THIS MARCH, as India’s national cricket team completed a 4–0 whitewash of the Australian team in the Gavaskar-Border test series, members of the Koli community in Dharavi were engrossed in their own cricket tournament. Played on the Holi Maidan near the northern edge of Dharavi, this 31-year-old tradition of chakri (wheel) cricket is entirely free of sponsor banners and stadium lights.
At a match I attended, between the Orient cricket team and the Dharavi Dolphins, spectators cheered and cracked wise as each bowler cantered towards the crease, accelerated, then rotated his arm backward through a full 360 degrees before releasing the rubber ball underarm. This windmill action, which gives the ball a frightening pace, is the source of the format’s name.
Fifty-eight-year-old Hareshwar Koli, a former textile mill worker, was the founder of the tournament, which has popularised the chakri style of play in the Koliwadas, or Koli settlements of three coastal parts of Mumbai: Worli, Prabhadevi and Dharavi.