It was an unforgettable debut year for me leading the Mumbai (then called Bombay) side. Going into the summit clash against Maharashtra at Brabourne Stadium in 1971, I was under tremendous pressure, as we did not have the services of star players like Sunil Gavaskar, Ajit Wadekar, Dilip Sardesai, Ashok Mankad and Eknath Solkar, who were in the West Indies on national duty.
It was a challenge to win the Ranji Trophy for the 13th time on the trot. Before leaving for the Caribbean, Gavaskar told me 'Bombay should win, come what may. Keep that tradition; it's your responsibility now. I know it is very difficult, but we are confident that with your intelligence, we can do it'. I said we will try our best to keep Bombay's flag flying high.
Sunil Gavaskar and Sudhir Naik. Pic/ AFP
I was relieved after beating Maharashtra by 48 runs. Credit must go to our fielding coach PK Kamath. Excellent fielding was the chief reason why we were able to beat Maharashtra. Kamath used to give fielding practice for about 45 minutes daily after our net sessions.
The biggest compliment I received on winning the final was from Prof DB Deodhar (who won the Ranji trophy titles for Maharashtra in 1939-40 and 1940-41). After the match while drinking coffee at the Brabourne Stadium, Deodhar told me that I led better than Chandu Borde.
Mumbai's very best cricketers will recall their memorable Ranji Trophy finals for mid-day readers right till the final day of the Mumbai vs Saurashtra Ranji Trophy final in Pune (Feb 24-28)
1st innings: Bombay 287 (R Parkar 108; N Saldanha 6-66) Maharashtra 230 (Saldanha 50; A Ismail 4-41) 2nd innings: Bombay 196 (V Joshi 5-62) Maharashtra 205 (P Shivalkar 6-56). Bombay won by 48 runs