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Mumbaiwale: Batting for Bombay

World Cup on your mind? Rewind to some milestone moments in the city’s cricket past

mumbai Updated: Jun 24, 2019 08:30 IST
Rachel Lopez
Rachel Lopez
Hindustan Times
Mumbai cricket,Esplanade,Parsi Cricket Club
So Lord Brabourne, Bombay Governor and cricket fan, set aside 90,000 square yards of land to the Cricket Club of India for a stadium, India’s first for any sport.(HT Photo)

Thank the Parsis. They were the first community that began playing the game, to keep relations with the British. The earliest matches were played on the Esplanade, the patch of green that’s now broken up into Cross Maidan, Azad Maidan and Oval Maidan. In 1848 (99 years before Independence) they’d set up the Orient Cricket Club. It lasted just two years.

Congratulate them too: The Parsi Cricket Club, which was formed in 1876, playing they first match against Europeans the following year. By 1886, they’d toured England, becoming the first team from India to do so! In 1889, the Parsis won against a touring English team in a match that thousands turned up to watch.

Everyone joined in: An annual tournament called the Bombay Carnival, launched in 1892, regularly pitted Parsis and Europeans. By 1937, teams named Hindus, Muslims and the Rest joined in. The Carnival’s new name: The Pentangular. Matches were held until 1946.

We roped in the kids early. The Harris Shield, an inter-school cricket tournament, has been held in Mumbai since 1897. It’s named for Lord Harris, an English Test cricketer who was Governor of Bombay from 1890 to 1895. Harris gave talented Indian sportsmen a chance to play in teams against the Europeans at Presidency matches between 1892 and 1907.

We hosted India’s first Test match. It was played at the Bombay Gymkhana grounds in 1933. India played England. We lost. But debut player Lala Amarnath became the first Indian to score a Test century that match. The opposing team’s Bryan Valentine achieved the same feat.

A club is formed: The story goes that the Maharaja of Patiala was visiting the Bombay Gymkhana to watch a cricket match. But he was told that he couldn’t sit in a special enclosure for Europeans as they were members of their respective clubs. Miffed, he decided to set up a club for India. The Cricket Club of India was founded in 1933, promoted largely by those who had also founded the Board of Control for Cricket in India in 1928.

Finally, a stadium: Bombay was cricket-crazy by now. So Lord Brabourne, Bombay Governor and cricket fan, set aside 90,000 square yards of land to the Cricket Club of India for a stadium, India’s first for any sport. Architectes Gregson, Batley and King designed an arena that could seat 25,000. It opened in 1937, though by then Brabourne had become Governor of Bengal.

And then, another: While Brabourne was the venue for several historic matches and cricketing feats, things weren’t going so well by the 1970s. The Bombay Cricket Association kept feuding with the CCI over not being allocated enough seats and ticketing revenue. BCA head Seshrao Wankhede decided to build a better stadium and clubhouse not too far away. The Wankhede Stadium was completed in just under a year and hosted its first Test match in 1975.

First Published: Jun 22, 2019 00:32 IST

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