‘Khadoos’ — the attitude, ploy and weapon of Mumbai cricketers

Former skipper Sanjay Manjrekar revives old days, says how the K-word helped them thrash opponents in style.

Starting off as Mumbai cricketers, Sachin Tendulkar (left) and Sanjay Manjrekar both played international cricket.   -  V.V. KRISHNAN

 

Baroda’s success in turning up the heat on a Mumbai Ranji squad, almost at full strength, embarrassed the home team, till Siddhesh Lad’s stonewalling at the crease on day four turned a probable innings defeat into a draw. The 500th Ranji Trophy game at the iconic Wankhede stadium was filled with forgettable moments in the first three days, instead of a landmark occasion to showcase Mumbai cricket’s combative nature, till his second innings knock worth 71 runs off 238 balls emerged as face-saver for the home team.

He walked off at stumps to applause from Mumbai teammates in the players gallery. Baroda coach Atul Bedade tapped him on the shoulder, disappointed at a win snatched away by the slim lad with a big heart. “I am from Gorai and I have travelled in packed trains to reach cricket practise. Those journeys toughened me up. I enjoy batting in pressure situations,” explained Siddhesh. Mumbai cricket values grit as much as class, ‘khadoos’ is the local label for such characters who may not get mobbed in public, though respect among peers and recognition in private follows naturally.

The tough boys

Sanjay Manjrekar, one of the successful Ranji captains from Mumbai who was felicitated by Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) at a get-together to commemorate the 500th Ranji Trophy game, offered an insight into how city players imbibed the hard-nosed attitude and how opponents reacted in the face of competitive fervor. He explains that unlike the perception of ‘khadoos’ being an attitude, a cloak of intimidation directed at rivals, it was an internal thing, a firming up of resolve in the face of adversity. Steely nerves in match situations brought out the talent.

Mumbai 500: From the eyes of the opposition

“When we started out, we were trying to copy the captain at that stage. We were of a very impressionable age, 18-20 years so we just followed our leader. Mumbai always had good captains, so it was the phase about getting to know the feeling,” said the former India cricketer-turned-commentator, who played 27 Tests and 74 ODIs.

Manjrekar, known for precise words on the mic and shot selection at the crease in his competitive days for Mumbai and India, continued: “The second phase was about us becoming international cricketers, then returning to first-class cricket. We tried to imbibe what we learnt at the international level. Mumbai youngsters benefitted by seeing a different level of thought and application. As a Mumbai player, the literary meaning of ‘khadoos’ is someone who does not smile too much, people who are not likeable. I guess that is what Mumbai wanted us to be like against the opposition.”

He explained how a teammate out in the middle reacted to the K-word. “It meant being gritty, not giving an inch, taking up the challenge. So if we saw a teammate getting a little relaxed, we would say ‘get khadoos’; it was a buzz word, to get players to fight for the team. It was not something we spoke very loudly, just a quiet act. Like a Sulakshan Kulkarni would tell his partner, chal khadoos ho (just tighten the screws a bit). After a long partnership, there is a tendency to relax a bit. At the right time, the senior partner or captain would use the word and make players switch their mindset.”

Love for players outside Mumbai

Talking about Mumbai cricket, he also revealed a little-known aspect about the hard-nosed city cricketers. “Mumbai cricket got excited about talent from outside the city. I feel it is an exceptional trait. Seeing a Rahul Dravid come through the ranks made us happy. People were talking about Virender Sehwag here in Mumbai before he played for India. It is the spirit of Mumbai as a city as well, which has embraced talent from all over India.”

Dravid anchored Karnataka’s batting and Sehwag was Delhi’s sword arm in domestic cricket and both challenged bowlers. Manjrekar added: “It did not matter where the player was from, Mumbai cricket was just happy to see pure talent. I feel it is an exceptional quality.”

Mumbai won the Ranji Trophy 41 times, under different captains and against diverse opponents.

Times have changed to the extent that denying Baroda a victory is considered an achievement. Manjrekar, under whose captaincy Mumbai won twice, recalls: “Mumbai-Baroda Ranji games during our time was not that tough, there was only Atul Bedade we had to worry about. You could not set a field when he was at the crease, he hit the ball out of the ground. He was one guy we were scared, the rest we could manage.”

The Mumbai stalwart, (averaging 55.11 in 147 first-class games and aggregating 10, 252 runs) added: “I remember a game when Mukesh Narula, very aggressive Baroda cricketer, got into a verbal tiff with Sachin Tendulkar. I was watching from the dressing room and realised Narula was making a big mistake. Sachin got fired up and they paid the price.”

Mumbai cricket expects players to dominate first-class tournaments. Asked about how city cricketers face expectations, he pointed out: “Expectations are a reflection of Mumbai’s cricketing success and dominance, it is a team which keeps playing the knockouts, advances to the final round and plays more (first-class) matches than opponent teams. Mumbai cricket culture is basically about officials, club cricketers, former players, umpires — all of them come together as your guardian. If they see somebody with exceptional talent, the guardians helped the player achieve his dreams. We are all grateful and indebted to Mumbai cricket. “

Ranji Trophy: Rahane, Shreyas boost Mumbai’s 500th

The 500th Ranji match function brought captains together (Madhav Apte, Sudhir Naik, Ajit Wadekar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sachin Tendulkar, Amol Muzumdar, Aditya Tare to name a few) to treat audiences with insights and anecdotes. “The more I moved into commentary after quitting, it took me away from the game here. I have not been able to follow Mumbai cricket, my colleagues feel I should be in more touch with the game here.”

Mumbai players breaking into the national team allows him to reconnect, like Shreyas Iyer got into the India T20 squad. “I just talk to former players, just spend an afternoon with Vengsarkar and Chandrakant Pandit to get the information about a Mumbai player selected for India. It helps me prepare before I see them in an international competition.”

Amid all matches, the fraternity remembers the 1990-91 Ranji Trophy final between Mumbai (led by Manjrekar) and Kapil Dev’s Haryana. Vengsarkar’s heroic 139 not out, boosted by an astonishing 96 from Tendulkar, took the home side close to an improbable victory. Chasing 355 in the fourth innings, they lost by two runs.

In the 2017-18 Ranji season, Mumbai is facing a reality check; qualifying for the knockout is a target, not a certainty. The one-time superpower is third in Group C, behind Andhra and Madhya Pradesh, at this point.

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