English cricket owes some of its success in scoring a formidable 537 in the first Test at Rajkot to Mumbai.
Teenaged opening batsman Haseeb Hafeez, I gather from stories in the media, was inspired to take up cricket seriously after watching Sachin Tendulkar bat in the nets at the MIG club in 2004.
Hafeez is touted as the next Geoff Boycott in England. Like his illustrious predecessor, he too bats with organised, orthodox technique and high levels of concentration — attributes that seem to be vanishing rapidly even in the longest format.
Watching Hafeez in his debut innings - and with no disrespect to Boycott — I am inclined to believe he belongs even more to the ‘Mumbai School’ of batsmanship: technically sound, resilient, unflappable, run hungry.
In the past six or seven decades, several more accomplished batsman of this genre have come from Mumbai than anywhere else in the world: Merchant, Manjrekar, Sardesai, Gavaskar, Vengsarkar, Rahane and obviously Tendulkar to name a few topnotchers.
Perhaps it is making too much of the impact Tendulkar has had on Hafeez for his influence on the modern game has been profound, and with the growth cable television, not limited by geography.Yet, Mumbai has remained an important and valuable destination for learning advanced cricketing skills for young overseas players, especially from England and particularly in the past decade or so.
Alastair Cook, current captain of England, spent some weeks with the Global Cricket School about a dozen years back, practising and playing matches at the CCI, acquiring the expertise which made him such a major player.
Cook made a century on Test debut in India and has since gone on to become the highest run-getter for his country and a successful captain too. In 2012-13, when England stunned India at home, he was the bulwark in countering the spin challenge.
Some credit for Moeen Ali’s success at Rajkot must also accrue to Mumbai. His century – and two substantial partnerships with other centurions Joe Root and Ben Stokes – has put India under pressure, contrary to what many experts had predicted.
The all-rounder was also with Global Cricket School, honing his skills at bowling off-spin and batting against slow bowlers that are obviously paying him dividends now.
The case is not that Mumbai has helped develop overseas players to the detriment of India’s interests. Rather, how rich and valuable Mumbai cricket is perceived to be within the sport and why this extraordinary legacy needs to be preserved.
My only compunction about the desperately needed reforms mooted by the Justice R M Lodha panel to clean up cricket in India is the one state-one association-one vote ruling. This could diminish the wonderful tradition and ethos of Mumbai cricket.
If Mumbai is to be of consequence only once in six years or so, it would cause administrative apathy of course, but the most affected would be players and coaches at every level.
To pitch Mumbai cricket (there will be arguments in favour of some other state associations too) on the same level with say Manipur, Mizoram, Puduchery — still too new or raw to put up first-class teams of merit — would be a travesty.
The one association-one vote recommendation is not bereft of logic and must be done. But in my opinion, this should be implemented over a period of time, say 10-15 years, after newer associations have improved up to an acceptable level of excellence.
That said, the BCCI hasn’t negotiated their concerns about the reforms with the Lodha panel sensibly at all. Being bull-headed and confrontational with so many glaring errors of omission and commission was self-defeating. Now they are at the mercy of the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, and thankfully despite threats from the BCCI, cricket hasn’t been affected. There’s the series against England to savour where the visitors are off to a fine start at Rajkot,
That has pushed India, in red hot form this season, on the defensive. Didn’t anybody tell Cook & Co that transactions with denominations of 500-plus are currently banned?