The legends club of Mumbai

Ritesh Misra Roar Guru

By , Ritesh Misra is a Roar Guru

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    Famous cricket writer-commentator John Arlott formed the Master’s Club at the Oval in memory of Sir Jack Hobbs, who was known as ‘the Master’.

    Similarly veteran cricket administrator the late Raj Singh Dungarpur, who was BCCI and CCI president, was instrumental in forming the Legends Club in Mumbai to honour the cricketing legends from India. 

    In 2002 Raj Singh attended a luncheon meeting of the Master’s Club which gave him the idea of forming the Legends Club in Mumbai. The club was launched on the birthday of Vijay Merchant on 12 October 2003 and comprises a group of cricket lovers who meet and celebrate the birthdays of legends.

    The prestigious Cricket Club of India has agreed to be the venue host for such meetings. If the legend is a living legend, he too is invited to attend the function and, depending on availability, he often does.

    Leading sportsmen are invited to address the audience and at the end of the address there is a question and answer session. Members of the audience are also asked to speak about the legends.

    For instance, recently Sunil Gavaskar, despite not being able to attend for his own funcion, went for the birthday celebration of Vinoo Mankad and gave a brilliant speech. He also addressed questions from the audience with fellow panelists Ajit Wadekar and Madhav Apte, who is the current president of the club.

    The three original icons of the Legends Club were Vijay Hazare, Vijay Merchant and Vinoo Mankad. Vijay Hazare of course was the first Indian to score twin centuries in a Test, and against the team known as ‘The Invincibles’ no less. Vijay Merchant, with 71.64, has the second highest batting average in first-class cricket after Don Bradman and his 95.14. Vinoo Mankad is one of the greatest all-rounders of all time. 

    The next three cricketers to become icons of the Legends Club were Sunny Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev. Finally the decision was taken to induct a non-cricketer as an icon, and that honour went to badminton legend Nandu Natekar. 

    The rock behind Legends Club is the president, Madhav Apte, a young 85-year-old good humoured and knowledgeable ex-cricketer. He had played seven Tests and had the honour not only to be coached by Vinoo Mankad but also to open for Tests with him. He had an average of 49 and was mysteriously dropped.

    Madhav Apte has given the club a formal structure with a constitution and has granted membership to cricket lovers, and he presides over meetings with his customary charm. Other regulars are Ajit Wadekar, Nari Contractor, Vasu Paranjpe, Shishir Hattangadi and noted commentator Milind Wagle.

    The lectures and question-answer session are followed by dinner. There are seven functions on the birthdays of these seven icons. 

    If your interest is T20 cricket, this is not for you. If your interest is the glamour aspect of cricket, then the Legends Club is not for you.

    However, if you are interested in the longer format of the game, namely Test matches, and have an interest in cricket history and would like to hear greats of the game speak about legends, then you would like to attend a meeting at the Legends Club, Mumbai.