Ranji final: My experience of playing for India has helped me, says Kulkarni

Mumbai pacer puts opponent on the back foot in opening day burst at Pune

Pune: On the eve of the Ranji Trophy final, members of the Mumbai and Saurashtra teams were often asked to talk about their 2012-13 summit clash at Wankhede Stadium.

Mumbai’s Dhawal Kulkarni celebrates after taking Cheteshwar Pujara’s wicket yesterday. Pic/Mandar Tannu
Mumbai’s Dhawal Kulkarni celebrates after taking Cheteshwar Pujara’s wicket yesterday. Pic/Mandar Tannu

Saurashtra didn’t find anything substantial to relate to in the last final, but a few similarities came to light between the two finals after yesterday’s action.

It almost looked like a repeat of the Wankhede final with Mumbai pacers snapping quick wickets on a green, grassy Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium pitch before Arpit Vasavada stabilised the Saurashtra innings with a patient 77 off 214 balls.

Mankad impresses
Vasavada, who played a similar knock in the 2012-13 final by holding one end up in the first innings, was lucky to have someone to share the responsibility with, this time, in debutant Prerak Mankad (55 not out) as Saurashtra posted 192 for eight on Day One. In the 2012-13 final, Saurashtra were bowled out for 148 on Day One.

Vasavada was undone by Dhawal Kulkarni off the fourth ball of the final over of the day’s play as the diminutive southpaw edged one to Suryakumar Yadav at second slip.

It was a good toss to win as Kulkarni and Shardul Thakur ripped apart Saurashtra’s top order. Most of the Saurashtra batsmen’s downfall was caused by poor shot selection. Opener Avi Barot flicked a full delivery straight to the square leg fielder and Sagar Jogiyani’s half-hearted attempt to play a shot on the front foot resulted in a catch to the wicketkeeper.

However, Kulkarni beautifully set up Saurashtra’s batting mainstay Cheteshwar Pujara (4). The Mumbai pacer kept bringing the ball into Pujara in the eighth over. In his next over, Kulkarni bowled four in-swingers on the trot. Pujara hit one of them successfully down the ground for a four. On the fifth ball, Kulkarni maintained the same off-stump line, but this time he made the ball move away to take a thick edge to second slip. Kulkarni was delighted and so were the handful of supporters in the stands.

"I had played against him before. I wanted to surprise him with an outswinger. I backed myself and it worked well," said Kulkarni, who is coming back from an injury.

Top-order struggles
Saurashtra’s top run-getter Sheldon Jackson’s (27-ball 0) struggles finally ended after slicing it to Akhil Herwadkar at gully off Balwinder Singh Sandhu Jr. Saurashtra skipper Jaydev Shah (13) was dismissed in the second over after lunch by Kulkarni. Chirag Jani (13) and Deepak Punia (6) departed within 31 runs. Mankad then provided able support to Vasavada as they stitched a 84-run partnership for the eighth wicket.

Kulkarni said his experience of being with the Indian team during the 2015 World Cup held in Australia and New Zealand helped him.

"I was disappointed that I didn’t get a chance thereafter but I took it positively. My experience of playing for India and being a part of the team has helped me become better," Kulkarni said.

Brief scores

Saurashtra 192-8 (A Vasavada 77, P Mankad 55, A Barot 14; D Kulkarni 4-34, S Thakur 2-59) vs Mumbai

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