February 21, 2006

Brabourne thunderbolts

Took a six-year-old for his first taste of grown-up cricket: England playing a CCI XI at the Brabourne stadium. I called before heading down there, and was told by someone at reception that the only tickets being sold were for Rs 200, in the pavilion. Seemed crazy, but we duly presented ourselves outside the pavilion, only to be told that no kids were allowed in the clubhouse. And that Rs 20 and 30 tickets were available, but we'd have to walk right around the stadium to get them.

Why is it so hard to offer reasonable information?

Nevertheless, once we sat down and the six-year-old began strolling around in delight, various thoughts:


This was also where I got my first taste of grown-up cricket: one day spent at this Test match. When the old firm of Bedi and Prasanna bowled 64 of 70 second-innings overs between them, to hand India an unlikely 60 run win.

I didn't know it then of course, but it would take over 35 years to see my next day of Test cricket inside a stadium.


I don't know why, but the CCI players seem to have been deliberately selected for their diminutive stature. Batsman after batsman strolls in and looks barely taller than the stumps. Stocky, some of them, but short. In contrast, the Englishmen are towering broad-shouldered hulks: Flintoff and Harmison in particular.

When Harmison thunders in, he's all flailing arms flinging thunderbolts past the shoulders and ears of these small CCI players. Sometimes they jump up to defend, but even then the ball whizzes past their chests and thumps into the safe gloves of Jones a long way behind the stumps. Amol Muzumdar unfurls some delicious strokes, but then a Harmison special cracks his thumb and he has to retire.

Why didn't Muzumdar, a triple-centurion at Ranji level, ever get a chance at India colours?


The Brabourne is such a splendid spot. To think this graceful stadium sits here, memories of great innings played on its grass fading with the years, now host only to the very occasional inconsequential match like this one. What a criminal waste to have another stadium, the soul-less Wankhede, come up just half a mile away. What possessed our various cricket big bananas in the early '70s, that things came to such a pass?


Few know that the Brabourne clubhouse was designed by this man.
(Note: He was known by his middle name, which should be spelled "Avicenna").

D'Avoine's ancestors came to India from Mauritius. In his time, and until he died suddenly in 1960, he was one of Bombay's best known architects. He was also a patron of horse-racing, and to this day there is an annual race in his name.

His son Pierre is an award-winning architect in London. And Avi D'Avoine would be thrilled to know that it is not just the architecture genes that his son inherited. Pierre also plays club cricket.


kuffir said...

about brabourne,.. yes, that's what i thought too.. just when brabourne was beginning to roll off the tongue as easily as kashi, prayag etc., they had to go and build another stadium with a name which was more difficult for provincial kids like me to pronounce. 1969? it was a pleasure to see prasanna and bedi again on the score card.. and abid ali(he's in the u.s. now).. i don't see solkar and engineer.. wasn't this a year before gavaskar made his debut ?

kuffir said...

oops..engineer was playing.. and the erratic hanumant singh and chauhan ..i'd heard of surti... a.m.pai? i recognize some of the nz players..i'm growing old.

Dilip D'Souza said...

kuffir, Solkar made his debut in the third Test of this 1969 NZ series, at Hyderabad. He was there at the end as India struggled to draw the match. I always feel Solkar remains one of our most under-rated cricketers. I think he should be in an all-time India team purely for his fielding.

Gavaskar actually made his debut in March '71, the second Test vs WI at Port of Spain.

Interesting you mention Ajit Pai: for some reason, my one memory of that day at that match is watching Pai stretch forward in defence. Tall guy. Took two wickets, never played another Test. Wonder why.

zap said...

35 years... the one you saw in Bangalore!

Dilip D'Souza said...

zap: indeed! Bangalore. I remain hopeful that it will not be another 25 years ... I also remain hopeful that the Wankhede will suddenly crumble away and they'll resume playing Tests at the Brabourne. Which do you think will happen first?