Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy and overall debacle has alarmed the mandarins of Mumbai Cricket Association to the point that they announced a brand new selection panel for the senior and under-25 teams.
The MCA also seem keen on some established names coming in as coach of the senior team in place of Sulakshan Kulkarni, who was the first casualty of the torrid season of empty. The intentions appear sound, but the big challenge is to blend all ideas and to chart out a road map for Mumbai cricket.
Right man: Sandeep Patil in conversation with Mumbai batting star Rohit Sharma during a training session. Pic/AFP
The senior selection panel now headed by Sandeep Patil has some experience save first-time selector Nishit Shetty, a quiet-working cricketer, who scored a hundred for Mumbai against Tamil Nadu in the 2002-03 Ranji Trophy final.
The India chief selector’s entry has to be hailed, but as he indicated in these columns the other day, we must not expect miracles. Patil can be excused for not watching games considering he is on India duty, but he’s not one to stay away from the greens. This can be said with conviction because he was never known to miss a club match during or after his playing days be it at Cross or Azad Maidan for Shivaji Park Youngsters or for Cricket Club of India at the Brabourne Stadium.
Involvement of big names at the club level is probably one of the reasons for Mumbai cricket’s decline and Patil’s towering presence will provide some fizz.
Patil can indulge in a bit of mentoring as well. He knows how to run a ship well and to keep a unit in good cheer. I remember seeing a team photograph of the Nirlon cricket team that won the Buchi Babu tournament in Chennai during the 1980s and all the senior players were standing behind a set of seated juniors. When I asked why, I was told it was captain Patil’s handiwork to make the juniors feel equally important.
Those who played under him had great fun apart from playing hard. He has the knack of putting players at ease and encouraging them to play their natural game. The best example of that working is Sir Don Bradman, then the chairman of Australian selectors, telling Richie Benaud’s team on the eve of the 1960 Brisbane Test against the West Indies that the selectors would look on players ‘in kindly fashion’ if they played entertaining cricket. As cricket lovers know that Test ended in a tied result and the series produced quality cricket from both sides.
There’s a significant difference between Patil’s first and second innings as chairman. In the first instance, he got the post because as India chairman, he had to head his state’s selection committee. Now, he has been asked to come on board because of necessity.
The MCA has done well to convince him to head the selection panel, but they must continue to get more established players in the set-up. Far too many of these personalities have entered the fold and left with a bitter taste in their mouth. That taste still lingers. What is now needed from the association is not sweeteners, but well-meaning invitations to put Mumbai cricket back on track.
The plus side to the setback is that the city’s cricket rulers now know where they erred. This is not election year so there is no reason to believe that moves are being made for ulterior motives. If the MCA want to run a smooth ship, they can do so without hurdles.
The last season has been one of the most forgettable in the history of Mumbai cricket. But, like Howard Jones sang in his 1985 hit, ‘Things can only get better.’
Clayton Murzello is mid-day’s Group Sports Editor