On Sunday, Mumbai’s 500th Ranji Trophy match ended with a gritty rearguard action staving off defeat against Baroda. It was a display of the mulishness the Mumbai cricket team is famous for—and an apt occasion to remember the importance of the domestic game.
Much has been written about the rise of cricket as India’s national passion since the 1983 World Cup victory. That rise has been built on the back of a rich history. From the Parsis who had the temerity to challenge the Bombay Presidency’s British players at the turn of the 19th century to the Mumbai powerhouse’s long summer and the rise of challengers like Karnataka and Delhi, domestic cricket has had rich political and social subtexts.
Before Sachin Tendulkar and M.S. Dhoni became metaphors for India’s rise, local heroes like Rajinder Goel and Padmakar Shivalkar plied their trade.
Domestic cricket is now often played before largely empty stadiums and faces administrative problems, but it would be a mistake to overlook its continued importance.