Cradle to rave: Bombay Gymkhana, CCI stand tall in spite of loss of cricket

It is just every other evening close to the Churchgate area. As one evades the packed site visitors alongside Mahatma Gandhi Road, masses make their way out of Azad Maidan. Almost 99.99 consistent with cent of them have just used the direction via the side of the floor, to reduce brief a -ki­lometre stroll to the Churchgate Station from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Term­inus. A floodlit recreation is underway, however besides for the ones seated at the lawns of the Maidan enjoyable after a protracted day, few have their eyes on it. A couple of middle-elderly guys spit their paan masala, no longer far from the boundary line, as the first-rate-leg fielder screams, “Bhai, idhar nahi.”


Across the boundary line at the south, Bombay Gymkhana stands majestically lit. The wood flooring, staircase and the pavilion overlooking the Maidan became built via architect Claude Batley in 1875. It nonetheless seems posh, the splendour of the Raj obvious in almost every brick laid by using the British. Patchworks are completed without demanding the originality. Members re­lax right here and there with their beer and bridge.
It can’t get greater contrasting than this in only a few yards. But that is how it’s far in Mumbai and this is the way it was in Bombay. The gulf between the ends of the monetary ladder is visible anywhere. Under the Raj, access turned into denied to locals. Even now, those underneath a positive cut-off don’t get get entry to. Till well after Independence, the membership become out of reach for girls. Only within the twenty first century were they allowed club. Today, it’s miles one of those golf equipment wherein you may discover girls in the course of the day, creating a stopover after selecting up children from the school or chatting with pals.

The walls are adorned with photographs of the polo, tennis and rugby groups of the membership. Cricket doesn’t locate a great deal area except for within the trophy cabinet and the bar, which greets the entrants with a massive photograph of Douglas Jardine and CK Nayudu, taken simply moments earlier than the historical moment when Gymkhana hosted the first ever Test on Indian soil, among MCC and India from Dec 15-18, 1933.
It has long ceased to be the heart and life of Indian cricket. Within a kilometre of the Gymkhana, came up Brabourne Stadium after which Wankhede Stadium, lowering the significance of the grand old venue. RN Renjen, CEO of Bombay Gymkhana, is short to remind: “Now, you locate the celebrities of world cricket assembling in India. Back inside the Twenties, while the membership used to host the well-known Quadrangular Tourname­nt, the quality ones performed right here.” Before Ranji Tr­o­­phy became the pinnacle of domestic cricket, the Quadrangular changed into performed with teams from the English, Parsis, Hindus and Muslims.
While the event changed into extremely famous, there have been moments of hysteria among the groups, which threatened India’s freedom motion. “As the event was getting popular, Mahatma Gandhi didn’t totally emerge as a fan. Although he in no way wanted cr­i­c­ket to prevent, he wasn’t encouraging some thing which turned into dividing the communities.”

There are testimonies of the Hindu team taking lower back an invitation despatched to PA Kanickam after getting to know he changed into Christian. With cricket being divided on caste and racial lines, the tournament continued no matter opposition, and even have become Pentangular following the inclusion of a crew referred to as Rest, comprising Christians, Buddhists and Jews. As nationalistic feelings intensified, there have been greater voices favouring geographical representation as opposed to community-based. In 1946, the Board of Control for Cricket in India stopped the tournament and Ranji Trophy became the most efficient occasion.

Today, Bombay Gymkhana hardly ever reveals point out in India’s cricketing panorama. With the advent of academies and coaches, the Gymkhana isn’t the primary factor locals Google for cricket. But enjoyment sports have ensured that it remains applicable over the years. Today, the bigwigs and wealthy of Mumbai pay a huge sum to be part of activities in this historic area. “We haven’t presented club for some years now, however almost each day there’s a person inquiring, best because of this club’s history. We nonetheless have a cricket crew that takes part in Mumbai Cricket Association tournaments, but we’ve other sports activities like rugby, tennis, table tennis and squash where our teams are nonetheless one of the best,” says Renjen.
Madhav Apte is some of the oldest surviving Indian cricketers at 86.

He remains lively, so much in order that till currently his routines protected a visit to the Gymkhana to play badminton and reminiscing about the Forties and 50s, superb a long time he spent playing cricket at this venue. “The Pentangular is frequently credited to be the tournament which he­lped India end up a Test crew, but it wouldn’t have took place had the Parsi Gymkhana and Islam Gymkhana now not promoted the game. Even earlier than Hindus, Parsis had been hooked on to it.” The first high-quality fixture on Indian soil became unavoidably played among them and the British, whilst Hindus, Muslims had been yet to develop a liking.

Rarely seen in cricket in recent times, the Parsi network in Bombay became the primary set of Indians to take it up severely. In 1886 and 1888, their teams even toured England. They won only one of the 28 suits, prompting Wisden to put in writing: “From a cricket factor of view the excursion of the Parsis became a failure, and we had not thought it profitable to print any of the scores.” But Apte recollects how the Pentangular helped the community grow from electricity to electricity. “PE Palia and MS Colah were huge names. Even returned then, they used to journey throughout the usa to play. Later, we saw the likes of Rusi Modi and Polly Umrigar. The satisfactory that stood out was aptitude. Every time you th­o­ught they have been fading, a newcomer could come up. After Umrigar, (Nari) Contractor and then came Farokh (Engineer),” he says.
That deliver line has long stopped. No Parsi after Engineer has performed Test cricket. In India’s recent domestic season, only one Parsi took the sphere — Arzan Nagwaswalla for Gujarat.


Sunil Gavaskar and Milind Rege are nonetheless of their teenagers, at the Brabourne Stadium which homes the Cricket Club of India (CCI). They are there to watch Tiger Pataudi, who they have got examine and heard approximately. They are ate up with the aid of an unusual sight. It is common for batsmen to get hold of a standing ovation for their deeds. Rege and Gavaskar noticed some thing specific. In fact, the former says, it’s far the only time he noticed something like that everywhere inside the world. “Pataudi tossed the ball to Chandra (Bhagwat Chandrasekhar) and earlier than we ought to recognize what become occurring, the entire crowd stood in unison and started clapping. We didn’t apprehend what become happening.

It took us a second to recognise that each one the cheering turned into for Chandra. I never saw or got here throughout an incident while a bowler marking his run-up got such form of interest,” Rege remembers. The legends of Vijay Merchant, the Apte brothers, and Dileep Sardesai have been born here. Once Abbas Ali Baig even were given a kiss from a lady while batting.

What is going round, comes around. This satisfactory defines the CCI, which came into life in 1933. While the Bombay Gymkhana Club become the torchbearer of cricket in the city, it had its flaws, the biggest being non-Europeans denied get admission to to the pavilion and looking place. Disgruntled locals made an difficulty of it, but the monopoly it loved made them arrogant, pretty just like the BCCI of the pre-Lodha duration. It changed whilst the equal treatment was meted out to the Maharaja of Patiala.

A cited patron of cricket, the Maharaja persuaded Delhi-primarily based English businessman Grant Govan and Anthony de Mello (the first president and secretary of BCCI) to champion his reason. With their assist, a stadium was built at CCI, thanks to Lord Brabourne, the Governor of Bombay, who gave the land. The largest enchantment become the pavilion balcony, from wherein one feels near the motion.
“It was the first stadium in India constructed exclusively for cricket. The CCI preamble mentions as its key goal — ‘To sell and encourage the game of cricket in India’,” says Sachin Bajaj, who has been associated with CCI in various roles over 25 years.

Compared to Bombay Gymkhana, CCI has proven better vision and pressure to make cricket an quintessential part of the metropolis. “Back then, while we didn’t have a stadium, it was all approximately the maidans. With Gymkhana having its reservations, the CCI’s imaginative and prescient to build a stadium made a massive distinction. We abruptly had all the infrastructure thanks to the businessmen concerned with CCI and even the BCCI had an excellent rapport with the membership,” recalls Apte, once a Sheriff of Bombay and additionally a former president of CCI.

Though the CCI changed into registered in Delhi, it soon became the headquarters of Indian cricket because the offices of the BCCI started performing from its premises. Later on, underneath Raj Singh Dungarpur, the membership thrived. Carrying at the legacy, Dungarpur ensured the CCI remained a cricketer’s membership.
Leave aside his relationship with Lata Mangeshkar, which nevertheless makes many associated with the CCI smile, there’s overwhelming acceptance of his contributions to this institution. “Raj bhai believed CCI existed for cricketers. He turned into a cricket romantic. He had a big imaginative and prescient for the membership, and he was the one who first made reciprocal agreements with the MCC, MCG and even New Zealand Cricket board. Whenever groups visited India, they would make a forestall on the CCI,” Rege remembers.


Rege, who turned into added to the CCI via Dungarpur, played a pivotal role in making sure a thirteen-12 months-antique got a membership at the club. When Sachin Tendulkar changed into an unheard-of name in Bombay, Rege had auditioned the kid before Dungarpur and Apte, who by some means wanted to make the boy, their very own. But there has been one roadblock.

“The membership rule stated you needed to be 18 to turn out to be a member. Apte and Dungarpur saw the boy and were hell-bent on giving him membership. There become competition, but Raj Bhai stood his ground and stated, the membership is for cricketers. In a count number of days, Tendulkar changed into a CCI member.”

The CCI stands simply throughout the Marine Drive, a stone’s throw away from Wankhede Stadium, which came into existence following a rift among the Mumbai Cricket Association and government at Brabourne Stadium over ticket allocation for massive matches. Years later, a disgruntled MCA would do to CCI, what the CCI had carried out to the Gymkhana. But that’s every other tale. “It continues to be the excellent club in India, however not necessarily the satisfactory for cricket. Times have changed. Back then on any given day, you would have the likes of Merchant, Umrigar, Manjrekar around the membership due to the fact they focussed on cricket. Today, it doesn’t have cricketers walking the committees. Despite all this, the CCI has retained its nostalgia,” says Rege.

While the appearance of Wankhede Stadium intended a drop in the frequency of fits at CCI, a renovation for the 2011 World Cup ensured Dungarpur’s last want end up a truth — Test cricket’s go back to Brabourne Stadium. Sharad Pawar, while he turned into the MCA president, granted the wish. But 3 months earlier than that India-Sri Lanka fixture in 2009, Dungarpur died.

He didn’t live to look Test cricket return to his adopted home, however however, he had the time to put in writing: “I nonetheless cannot consider that worldwide cricket is poised to return to the CCI in this type of massive way. It’s nearly like a widow getting remarried and starting a new life. But make no mistake, the widow continues to be quite stunning.” Oh yes!

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