Gautam Gambhir, IPL 2018, India
Gautam Gambhir © AFP

Gautam Gambhir shares a deep bond with Mumbai. It was at Wankhede Stadium that his gritty 97 helped India lift the 2011 World Cup. It may come as a surprise but despite being in the city multiple times, Gambhir has not ventured out much in the city. That changed during VIVO IPL 2018. Gambhir stepped out from his hotel with a journalist friend, disguised in a cap, sunglass and a handkerchief, and explored the much-famed Mumbai maidan. The trip went beyond the usual visit to the Natural’s Ice Cream parlour.

Gambhir later wrote in his column for The Times of India: “A journalist friend of mine from Delhi is freelancing for a foreign sports channel. They are putting together a documentary on history of Mumbai cricket. My friend is a ‘pakka Dilliwala’. You know those who actually fantasise drowning in a tub-full of butter chicken and shahi paneer on Tuesdays, those who can use cuss words even between ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’ and cricket-wise those who hate Mumbai because of their record 41 times Ranji Trophy title wins.

“Shockingly just five days of filming for the documentary has made him a fan of Mumbai cricket. The guy is now a convert! Don’t get me wrong as he can still dance on the sound of a generator but all of a sudden is giving me history classes on Mumbai’s legendary maidans. He somehow convinced me to do a short trip to the maidans.”

IPL 2018: Gautam Gambhir gets nostalgic ahead of KKR-DD clash
IPL 2018: Gautam Gambhir gets nostalgic ahead of KKR-DD clash

“There were eight or nine matches going on. A fielder who was at third man for his match was at silly point for another game and at long off for another one. Tents were being used as ‘dressing rooms’. Amidst this chaos the game went on with romance and determination, may be carefully constructing another [Sachin] Tendulkar or Rohit Sharma. A glass of sugarcane juice and vada paav later I was on Azad Maidan,” wrote Gambhir.

Concern for women’s cricket

Mumbai is a cricket hub no doubt but Gambhir makes a very important observation on why girl cricketers and their families would be reluctant: “There were only boys or men playing cricket. Not that things are any different in my home state Delhi but I expected better from Mumbai. I looked around and realised even if girls did play here there were no toilets or decent changing rooms for them. As a father of two daughters I can understand why parents in Mumbai could be reluctant.

“Standing there I couldn’t help but wonder a sad paradox. While Wankhede Stadium was all decked up for our IPL game, these maidans, which are nursery of Mumbai cricket, were searching for their proper toilets. Apart from this the grounds breathe this great game.”

The Gambhir-led Delhi Daredevils will take on Royal Challengers Bangalore at M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru. DD are languishing at the bottom of the IPL points table.