Mumbai: There used to be a time when top India players — Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar included — treated a Kanga League match as seriously as they would a Test match.
No sooner than the first drop of rain kissed the cityscape, young cricketers would start polishing their bats and gear up for the inter-club tournament, the only monsoon league in the world.
The past few years have seen many cricket experts write obituaries for the 65-year-old league. However, the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) has stemmed the rot. Or so it seems.
The Ravi Savant-led association has done its best to revive interest in the league by refurbishing the format. Apart from a set of new rules, the league — which starts on Saturday — will be a post-monsoon fixture.
Season after season, the association was forced to declare every other Sunday a `washout`. “Even the umpires did not know when to start a match,” said former Mumbai Under-25 coach Vilas Godbole. “The new format is an experiment. It is better to have faith than to jump the gun and dismiss it. But there are a few disadvantages,” he added.
“There should have been a knockout stage. A player will pull up his socks only when he knows that a poor performance could knock his team out. I also feel that playing for one-and-a-half days will be a hassle as a lot of players are employed with banks and their availability will be an issue,” Godbole said.
Savant, though, lent a different perspective. “We want optimum number of matches for players. Since it is a league, the selectors will also get a chance to study a player if they miss him once.”
However, former India player Praveen Amre, who grew up playing Kanga League cricket at Shivaji Park, feels that it is difficult to revive the old charm of the event as it is no longer associated with the monsoon.
“As a player, if you perform in adverse conditions, you feel very confident. Unfortunately, that won`t be the case hereon,” he said.
Amre lauded the MCA, though. “What they are doing is ultimately going to help cricket in Mumbai. But it won’t be a typical Kanga wicket. I understand they don’t want any more washouts,” he said.
Talking about the good old days when the superstars used to play in the league, Amre said, “Upcoming cricketers used to be excited to share the dressing room with their heroes. They also learnt a lot from them.”
Wriddhaayan Bhattacharyya/ DNA