Former Mumbai quartet to star in Masters Champions League

Mumbai’s 1994-95 Ranji Trophy stars Salil Ankola, Abey Kuruvilla, Sairaj Bahutule & Nilesh Kulkarni make themselves available for auction

They formed an integral part of Sachin Tendulkar’s Ranji Trophy-winning Mumbai team in 1994-95. Now, Salil Ankola, Abey Kuruvilla, Sairaj Bahutule and Nilesh Kulkarni could figure in the Masters Champions League (MCL) to be held in the UAE next February.

Salil Ankola, Abey Kuruvilla, Sairaj Bahutule, Nilesh Kulkarni
(L-R) Salil Ankola, Abey Kuruvilla, Sairaj Bahutule, Nilesh Kulkarni

The quartet have registered to be part of the auction which will take place in September. Incidentally, all four were part of the Bombay Cricket Association-Mafatlal Bowling Scheme in the 1990s. A similar scheme aimed at lifting Mumbai cricket is set to be announced today.

Interested players were invited to register for the auction on the tournament’s website. According to the organisers, each of the six teams will have a 15-man squad. The last date to register is July 15.

The four Mumbai players join Jacques Kallis, Wasim Akram, Brian Lara, Adam Gilchrist, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Daniel Vettori, who have signed up for the tournament. The league’s Governing Council includes legends Allan Border and Graham Gooch.

Ankola (47), who last wore India colours on the South Africa tour of 1996-97, is excited at the prospect of playing against cricketers who he didn’t get a chance to come up against. And he ruled out any signs of rustiness when he said he plays cricket with the film fraternity. “I am fitter than I was when I played for India,” he told mid-day yesterday.

Ankola’s erstwhile pace partner Kuruvilla, who will be 47 next month, said: “Playing any competitive cricket is fun so that’s the reason why I have made myself available for the auction. And I still play club cricket. I believe the cricket will be serious so I am looking forward to it.”

Loving the challenge
Sairaj Bahutule (42), the leg-spinner with a proven record as a batsman as well, indicated he couldn’t wait to compete in the T20 format which he couldn’t be part of in the 2008-initiated Indian Premier League. “It’s a good opportunity to play the T20 format, something that I missed (at the IPL level). I hope to get picked. I’d love the challenge,” said Bahutule.

Left-arm spinner Nilesh Kulkarni (42) is looking forward to an opportunity to playing with his mates again. “Salil, Sairaj, Abey and me were a great group on and off the field and I am really excited at the prospect of playing with them again. I want to experience the adrenaline of the T20 format at that level,” said Kulkarni.

Sam Khan, the MCL’s Chief Executive Director, said: “This quartet formed the bedrock of some great moments for Mumbai cricket. It will indeed be a happy reunion for the four. Obviously which team they will play for will be decided once the auction takes place but their registration and interest in the tournament is a huge boost for us.”

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