The Mumbai Ranji team played their 500th Ranji Trophy match against Baroda today. The Match took place at the Wankhede Stadium. This milestone highlights the city’s pre-eminent place in domestic cricket. No other team has played as many matches because none other has won as many. The correlation is direct. Some other stats are even more telling. Mumbai have been in the Ranji Trophy final 46 times. They have won the title 41 times in the 83-year history of the national tournament, including the first one in 1934-35.
This record includes 15 consecutive titles between 1958-59 and 1972-73. This was the period in which several top notch players were on national duty. In spite of their absence, the standard of the Mumbai team did not slip.
Mumbai Ranji Team History
Mumbai always had a strong sports culture, but more pronounced where cricket is concerned. While the sport was played all over the country it was deeply rooted in this city. How skilled and adept Indians on the whole were at the sport became immediately evident and the popularity of cricket grew exponentially. India wanted to beat the English at their own game – as an oblique means of fighting colonialism – was a strong factor in this growth.
Mumbai became the cricket hub in India. The foundation had been laid for the Bombay School of Cricket. The Ranji Trophy started in 1934-35, a year earlier, the first-ever Test match in India took place. The venue was the Bombay Gymkhana, reiterating the city’s growing stature as the home of cricket. This was to be reinforced when the Cricket Club of India also came up in Bombay. Brabourne Stadium at the CCI became the venue for domestic and international matches in the city for close to four decades before the Wankhede Stadium came up.
Down the years, players like Vijay Merchant, Rusi Modi, Dilip Sardesai, Bapu Nadkarni, Ajit Wadekar, Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sachin Tendulkar, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma and new sensation Prithvi Shaw have come to exemplify this. But it was not only these big stars who made Mumbai cricket what it was. There was a time when the national side would have 6-8 players from this city and absent from Ranji Trophy duty. Yet Mumbai would dominate the domestic scene. The never-say-die approach of players earned them the respect – and fear – of all opponents.
Why were they so good?
The never-say-die approach of players earned them the respect – and fear – of all opponents. Playing the Mumbai Ranji team was a psychological hurdle at which players from across the country would stumble. The more astute would become avid learners and better cricketers. Mumbai’s cricketing suzerainty has whittled down to some extent by the rise of cricketers from hinterland India. Especially when the likes of MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and others arrived.
Yet there is a flavour to Mumbai cricket that remains distinct. It still speaks excellence and showcases a rich, proud legacy that does not find parallel anywhere else perhaps anywhere else in the world.