The slums of Dharavi, Mumbai, is a decrepit area locked in an incessant war with famine and disease. For many in Dharavi life is a struggle from the moment of birth, making a living just enough to feed and clothe a family is a challenge succumbed to by many. Yet one thing across the nation unites even the most unfortunate to the most affluent, cricket. This is no more evident anywhere in India than Mumbai, where even district games are able to sell out all 45,000 tickets available at the Wankhede whilst the international series, such as the most recent where Virat Kohli led his men to victory over England, accumulated over 103 million viewers on national broadcasts.


Now whilst gully cricket in Dharavi is barely comparable to the shimmer and sparkle of playing internationally it provides children with something to look forward to, something to enjoy, and something to dream of. Anyone who has ever batted an eyelid at the sport will have heard of Sachin Tendulkar, regarded by many to be the ‘God’ of cricket, yet few know of his origin, his start in relative mediocrity. He, like many others, found a home on the cricket pitches of Mumbai, and later went on to become arguably the greatest to ever play the game. Yet he is not alone in his story, other household names in India and amongst cricket fans, Sunil Gavaskar and Rohit Sharma followed a similar path. So what makes Mumbai the breeding ground for international talent it has been over recent years, and will it continue to be so?


The answer is undeniably yes. Whilst it may be a challenge for any city in India, or even globally, to produce the next ‘God’ of cricket the culture in Mumbai is oriented so heavily on cricket and the development of players that there appears to be no signs of them slowing down in producing generational talent. Furthermore, Mumbai’s success in recent years in the Indian Premier League, the most prestigious domestic competition in the world, is unparalleled, having been victorious in the competition 5 times, more than any other team, since its foundation in 2008. Although they endured struggle in the earlier years of the compitition they have since rejuvenated themselves under the captaincy of Rohit Sharma and appear to be the most dominant force in the competition currently, winning the most recently concluded edition of the tournament in 2020.


However, whist the IPL has flourished, achieving 200 million viewers for the first game of the season of last year's edition, it is becoming ever more apparent the lack of desire to watch or aspire to play Test cricket, the longest, most gruelling form of the game. Amidst calls for the format to be shortened to four days to encourage an increase in the pace of play Sharad Pawar, the chairman of the Mumbai Cricket Association, has been one of the strongest advocates against the proposed changes. When speaking about the temperaments of adolescents now playing the game Ravi Shastri, coach of the Indian International team claimed that he was saddened to hear protestations regarding the decline of test cricket, yet stating he still believes that 'If you ask young children playing out in Mumbai what they would prefer, they will say Test cricket over the IPL every time’ which is a testament to the work ethic and culture surrounding Mumbai cricket and the respect which they have for the game.


In conclusion, cricket is not just a game or even a sport to people in Mumbai, it is a way of life. No where else In the world is the adage 'without labour, nothing prospers’ embodied more distinctly than in Mumbai.