40th year of longstanding off-field bromance to celebrate Mumbaiís 40th

It was during the late 70's when 64-year-old Anil Karkhanis met 54-year-old Vijay Lakhani during a Ranji Trophy zonal game at the Wankhede Stadium. That day they would've barely imagined that they would go on to be a part of minimum 15 Ranji Trophy finals at the Wankhede Stadium in the coming years. From Ajit Wadekar to Sachin Tendulkar, from Gulam Parkar to Dhawal Kulkarni, Anil-Vijay have seen them all. You will usually find them sitting in one corner of the stand and after the match, a book will be drawn out for autographs_a hobby that kept them close to cricket through all these years.

Anil, a former employee of a private firm is retired, a bachelor, and enjoys the luxury of dropping in at the stadium and gymkhana for cricket matches. A small plastic bag accompanies him always with his autograph book nicely packed. They often talk of the "support" they as fans get from the cricket stars, this "support" meaning a autographs of cricketers. They have chased them endlessly all these years, and Lakhani recalls how they once stood till midnight to get a signature of Ravi Shastri.

"You name them and I have them somewhere," says Anil, while waiting for Sachin Tendulkar. When Tendulkar was called to the Brabourne Stadium for the Indian team's nets at the age of 16, Anil-Vijay made sure they had sealed his autograph for future gloating. "Since then I have seen him grow in international cricket. It was easy to get these players to sign initially but now security is too much," Lakhani says.

Sure enough, on Monday when Mumbai clinched their 40th Ranji Trophy title, Anil and Vijay were there waiting cautiously to get those signs on their pages again. Lakhani has a small printing business in Kandivali and he had skipped three days of work to be here at the stadium.

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