The current Ranji Trophy final marks Mumbai’s 44th appearance in the title round. The team has triumphed a whopping 39 times. This is the third of the four-part series in which Arunabha Sengupta briefly sketches the previous Mumbai wins in the history of the tournament.
1968-69: Bombay versus Bengal
Bengal surprised everyone by first reaching the finals and then providing some unexpected excitement. Although Bombay did not have too much trouble in overcoming the challenge, Ambar Roy’s team impressed one and all with their spirited showing.
Former national footballer Chuni Goswami effortlessly carried his skills into the cricket field as he scored a determined 96. Debu Mitra and Subrata Guha struck solid half centuries as Bengal compiled a respectable 387.
A 114-run second-wicket partnership between Sudhir Naik and Ajit Wadekar followed by a 134- run stand between Wadekar and Vijay Bhosle took Bombay to 265 for two. Some tight bowling by Dilip Doshi triggered a mini collapse and suddenly the match was evenly poised at 305 for five. But the lower order batted diligently, and Ajit Pai in particular got some useful runs, negating Doshi’s spin with his left handed resistance. In the end Bombay passed the first innings hurdle easily enough.
Goswami played another good hand in the second innings, but there was not sufficient time left for an outright result.
Bengal 387 (R Mukherjee 46, D Mitra 62, S Goswami 96, S Guha 62, GK Bose 40) and 261 for 7 declared (AK Roy 48, Goswami 84) drew with Bombay 469 (SS Naik 73, AL Wadekar 133, VH Bhosle 63, AM Pai 42) and 77 for 3. Bombay won on the basis of their first innings lead.
1969-70: Bombay versus Rajasthan
The arrival of the Little Master. Sunil Gavaskar had made his Ranji debut in the semi-final, scoring zero and 27 not out. However, the final was stamped with his undoubted class.
After Abdul Ismail and Eknath Solkar had quickly snuffed off the challenge of the Rajasthan batting, restricting them to 217, Gavaskar and Ashok Mankad posted hundreds to go past the first-innings score without losing a wicket. Salim Durani finally got the young master to snick to the keeper for 114, but Mankad went on to pile 171. Solkar piled on misery for Rajasthan by batting stubbornly for 82.
The long-serving Suryaveer Singh and Hanumant Singh did wage a battle in the second innings, but it was not enough to avoid innings defeat.
Rajasthan 217 (PH Sharma 67, AL Apte 47, SA Durani 41; AM Ismail 4 for 58) and 255 (Suryaveer Singh 69, Hanumant Singh 62, AL Apte 56, PH Sharma 44; MD Rege 4 for 75) lost to Bombay 531 (SM Gavaskar 114, AV Mankad 171, ED Solkar 82, AM Pai 58; Durani 4 for 141) by an innings and 69 runs.
1970-71: Bombay versus Maharashtra
With the stars unavailable, Sudhir Naik led the Bombay side while the crafty veteran Chandu Borde was at the helm of Maharashtra.
Anwar Shaikh’s medium-pace troubled the Bombay top-order and soon they were reduced to 12 for three. Yet again, in the absence of the big names, lesser lights of Bombay stepped up, and Ramnath Parkar rescued the side with an excellent hundred. But incisive bowling by leg-spinning all-rounder Nicholas Saldhana restricted the champions to 287.
With Hemant Kanitkar, Chetan Chauhan and Borde himself, Maharashtra had a decent batting line up. However, Ajit Pai and Abdul Ismail swung Bombay back in the match. Saldhana, playing a great match, posted a fighting half century, but in the end Bombay obtained a 57 run lead.
Maharashtra fought back. Three wickets went down for 21, and left-arm spinner Vithal Joshi bowled with a lot of venom. Vijay Bhosle and the young Mahesh Sampat, playing in his first season, added 99 for the fourth wicket, but none of the other batsmen made a decent score. When Joshi caught and bowled Atul Mehta to capture his fifth wicket and end Bombay’s innings for 196, the target of 254 looked challenging but gettable.
However, Joshi’s success proved ominous, because in Bombay’s ranks was one of the best left-arm spinners of the country. Padmakar Shivalkar made the ball talk. After Abdul Ismail had quickly reduced Maharashtra to 31 for three, Borde and Hemant Kanitkar batted steadily to add 65. At 96 for three, Maharashtra looked strong, but Shivalkar got into the act, chipping away at the wickets. Bombay always looked like winning, and the 48 run margin in the end looked closer on the card than it actually was.
Bombay 287 (RD Parkar 108, AD Naik 42; NF Saldhana 6 for 66) and 196 (VH Bhosle 55, MR Sampat 60; VN Joshi 5 for 62) beat Maharashtra 230 (HS Kanitkar 41, CG Borde 48, AM Ismail 4 for 41) and 205 (Borde 51; PK Shivalkar 6 for 56) by 48 runs.
1971-72: Bombay versus Bengal
For the second successive year, Shivalkar spun Bombay to a win, although the match was not nearly as close as the previous one.
Sunil Gavaskar, now a major international star, batted through the first day and amassed 157. The Bengal bowlers, spearheaded by Subrata Guha, did well to limit the Bombay first innings to 377. Ambar Roy, Ashok Gandotra and Gopal Bose, the three stars of the Bengal line up, battled gamely, but Shivalkar and Milind Rege stopped them at 279.
Bombay lost three quick wickets in the second innings, including the big one of Gavaskar, but recovered to 254 through a dogged 98 by Ashok Mankad. Bengal did not stand a chance with the pitch taking increasing turn. Shivalkar captured six more – ending up with nine for the match.
Bombay 377 (SM Gavaskar 157, AL Wadekar 57, AV Mankad 42) and 254 (Mankad 98, AD Naik 43) beat Bengal 279 (A Gandotra 92, GK Bose 73, AK Roy 49) and 106 (PK Shivalkar 6 for 43) by 246 runs.
1972-73: Bombay versus Tamil Nadu
A sensational battle of the spinners. Yet another Sivalkar triumph, this time a single-handed miracle.
The Chepauk pitch was prepared to blunt the strong batting line-up of Bombay, twist them into knots with the turn extracted by the home spinners Srinivas Venkataraghavan and VV Kumar. However, Wadekar won the vital toss. And the Madras curators had not accounted for Shivalkar.
The ball turned from day one, and Venkat and Kumar shared the wickets to skittle Bombay out for 151.
On the second day, Shivalkar demonstrated why he was one of the best spinners of the country. With figures of 17.5-10-16-8, he reduced Tamil Nadu from 62 for two to 80 all out. Michael Dalvi and Abdul Jabbar were the only two to reach double figures, and added 56 of those runs for the third wicket.
After Venkat had dented the batting again, Balasubramoniam Kalyansundaram, a hardworking medium-pacer, picked up four wickets in just six overs as the dicey pitch made the balls stop and shoot through.
The second Bombay innings ended in the 50th over for just 113.
The target was a low 185, but the conditions were well-nigh unplayable. Solkar bowled his left-arm spinners and took five wickets. Shivalkar took five more to finish with 13 wickets for the match. Tamil Nadu could manage only 61.
Bombay 151 ( VV Kumar 5 for 48, S Venkataraghavan 5 for 60) and 113 (B Kalyansundaram 4 for 8) beat Tamil Nadu 80 (PK Shivalkar 8 for 16) and 61 (PK Shivalkar 5 for 18, ED Solkar 5 for 23) by 123 runs.
1974-75: Bombay versus Karnataka
After the surprise loss to Karnataka in the semi-finals which ended Bombay’s magical sequence of tournament wins, it was time for revenge. Apart from a glittering gallery of Test stars across the two sides, it was time for the Gavaskar-Gundappa Viswanath showdown that many cricket aficionados were waiting for.
Viswanath did not disappoint, moving to a typical, wristy 144 by the end of the first day, doing the bulk of the scoring as Karnataka finished on 221 for five. However, he fell to a young, charging Karsan Ghavri without adding to his score on the second morning. Karnataka collapsed to 240 all out.
Erapalli Prasanna now weaved a magic of spin over the Bombay batsmen. Gavaskar retired early on, but returned to shepherd the lower order. Ghavri, who had joined Bombay from Saurashtra that season, put his head down to tackle Prasanna and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar to score a fighting fifty. Gavaskar and Ghavri combined in a vital 97-run stand. The master remained unbeaten on 96 when the innings ended at 305.
Karnataka failed to claw back into the match. Shivalkar, Rakesh Tandon and Solkar extracted turn from the pitch as only Brijesh Patel resisted. The target of 151 was never going to challenge Bombay, and after some anxious moments at 53 for three, Mankad and Ajit Pai took the side home to regain the Ranji crown.
Karnataka 240 (GR Viswanath 144,;KD Ghavri 5 for 66) and 215 (BP Patel 70, AV Jayaprakash 47*; ED Solkar 4 for 43) lost to Bombay 305 (SM Gavaskar 96*, KD Ghavri 56; EAS Prasanna 6 for 123) and 151 for three (AV Mankad 48*, AM Pai 43*) by seven wickets.
1975-76: Bombay versus Bihar
Ramesh Saxena was the only player of international experience in the Bihar side, and Bombay, even without most of their stars, was never going to be tested.
The pitch at Jamshedpur aided the pacers, and Abdul Ismail picked up 10 in the match. Ashok Mankad drilled nails into Bihar’s coffin with a captain’s knock of 98 after the home side had been stopped at 161. Rakesh Tandon scored a brisk 57 to stretch the lead to191.
Skipper Daljit Singh led from the front in the second innings, hitting 87, but Bihar just about managed to avoid innings defeat.
Bihar 161 (AM Ismail 5 for 48) and 240 (Daljit Singh 87, G Tilak Raj 56) lost to Bombay 352 (AV Mankad 98, AM Pai 46, RP Tandon 57*; S Sinha 4 for 117) and 50 for no loss by 10 wickets.
1976-77: Bombay versus Delhi
A number of small battles within a big one.
It was Sunil Gavaskar versus Bishan Bedi, a tussle between rival captains, not known for their cordial relationship. It was Sivalkar versus Bedi – a platform for the luckless understudy to prove his mettle against the leading left arm spinner who put on the Indian sweater. It was Madan Lal versus Karsan Ghavri – a battle of the all-rounders vying for a place in the Indian side. Finally it was the challenge to end Bombay’s by now almost eternal supremacy over the rest of India. With the Amarnath brothers and Chetan Chauhan in their line-up, Delhi had the team to do it.
Bedi won the first battle, getting Gavaskar caught and bowled for five. Bombay were soon struggling at 19 for three, and later 65 for four. However, Ashok Mankad fought back, and the lower order batsmen Ghavri and Tandon rallied to take the total to a respectable 317.
Delhi’s innings was a see-saw affair. The first wicket went down without a run on the board. Surinder Amarnath put on 109 with Chauhan for the second wicket. Ghavri and Shivalkar then reduced the challengers to 170 for six, but Madan Lal, Surinder Khanna and Rakesh Shukla got useful runs. At 263 for seven, the first innings lead was up for grabs, but Shivalkar and Ghavri stuck to their task and finally the total of 291 meant a slim 26 run lead. Both Bedi and Shivalkar had picked up four wickets in the first innings.
Now Bedi started with a sense of vengeance. Gavaskar stepped out to a flighted one with the match tantalisingly balanced, and Surinder Khanna whipped off the bails. The great man walked back with 10 against his name. Bombay were 38 for two. Bedi had scored twice in the little personal battle.
The bite and turn tested all Bombay batsmen and most of them succumbed, but Ghavri’s left handed aggression neutralised Bedi’s spin. The valiant all-rounder remained unbeaten on a magnificent 70 as Bombay stumbled and recovered time and again to reach 224. Bedi returned with five more wickets.
With 251 to win, Delhi walked out to bat for the second time. By the end of the third day, however, the challenge had almost fizzled out. The scoreboard read 71 for five.
The next morning only Surinder Amarnath, with his second fifty of the match, showed some resistance. Shivalkar ran in again and again and picked up all the remaining wickets. When he spun one past the blade of Bedi to bowl him and end the Delhi innings for 121, he claimed his sixth second innings wicket, finishing with 10 for the match – one more than Bedi.
Bombay 317 (AV Mankad 71, KD Ghavri 48, RP Tandon 61; BS Bedi 4 for 98) and 224 ( Ghavri 70*, Mankad 45; Bedi 5 for 90) beat Delhi 291 ( S Amarnath 81, Madan Lal 41; Ghavri 6 for 105, Shivalkar 4 for 92) and 121 (S Amarnath 52; Shivalkar 6 for 55) by 129 runs.
1980-81: Bombay versus Delhi
Bombay regained the trophy after a gap of three years.
It was a match without glamour with most of the stars on national duty. Delhi seemed somewhat ahead, at least in the bowling department, with Bishan Bedi, discarded from the Test squad, leading the attack with protégé Maninder Singh adding his phenomenal skills to the kitty.
However, it was the other Sikh, Balwinder Singh Sandhu of Bombay, who swung the match away from them. With 34 overs of sustained medium pace, Sandhu ran through the batting – and only a remarkable rear-guard century by all-rounder Rakesh Shukla managed to propel Delhi from 18 for five to 251.
Bombay lost two quick wickets to the strong opening attack of Madan Lal and Sunil Valson, but Ashok Mankad and Ghulam Parkar settled the issue for good by adding 297. Madan Lal trapped Parkar leg before for 121 and then kept picking up wickets as Bedi remained off the field with an injury and Maninder bowled without success. But, Mankad batted on and on – registering a career best score of 265. In spite of Madan Lal’s eight wickets, Bombay amassed 517.
When Delhi batted again, Suru Nayak was the one who inflicted the biggest damage picking up six wickets. Madan Lal rounded up a good personal match with 76, but Delhi lost by an innings.
Delhi 251 (RC Shukla 120; BS Sandhu 6 for 72) and 220 (SC Khanna 60, Madan Lal 76; SV Nayak 6 for 65) lost to Bombay 517 (AV Mankad 265, GA Parker 121; Madan Lal 8 for 118) by an innings and 46 runs.
1983-84: Bombay versus Delhi
With pitches of the eighties which gave the impression of being made of concrete, seldom cracking even after five days, Mohinder Amarnath decided to field first on winning the toss. No score seemed to be enough, and chasing down astronomical targets seemed a viable option.
By the end of the first day, his decision was neither vindicated nor proved wrong. Dilip Vengsarkar had batted four hours to score 123, but with the score on 265 for four the Delhi bowlers had not done too badly either. The only threat was that Gavaskar, batting at number five, was still there on 20.
By the end of the second day, Bombay had more than doubled their score for the loss of only two more wickets. Gavaskar was unbeaten on156, and Amarnath was looking silly.
Gavaskar ended unconquered on 206, compiled in almost nine hours, as he let the innings run its full course.
Chasing 625 was never going to be easy, especially with Raju Kulkarni’s pace making the top order batsmen uncomfortable. Kirti Azad counter attacked to hit a strokeful hundred, but the Delhi innings folded for 333.
With first innings lead already obtained, Gavaskar had no intention of going for a direct win. Follow on was not enforced, and the match dwindled into listlessness. As Delhi played out time in the last innings, Manoj Prabhakar and Amarnath registered meaningless hundreds.
Bombay 625 ( SM Gavaskar 206*, DB Vengsarkar 123, GM Parkar 53, RJ Shastri 48, CS Pandit 71; Maninder Singh 4 for 172) and 245 (LS Rajput 43, SM Patil 72, Shastri 56) drew with Delhi 333 (KB Azad 106, M Amarnath 49, SC Khanna 42) and 266 for 4 (M Prabhakar 122, M Amarnath 103*) Bombay won on the innings.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)