new format will help avoid that.
We could improve facilities at the maidans and raise the standards of umpiring to help to raise the standard of cricket being played. Mumbai can’t afford to be second best at the game; we have among the best cricketing cultures in the world, and we must protect that — beginning with the cradle, of course, the Harris and Giles Shield.
Amol Muzumdar, former Mumbai captain, is the highest run-getter in the Ranji Trophy. He was part of the Shardashram team featuring Sachin Tendulkar.