Mumbai's monsoon cricket carnival gets underway this Sunday, July 13, when some of the city's best players put their skills to the test in the Kanga League. The tournament, held every year since 1948 during the rains in memory of H D Kanga, a former national selector, is considered the ultimate test for a player, because of the wet conditions batsmen, bowlers and fielders have to battle in.
This edition of the tournament will witness some changes in the format, with the eight-ball over being replaced by the six-ball one.
In addition to that, there will be no minimum mandatory overs limit. Also, only two fielders will be allowed in the region behind square on the on-side.
Ninety-eight clubs/gymkhana, divided into seven divisions viz. A, B, C, D, E, F and G, are in the fray.
Ashish Magotra and Harini Rana sought former players' views on the importance of the tournament to the Mumbai cricketer.
Madhav Mantri, former Test player and MCA president:
The Kanga League tests your temperament. You don't play on good wickets. Wickets are bad; bowlers have to bowl a different line. You get education and, in difficult circumstances, you develop your temperament.
There are no particular changes that have come about in the Kanga League. The only change is, we called it a team game and therefore there were no individual prizes. A player gets a hundred only because the other player was at the other end. So, it's a team game. Times have changed, money has come!
All Test cricketers played during our time. Now there is not much interest, as Test players don't play. Star players are great motivators and you learn a lot when you play with them. Everywhere there is a question of money, and we didn't bother about money.
Ajit Wadekar, former India captain, coach and selection committee chairman:
The Kanga League was instituted to get familiar with the conditions in England. Down here the wickets are a bit sticky and it pours in India. It helps you to be more courageous and have more guts. The wickets are sticky and you have to play in different conditions when it is raining. That is the reason you will find, most probably, Mumbai cricketers having more courage than other players. But the Kanga League is loosing its charm, as all the star players are not playing because they are too busy these days.
During our time there used to be so much of crowd and enthusiasm; we loved to play. All top players used to come and play in the league, and we learnt a lot from Test players.
Nari Contractor, former India Test captain:
It is frankly one of the premier tournaments of the state and it gives you a lot of insight into correct technique. Bowlers learn how to get wickets on the wet, sticky wickets. If you score 30 runs in a Kanga League game that is a good performance. You rarely get hundreds in an 'A' divison game. There is a lot of importance placed on fielding, because the team that takes catches wins the matches, because of the bad fielding conditions.
When we played, we really prayed it did not rain, because we wanted to play so badly the next day. You would have as many as 3-4 Test cricketers in the top sides. The cricket played was really exciting and I find myself at a loss of words to express the excitement. With Test cricketers not having the time to play, or being to busy with international cricket, the qualify of play has diminished; competition has suffered a bit and that in turn has diminished the interest.
Milind Rege, former Mumbai captain:
The Kanga League is played when there is no cricket in the country. It's a tournament which allows you to be in touch with the game. It is not easy to play the league because it's played in conditions which are very difficult for the batsman. The entire idea of the Kanga League is that four months in the year the MCA should be doing something. If you get to play 6-10 games, take a knock or bowl a bit, it keeps you in touch with the game. Hence, Mumbai scores over many other players, because the rest of the cricketers in the country are doing nothing during the monsoon.
There are lots of changes, but what worries us is that the interest is dwindling. We are here trying to bring back the interest in the game by having as many matches as possible. Also, we try to see that as many top players as possible play. But we are trying to renew the interest and it has changed a lot. Many players go to England; I think the England-going community has reduced considerably now. So, many first class local cricketers will be seen participating in the Kanga League. In between there was a massive lot of players going to England and earning money there, but now the rules in England have changed... about how you qualify to play for the club. This has reduced the players going to England.
Hemant Waingankar, secretary Dr. H D. Kanga League:
It is very exiting managing the Kanga League this season. I have got good support from the MCA. We have managed to get a sponsor for the first time in 55 years. I was looking for a sponsor when I joined; still I am not stable. I would like to bring some money for the winners and that is one of the morale boosters for the players. Now-a-days, there are no jobs available for cricketers; also clubs are in bad condition. So, if they get a good amount, it will be always better for cricket. We are trying hard and I am sure the MCA will be able to do something better.
Last year we received a lot of complaints against umpires but there is no proof. We are trying to have good quality of cricket. My appeal to all players is to play a fair game and try to give your best to cricket.
Former India batsman Praveen Amre
It's a 55-year-old tournament. If you can play in the Kanga League, it gives you confidence that you can play on any type of wicket. A tournament like the Kanga League has an immeasurable importance. The confidence that it imparts to youngsters lasts for a career. It is very difficult to predict a winner because of the high level of competition.
The League is basically for youngsters. You do not even need to be a very good bowler to take wickets in the league; just bowl the ball in the right spot and you will be successful. It is an experience for every batsman, one that serves him well for the rest of his life. If you score a 50, it gives you the confidence to face any attack.
Former Test allrounder Eknath Solkar
The youngsters get a good opportunity to get into the groove at the start of the season. The conditions are tough, sometimes there is heavy rain and the wickets are wet but it is an opportunity to play every weekend. The Test cricketers are not even available to play for their states so to expect them to play for their club might be asking too much. Cricket remains cricket, players come and go. We have to try and improve the rules and regulations. That is important.