Mumbai’s Cricket Heartland
Words: Josh Robenstone
Images: Josh Robenstone
Photographer Josh Robenstone travelled to Mumbai for a photographic assignment a couple of years ago. “While I was there I took some time out to explore the cities cricket heritage and found it in the form of Azad Maidan”.
Situated in the heart of the city and in close proximity to the Mumbai Cricket Club, Azad Maidan which literally translates to ‘Liberty Fields’ is a large open park made up of over 20 “official” cricket grounds where the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar spent their formative years, scoring runs for schoolboy teams and making a name for themselves all over the country. A quick google search of ‘Azad Maidan Aerial Photos‘ will show you the scale of it. You could say it’s the equivalent of Central Park in New York, but simply dedicated to Cricket.
Yet, tucked in between these roped off fields are the many not so ‘official’ ones, where young men squeeze onto every last remaining piece of turf for a more friendly but never uncompetitive game of cricket.
But it’s not just cricket that this place is famous for. In December 1931, Mahatma Gandhi addressed the worlds largest ever political meeting at Azad Maidan and more recently, in 2012, mass political riots took place here resulting in the deaths of two people.
For the cricket mad Indians, this place serves as a democratic home to socialise, throw down some Googly’s and score some runs all within the presence of the gods of cricket past.
With deteriorated bats and worn down balls, without structure and seemingly organisation, games go on between friends until the sun has fallen behind the surrounding buildings and the balls bowled at crazy speeds can no longer be seen and now pose serious threat of injury.
Cricket is played in every last nook and cranny of the Indian streetscape, sometimes in the most unexpected of locations but here is truly the number one, where literally thousands of people turn out daily for a hit and a bit of fun under the shadows of Mumbai’s colonial architecture in Mumbai’s Cricket Heartland.
Although most of the social games here are just for fun, they’re still taken seriously with every run counting.
Games go on until last light, when the ball goes from something to hit…
…to something that’s more likely to hit you.
Cricket in India, even on a social level is a serious affair, and sledging too, is not confined to the professional arena.
Sledging is a term used in cricket to describe the practice whereby some players seek to gain an advantage by insulting or verbally intimidating the opposing player. The purpose is to try to weaken the opponent’s concentration, thereby causing them to make mistakes or underperform. It can be effective because the batsman stands within hearing range of the bowler and certain close fielders; and vice versa. The insults may be direct or feature in conversations among fielders designed to be overheard.
A spectator watches on under the palm tree lined border of Azad Maidan.
The tools of the trade… Indian Style.
One of the young men that fill these grounds everyday of the year and dreams of being the next Tendulkar.
‘Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar is a former Indian international cricketer and a former captain of the Indian national team, regarded as one of the greatest batsmen of all time. He is the highest run scorer of all time in International cricket.’
In cricket, a googly is a type of deceptive delivery bowled by a right-arm leg spin bowler. In Australia, it is occasionally referred to as a Bosie (or Bosey), an eponym in honour of its inventor Bernard Bosanquet. A leg spin bowler bowls in a leg spin way but it goes in the off side direction.