Reminiscing about cricket, something clicked in my mind. Numerous books written on cricket and cricketers by journalists and cricketers themselves have been general books or autobiographies emphasizing on cricket and the growth of cricketers. Hardly anybody has written about the very foundation which has been important for the growth of cricket and that is tennis ball cricket. Rewind to 1970 after the Aussies were bounced by illingworth’s men, the Chappell brothers resorted to tennis ball bowling bouncers at each other in the park to overcome their deficiencies.
During the 60s and early 70s tennis ball matches were being played in Bombay and since I am from Bombay, I will write about matches in Bombay. The tournaments were conducted at various places drawing huge crowds. Inter-department office matches at the Oval Maidan, matches along the railway tracks near Bombay central station, near Jijamata udyan. Red rubber ball matches during the rainy season were conducted at Parle college ground by brothers Ajit and Aru Pai. The distance between wickets could be 29 yards. Under –hand matches at Hindu colony, Dadar (E) required a lot of skill. On Sundays, the lanes could be humming with cricketing activities the likes of which can never be gauged. The Dand-Pada shield played at Khar-Danda between 20th and 21st roads opposite Garden homes society. This tournament drew teams from all over Bombay but the matches between Daand-Pada and Juhu Tara Teams drew maximum crowd. The Juhu tara team and their followers could come in many trucks with pomp and pageantry. Subsequent the said tournament was shifted to Danda sea shore on hard sand. Players like Ajit Wadekar, Ramakant Desai, Sudhakar Adhikari, Raja Manohar could represent Daan-Pada but were always fond wanting. Last but not least, the road tournament at Khar played in the by-lanes, starting at 8:00 AM and going on the whole day. People could flock to see this tournament. There were cricketing rules, but with one difference. Any hit directly into the compounds of the adjoining houses would deem the batsman out and a hit on the bounce would fetch a run . Cricketers like Salim Durrani, Ajay Divecha, Nitin Shirodkar, Kundran to name a few have participated in this tournament. With the advent to traffic, sadly this tournament came to an end in the mid-70s. But all the same, those days were heavenly and I wish they could return.
– Writer Kiran Dhairyawan had played A class cricket with legends like Sunny Gavaskar.