Ajit led from the front: Sachin

When the final Saurashtra wicket (Dharmendrasinh Jadeja) fell, skipper Ajit Agarkar standing at mid-off, sprinted towards the pitch to uproot the stumps as Mumbai once again stamped its authority in domestic cricket by clinching the 40th Ranji Trophy title at the Wankhede Stadium yesterday. Mumbai beat Saurashtra by an innings and 125 runs yesterday. In reply to the visitors 148 in the first innings, Mumbai scored 355 — a 207-run lead. In the second stint, Saurashtra collapsed for just 82, handing Mumbai an emphatic victory.

Champs: Mumbai’s batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar and skipper Ajit Agarkar with the Ranji Trophy at the Wankhede Stadium yesterday. Pic/Atul Kamble

It was Agarkar’s first win as captain and the joy was evident on his face. It must be extra special as well given the unfortunate episode in Cuttack last season, where he left the squad and returned home at not being picked in the playing XI against Orissa. He subsequently opted out of the rest of the matches in the season too. However, after reconciling with team officials and selectors, Agarkar returned to the Mumbai fold as captain for the Ranji one-dayers.

This time though Agarkar, who missed a few matches due to injuries, led from the front. He scored a magnificent 145 when the team needed it the most — during the semi-final against Services in Delhi. On Day 3 of the final yesterday, Agarkar gave Mumbai a fiery start once again, claiming four for 15 in Saurashtra’s second innings.

Batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar lauded his skipper, who is also his school mate.

“I am especially happy for Ajit, who had a rough last season… going through difficult times, but led from the front and led beautifully at that.

He performed when it mattered and the team supported him nicely along with the support staff. There were moments when the going got tough, but that’s when the team stuck together and performed brilliantly,” said Tendulkar, who tasted his fifth Ranji Trophy triumph.

Agarkar, who has won seven out of seven Ranji finals now, rated this victory as special. “I am very happy and proud. I have won a few before, but winning as captain is more special. It was a great team effort though,” he said.

The veteran pacer was obviously in no mood to look at what happened with him

last season. “I just want to celebrate the win and I am not thinking about last year,” Agarkar signed off.  

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