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Mumbai in the Time of Sachin Tendulkar

In the two decades that Sachin has been scaling new peaks, the game has become an adjunct of the entertainment industry and Mumbai, his home, a very different city.

In my younger days I had no choice but to watch, play and learn to love cricket. I wasn’t even aware of any other sport. I grew up in Parel, the Mumbai district once home to textile mills and workers, in a Maharashtrian family (though my surname betrays a south Indian origin, my mother is a pure-bred Konkanastha brahmin). In the sprawling “colony” that we lived in, other than the occasional game of marbles, the only sport played was cricket, largely of the “underarm” variety where the ball is thrown much as in the game of bowling.

Halfway through school, upward mobility transported me to an apartment complex in neighbouring Prabhadevi. Vijay Manjrekar and his family lived in the same building. His son and my namesake, Sanjay, was a boy when I was entering adolescence, but he was already a stylish batsman – even with a rubber ball. The school I went to in the heart of Dadar was the kind where we occasionally studied in between games of cricket. On its moderate-sized ground, around 10 games would be simultaneously on during the recess. An extra cover from one match would often be confused with a long-on from another. And the only sure way of scoring was to loft the ball, for anything along the ground would be immediately stopped by the hundreds of informal fielders.

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