T20 Mumbai League’s ambassador Sachin Tendulkar, commissioner Sunil Gavaskar and mentor Dilip Vengsarkar were in agreement that the tournament, entering its second edition, is crucial for the development of the state’s cricketers.

The trio was present at the inauguration event on Monday in Mumbai, as the tournament begins at the Wankhede Stadium on May 14.

After a successful debut season last year, where six teams participated and the Suryakumar Yadav-led Triumph Knights Munbai North East emerged as champions, the tournament will have two additional teams this time around. It will run till May 26, with a total of 23 matches being played at the iconic venue.

The teams that will participate this year are: Triumph Knights MNE, Aakash Tigers MWS, Eagle Thane Strikers, North Mumbai Panthers, SoBo SuperSonics, Shivaji Park Lions, NaMo Bandra Blasters and ARCS Andheri.

Among the top Mumbai cricketers, Shreyas Iyer, Prithvi Shaw, Suryakumar Yadav, Siddhesh Lad and Shivam Dube will feature in the tournament this season. Arjun Tendulkar has also been drafted in for the league this year.

Tendulkar, Gavaskar and Vengsarkar – all Mumbaikars and stalwarts of Indian cricket – spoke at length about how the T20 Mumbai League is going to be beneficial in several ways in the coming years.

Here are excerpts:

Sachin Tendulkar

Having more teams is good...

I feel the introduction of two more teams has opened doors of opportunities for a number of individuals. Not just the players, but also the support staff. The experience will leave everyone for the better. There are going to be a number of new faces and challenges this year.

Lot to learn for youngsters...

I was fortunate to have some truly big names to guide me through the initial part of my career. In this T20 Mumbai League, there are going to be players who have played for India and in the Ranji Trophy. That’s going to benefit the youngsters tremendously. Not just the India and Ranji players, there are several senior club cricketers who will help make these youngsters better.

Mumbai cricket needs long term plan...

I know we talk about Mumbai not doing so well in the Ranji Trophy. I feel there is always room for improvement. We need to think differently and give a different dimension to the way we prepare. So it’s important not to have a short term vision but to have a long term plan. We need to figure out how to start dominating again. Having said that, I don’t think we’re down in the dumps at all. There have been occasions when we have made it to the semi-finals and finals.

Innovation in school cricket...

I think we have good talent here in Mumbai and it’s all about getting opportunities. I remember in 2013, when I was being felicitated by the Mumbai Cricket Association, I had said that each team in school cricket should play with 14 players in every match. This will keep their passion and hope alive. And the response to this change has been fantastic. It has been truly amazing to see the reactions of the parents.

Rahul Dravid has also once told me that during a school match of his son, he saw anxious parents sitting around him wondering if their child would get a chance to play. This is the reason why, back in 2013, I suggested this 14-member team rule in school cricket. We should not have a single individual going back home without having played or bowled a single ball. I think it’s important we keep their hopes and dreams alive by providing them the platform to express themselves.

Need fans to support...

I think the people of Mumbai love sports, and cricket sits right at the top. We are blessed in that regard and have to not take this for granted. We have to provide the fans the best facilities so that the stadium is packed once again. I had told the organisers last year at the start of the tournament that by the end of the league, at lease the bottom tiers of the stadium will be full. But Mumbaikars are known to surprise everyone, and they came in and filled the entire stadium.

Sunil Gavaskar

T20 Mumbai League is a good stepping stone...

We’ve got the Tamil Nadu Premier League, the Karnataka Premier League and some other leagues as well, but I think the T20 Mumbai League is outstanding. Some of the players that came through are, in my view, India material. Shivam Dube got an IPL contract after that, Suryakumar Yadav also got a big contract and I am certain that there’ll be more players coming through from this league and being wanted by IPL franchises for the next season.

Must be scheduled before IPL auctions...

I do believe, therefore, that the MCA must try and schedule this tournament just before the IPL auctions. I know that’s difficult to do because of the Ranji Trophy and the rest of the Indian domestic cricket season, but it’ll make a big difference if you schedule it before the auctions, because I don’t think the representation of Mumbai players in the IPL teams is adequate enough. I think we can have many more players up there. We all know that Mumbai has been the dominant team in domestic cricket over the years. Yes, we haven’t won the Ranji Trophy in the past few years but we have won it more than anybody else.

If Punjab can have so many players in IPL, so can Mumbai...

Even when it comes to T20s, Mumbai shouldn’t be lagging behind. I’ve been told that there are 15 players from Punjab who are playing in the IPL. Theirs is a team that didn’t even come close to entering the knockouts of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. So I feel if a team like Punjab can have that kind of representation in the IPL, so can Mumbai.

You see so many players in the IPL and wonder why they were picked by the franchises. I don’t think the basics of the game are taught as well in any other state as they are in Mumbai. There’s a Mumbai school of cricket and people think that’s only about batting but it isn’t. It’s the way you ground your bat, the way you take a start, the way you transfer your bat from one hand to the other. These are things coaches teach you when you’re just beginning. And I do not think that happens too often in other states. I’m not saying it doesn’t, but surely not too often.

Dilip Vengsarkar

Opportunity to play on the big stage...

This tournament last year was huge. I watched most of the matches last year, and I was told that many of the players were playing at the Wankhede for the first time under lights. So I’m sure they’ll be better acclimatised to the conditions this time around and we’ll see some outstanding cricket.

Mumbai Cricket Association always produces good players, right from the Under-19 stage. They are hungry for success. I can say that because I’ve seen them from close quarters. Although the tournament this year is being held between the Indian Premier League and the World Cup, I’m sure the cricket-loving public of Mumbai will turn up in large numbers to support the teams. This is a fantastic platform for the players to perform and get picked for the IPL.