Mumbai is one of the prominent cities to have produced a number of Indian team cricketers over the decades. And if one has to name the place in the city where maximum number of Indian stars were groomed, it has to be Shivaji Park. The great Vijay Manjrekar, father of cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar, was one of the heroes of this place.
For this reason, a single wicket and double wicket tournament used to be held at Shivaji Park Gymkhana at one point of time. Called ‘Veedol Vijay Manjrekar Single and Double Wicket Tournament’, it was prominent in the 90s and it used to take place somewhere around April or May each year.
A single wicket match is played between two individual cricketers instead of two teams. There are only 3 or 4 overs per innings. The same person would bat as well as bowl, while a number of junior cricketers would field in both the innings of the match. The interesting part was that if the person who is batting gets out, 2 or 4 runs would be deducted from his score. In the end, whichever player scores the highest in the innings would be the winner.
Similarly, a double wicket match saw the participation of two sets of players instead of one. The rest of the rules are the same. In the two-day tournament, the first day would see the single-wicket tournament while the next day would be dedicated to double-wicket. Interestingly, we got to see a much shorter version of the game than T20 when T20 was not even a thing.
Temporary stands used to be created around the playing area in Shivaji Park where spectators could watch the matches for free. The local cable TV also used to telecast all matches on the channel where they usually played movies. Personally, witnessing this series in 1996 or 1997 meant a lot to me because it was the first time I was watching live cricket.
Some prominent names from Indian cricket used to play this series each year, including Sachin Tendulkar, Sanjay Manjrekar, Vinod Kambli, Ravi Shastri, Sandeep Patil, Narendra Hirwani, Ajit Agarkar, Pravin Amre, Robin Singh, Robin Uthappa, Amol Muzamdar, Ramesh Powar, Paras Mhambrey, etc; most of the cricketers were from Mumbai, understandably.
One such tournament in 1997 saw the participation of the Sri Lankan star Romesh Kaluwitharana (in the single wicket form). I have fond memories of this particular tournament, although it was a struggle to catch a glimpse of the pitch because of the height factor. As it turned out, Kaluwitharana and Kambli reached the final.
Kambli batted first and scored a decent amount of runs. The entire crowd supported him, which was obvious. We also got to see a rare sight of Kaluwitharana bowling slow medium pacers; something we never saw in international cricket since he always played as a wicket-keeper. When Kaluwitharana batted, it was also a rare sight to see Kambli bowl right-arm spin.
The match between the two went right down to the wire. In the ending moments during Kaluwitharana’s chase, he mistimed a big shot and the ball went high up in the air. Co-incidentally, Kambli himself was under the ball. He got under it and did everything right, just to drop it in the end. There was a massive disappointment among the crowd. This ensured that Kaluwitharana won the final.
In the following year in the double wicket tournament, Robin Singh participated with a player from Hyderabad’s Ranji Trophy team. This time, Kenyan cricketers Thomas Odoyo and someone else from their team (might be Kennedy Otieno) also participated as a pair. The final match saw Robin and his partner versus the two Kenyan cricketers.
The Kenyan players batted first and put up a good score. This match too was a nail-biter. In the end, Robin and his partner needed four runs of the last ball with the former on strike. Robin hit that one for 6, much to the jubilation of all of us.
After doing a Google search, one can find Facebook updates of the 2011 edition of the tournament held in 2011 (see HERE). Dilip Vengsarkar, Gulshan Grover and Tanushree Dutta were the guests. Apart from this, there is only one Mumbai Live article about this tournament held in 2017, which was won by Parag Pingle (read HERE).
The tournament doesn’t happen anymore. Strangely, apart from these two updates, there is not even a single text article on any of the editions of this tournament, not even the ones featuring Kambli, Kaluwitharana and Robin. If someone does have more info about the same, please feel free to comment below.
Also read: Why Kaluwitharana’s stint in 1996 World Cup is overrated