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Mumbai now also becomes cricket capital

mumbai Updated: Apr 02, 2011 10:38 IST

After being acknowledged as the country's commercial capital and entertainment hub, Mumbai has at last found international recognition as the nation's cricket capital by getting to host Saturday's World Cup final which is being played in India for the second time.

For long a dominant force in domestic tournaments, Mumbai has the most successful record in the prestigious Ranji trophy, winning it 39 times.

Mumbai has made it to the Ranji final on 43 occasions, finishing runners-up four times. For decades, it has been the main supply line for cricketers in the Indian team since the nation played its first Test match way back in 1932.

From Vijay Merchant, Vijay Hazare through Vinoo Mankad, to Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar, Mumbai has year after year produced international cricketing greats who have not only kept the country's flag flying but also provided unmitigated joy to the connoisseurs of the game across the globe.

However, Mumbai missed out on the final of the 1987 World Cup to the historic Eden Gardens of Kolkata, mainly on account of Eden's higher crowd capacity.

Eden then had a capacity of around 90,000, which has now come down to around 59,000 after the recent renovation.

In 1996, when the World Cup was organised in the subcontinent for the second time, Mumbai was again not in the reckoning for the final, which was staged at Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium.

But April 2, 2011, was finally the big day for Mumbai with the India-Sri Lanka clash for the 2011 World Cup title at the Wankhede Stadium.

However, Wankhede can seat a maximum 33,000, almost half of Eden, and the answer perhaps lies in the change in the power equation in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

From the mid-1990s to 2005, the board's politics was controlled by Jagmohan Dalmiya, the first Indian to head the International Cricket Council. He even once shifted the headquarters of the BCCI to Kolkata after the Shiv Sena threatened to spoil an India-Pakistan showdown in 1999. However, things changed once Sharad Pawar took over the reins of the BCCI.

And Saturday was another example of the power shift in the nation's cricket politics.

There are critics who question Wankhede's choice as a venue for the World Cup final. They point out that only 4,000 tickets could be sold to the public because of the low capacity.

But Pawar on Friday dismissed such criticism, saying Lord's, which staged four World Cup finals, has an even lower capacity.

"If you look at Lord's in England, it has a capacity of only 18,000. Here we have a sitting capacity of 32,000-33,000," Pawar told mediapersons here.

"It is easy to say why we don't have a bigger capacity, but it is not easy to get a piece of land for such a big stadium in a city like Mumbai."