Pune’s Cricket Culture

Pune, formerly Poona, has a history in the inception of cricket by Englishmen, back in 1885. Youngsters and local clubs have carried on the torch although many wished for more laurels by the state.  

When in Pune you’re not far from Mumbai, conjuring up images of cricket. In the shadow of their illustrious cousins across the Western Ghats, Pune, a part of the Maharashtra Cricket Association , has its own heroes and cricket culture. It is best echoed in the fact that some journalists still describe the Mumbai Vs Maharashtra domestic championship match as of “arch rivals.” Among Pune’s personalities, the late Professor DB Deodhar stands out – he did not play Test cricket because his prime was the period 1915-20 when India was still not a Test nation.

Among other stalwarts of Pune cricket are Chandu Borde and Hemant Kanitkar in the 1960s. People will remember Borde best as chief selector in the highly successful World Championship of Cricket in 1985, which India won and established itself as the top team in the world. A more recent memory is the highly spirited 72-year old being the manager for the 2007 away-Tests in England which India swept 2-0. So, like former India captain Wadekar, Borde is billed a renaissance man.  

Chetan Chauhan is remembered for being Sunil Gavaskar’s opening batting partner in the ‘80s. Because he represented Delhi later, few know he was from Maharashtra and came up the hard way, cycling 15 kilometres as a boy, to practice. Hemant Kanitkar and son Krishikesh made appearances for India in the ‘60s and ‘90s respectively. Other yesteryear heroes – Vasant Ranjane, a fast bowler in the ‘50s, Vijay Hazare and the legendary Vinoo Mankad, all capped by India.

Pune’s club cricket had been fairly well laid out – the MCA (Maharashtra Cricket Association) Invitation League with about 12 clubs had two-day matches on the weekend, therefore giving up-and-coming cricketers a chance to show their prowess.   

Pune’s international arena (limited-overs matches only) is the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium , although historically it was the Poona Club. Backing up the typically colonial history of Englishmen introducing the game (Lord Harrison in Poona), the Poona Club team is still one of the strongest. Among other prominent clubs in the city are PYC, Deccan Gymkhana, Vilas CC and Deodhar Trust (after Prof. Deodhar), all of which have contributed to the culture of Pune cricket. Incidentally, Maharashtra’s older pleasant memories are of beating Mumbai and of winning the championship in both 1939 and 1940.

For those of us not fully initiated in domestic cricket’s intricacies, note that the Maharashtra cricket association headquartered in Pune and catering to talent from all districts of Maharashtra (except Mumbai) is distinct and separate from the Mumbai Cricket Association (also MCA).

Perhaps the final note to this Pune cricket chapter should be fittingly Professor Deodhar who died aged 101 in 1993. He and Bill Ashdown were the only cricketers to have played first class cricket both before the First World War (1914) and after the Second World War (1945). There’s a place in history for Pune cricket.

Although referred to as Pune cricket in instances, it is largely Maharashtra cricket, the association under which Pune is governed.

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