The campaigning for the Mumbai Cricket Association's biennial elections, on October 18, is approaching the slog overs, and 'Cricket First', which is still at the crease, is launching a fantastic assault, promising voters the best possible value for their votes.
The mood, it seems, is swaying in their way.
"Vote for us all in a majority, and, we promise you, within six months you will see the difference," they confidently declared at a meeting of maidan secretaries and cricket captains at the MIG Club, in Bandra.
"If not, it will be best to vote for the other panel as a team. At least they will be able to do something for cricket at the grassroots."
Taking the full volleys and yorkers with ease, Vijay Patil, chairman of the D Y Patil Sports Academy in Navi Mumbai, asked the gathering: "Why are two individuals slogging it out in the court spending MCA money? Why can't they sit across the table and resolve their differences? The association is bigger than the individual."
He was referring to the court case filed by Prof Ratnakar Shetty against president Ravi Savant due to which the expenses have sky-rocketed. Shetty is challenging the five-year ban by slapped by MCA on him.
Patil has big dreams for turning the MCA into a brand, something on the lines of FC Barcelona. "It is possible," he earnestly said. "Give us a chance to prove it."
Those included in Patil's panel are Lalchand Rajput, Abey Kuruvilla, Atul Ranade, Mayank Khandwala, Iqbal Shaikh, Unmesh Khanwilkar, Vijay Shirke, Kaushik Godbole, Nadim Memon, Sangam Lad, Asish Patankar, Shekar Shetty and Lalji Joshi.
Patil is one of the two incumbent vice-presidents of the MCA who contested the election to the managing committee two years ago and emerged triumphant.
This time he has vowed to support Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who is hoping to return at the helm.
After Patil, former Test pacer Abey Kuruvilla faced just two deliveries, and hoisted both for huge hits.
"Maidan is the heart of cricket," he said. "And if the heart has a problem, the whole body is in danger."
Joining Abey soon after at the crease was Nadim Memon, and he launched into a calculated assault.
"If we need just Rs three lakh for upgrading a maidan, 'we will look into it', is their ready reply," he said. "Why can't they see that the maidans are rotting?"
In spite of stiff opposition, Memon has managed to spruce up the Azad and Cross maidans and various other grounds in Mumbai.
"Here they are so busy fighting in court that they don't even know that the Oval maidan residents had cut off the water supply to the ground. How are the grounds to be watered?" he asked. "This is the current state of the MCA."
In the two years that Memon has been the maidan secretary, he has ensured water for pitches by getting two borewells, electricity for the Cross Maidan, set up tents and also arranged for BMC drinking water.
Atul Ranade and Iqbal Shaikh, both safe batsmen (read speakers) too got into the slog-over fest and blasted the current MCA and the way it functions. They were aghast at how Dilip Vengsarkar was called to a prize distribution ceremony a few days ago where one team was missing! "How can you insult a cricketer of his stature like this," they questioned. "Where is the MCA headed?"
The other factions are slowly naming their candidates, but the tide seems to be turning Cricket First's way.
And going by the way they have strategized their game-plan -- right from inspecting pitches (read mapping out their business-like module for MCA) to reading the ground conditions -- they seem to be in for a long innings.
Image: Vijay Patil (top), Nadim Menon