Home > Features >

Death of Kanga League has affected Mumbai’s supply chain to Indian cricket

Death of Kanga League has affected Mumbai's supply chain to Indian cricket

Amol Muzumdar (left) and many others earned their spurs playing in the city’s monsoon league © Getty Images

By Austin Coutinho

There was a time, not long ago, when Mumbai used to produce world class batsmen – by almost conveyor belt methods. Mumbai was still Bombay then. What’s more, there were no academies, and there were no level ‘C’ coaches. There were neither bowling machines nor indoor nets. And there were no specialised trainers to work on either biomechanics or an individual’s cricketing specifics.

When Mumbai was still Bombay, batsmen of the calibre of Vijay Merchant, Polly Umrigar, Vijay Manjrekar, Dilip Sardesai, Ajit Wadekar, Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sandeep Patil, Sanjay Manjrekar, Sachin Tendulkar, Vinod Kambli and many others earned their spurs playing in the city’s monsoon league. It was baptism by fire for young dilettantes, and bowlers – especially the pacy ones – enjoyed making them smell leather. Remember, there were no helmets or chest guards then. Those days, Mumbai possessed many batsmen who could have easily worn the country’s colours but were overlooked because of the city’s over abundant batting talent.

The monsoon league of the city, better known as the Dr. H.D. Kanga League played a major role in the grooming of batsmen and making fighters out of them. The wet – and sometimes cruel, drying – wickets in the league put promising batsmen on trial like nothing else did. Is it a sign of the times that today Mumbai boasts of only a couple of batsmen who can be considered for selection to the national side? Is it also a coincidence that every year, for the last decade or so, only three or four matches out of a possible thirteen in the Kanga League are played?

When I started off in the Kanga League, playing for Young Maharashtra – considered to be ‘A’ Division minnows – it gave me a close up view of the Shivaji Park Gymkhana matches across the walkway of the maidan. Ramakant Desai, bowling off his full, smooth run-up, though he was in his 40s, was a great sight. But there was nothing more enjoyable than watching Wadekar – well past his prime – batting on a bad wicket. One year, two young fast bowlers both of whom later played first class cricket were bowling with a lot of fire, and the batsmen at the crease were Ajit Wadekar and his brother Ashok Wadekar.

“Both brothers look similar, don’t they?” said a youngster watching their match from our tent.

Just then, Ashok pulled a short ball which ballooned over the Gymkhana building for a six. In the next over, Ajit Wadekar pulled a short ball that travelled like a greased bullet, parallel to the ground, hit the Gymkhana walls and rolled back to the pitch.

“That’s where they are different,” said one of our senior players. “That’s the reason only one of them is a legend!”

One of my most enduring memories of the monsoon league is of a young batsman, still wet behind the ears, making what probably was his debut at the senior level. This young, scrawny batsman – perhaps a couple of years into his teens – was opening the innings for MB Union, an ‘A’ Division club from Mumbai in the late 80s. The wicket was treacherous and batting very, very difficult. With the reputation of having troubled most star batsmen on such tracks, I had believed that this young impostor would be warming the chair in a cozy corner of the tent in a few deliveries. I was mistaken. That batsman played me out for an hour and a half, blocking short-pitched deliveries with aplomb and let those outside the off-stump go with a lot of assurance. He looked a class act and as ‘khadoos’ as they come! That player, Amol Muzumdar, went on to score more than 10,000 runs in first-class cricket. Sadly, he did not play for India.

Most bowlers who could bowl at a decent pace enjoyed the sight of batsmen hopping around and even being hit in the monsoon league. Batsmen who played with soft hands and with their bats close to their bodies survived; others just capitulated. It was not only about surviving at the wicket; it was also about not getting maimed. During my 15-odd seasons playing the league, I have seen a lot of blood being spilt, but I hardly ever remember a batsman preferring to retreat into the safety of the dressing room after being hit. It was sheer guts, especially on bad wickets.

Those were the years when the ‘Evening News’, a Times of India ‘eveninger’ used to announce the key Kanga matches on Saturdays and cricket fans used to throng the maidans at Matunga, Shivaji Park, Cross Maidan and the gymkhana grounds at Marine Drive to watch their favourite stars, on Sundays. For the last couple of decades, neither matches are played in the Kanga League nor do stars turn up for these matches. The crowds have, of course, disappeared. Batsmen, are therefore, no longer made in Mumbai!

(Austin Coutinho, Deputy Manager (CRM) with RCF, is a cartoonist and writer. A former club cricketer, he is also a cricket and football coach)

West Indies in South Africa, 2014-15

Dec 17, 2014 (14:00 IST)   at Centurion

India tour of Australia, 2014-15

Dec 17, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Woolloongabba, Brisbane

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Dec 19, 2014 (16:30 IST)   at Abu Dhabi

West Indies in South Africa, 2014-15

Dec 26, 2014 (14:00 IST)   at Port Elizabeth

Sri Lanka tour of New Zealand, 2014-15

Dec 26, 2014 (03:30 IST)   at Christchurch

More

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Dec 17, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

New Zealand won by 7 runs

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Dec 16, 2014  at Colombo

Sri Lanka won by 87 runs

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Dec 14, 2014  at Sharjah

Pakistan won by 147 runs

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Dec 13, 2014  at Pallekele

Sri Lanka won by 90 runs

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Dec 12, 2014  at Sharjah

New Zealand won by 4 wkts

Photos

India vs Australia, 2nd Test at Brisbane

Videos

Josh Hazlewood looks back at his 5-wicket haul

South Africa vs West Indies,1st Test, Day 2 at Centurion: South Africa declare at 552 for 5

Australia 221/4 at stumps against India on Day 2 of 2nd Test at Brisbane

India vs Australia 2nd Test at Brisbane: Maiden wickets, an elusive ton, and other highlights from Day 1

Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane guide India to 311/4 against Australia on Day 1 of 1st Test at Brisbane

Australia India Interviews Ishant Sharma Moments in history Ravichandran Ashwin South Africa

India vs Australia 2014-15, 2nd Test at Brisbane: India failed to capitalise on good start, says Sunil Gavaskar

West Indies tour of South Africa 2014: Assad Fudadin ruled out of Test series due to finger injury

Zimbabwe remove Stephen Mangongo as team’s Head Coach

South Africa declare at 552 for 5, teams take tea

Waqar Younis feels Pakistan win against New Zealand in fifth ODI will boost team

India vs Australia 2nd Test at Brisbane, Day 2: India’s familiar collapse, Umesh Yadav’s heroics and other highlights

Keki Tarapore – India’s manager on the successful West Indies tour of 1971

Shane Watson at No. 3? Australia may want to reconsider

Murali Vijay continues to make impressive progress against Australia

Cheteshwar Pujara’s dismissal: How can cricket eliminate the howler?

Fan of the Day

Suraj Gowda

Suraj Gowda

653 Posts | 10 Fans

India vs Australia: Murali Vijay's 144, Video highlights

प्रसिद्ध कथक नृत्यांगना सितारा देवी नहीं रही

More broadband connections to boost GDP growth in Asia Pacific: GSMA

India is becoming our largest overseas market, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun says

Bigg Boss 8: Ali Quli Mirza, Renee Dhyani, Upen Patel, Praneet Bhatt, Sonali Raut – who should be evicted this week?

Revealed: The reason why Kishore Kumar’s biopic starring Ranbir Kapoor won’t feature Katrina Kaif!

अभिनेत्री प्रियंका चोपड़ा ने स्वच्छ भारत अभियान में हिस्सा लिया

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here