Andhra take on 40-time Ranji champs Mumbai as new season kicks off today
Having tirelessly slugged out for over two months, ironing out their flaws at the Bandra Kurla Complex ground, Mumbai will launch a bid to win their 41st Ranji Trophy title against Andhra in their opener at Vizianagaram today.
Sachin Tendulkar gives tips to Mumbai spinner Vishal Dabholkar at BKC ground on Monday. Pic/PTI
In the off season, the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) ensured the Ranji players had two preparatory tours — to Chennai for Buchi Babu tournament and Hyderabad.
Seeking Sachin's help
New coach Chandrakant Pandit used legendary Sachin Tendulkar to help the boys prepare well for the new season. The batting great had special clinics with batsmen and bowlers.
Pandit also organised a week-long wicketkeeping camp with former India stumper Kiran More during the off season. The focus was not just on training as the Mumbai team management organised a two-day team bonding session in Lonavala recently.
"Our focus has been on preparation rather than the result. We have had good preparation for the new season and I hope we are successful in executing our plans on the field," Pandit told mid-day on the eve of the opening clash.
While the batting and pace bowling department have enough proven performers, the spin department is probably the only weak link.
Vishal Dabholkar (17 first-class matches) and Harmeet Singh (nine first-class games) are the only specialist left-arm spinners Mumbai have shortlisted in their ranks for the first two matches.
Although Dabholkar was the best spinner in the 2013-14 Ranji Trophy season with 39 wickets, the 28-year-old comes into the season after being under the Indian cricket board's 'observation' for suspect action.
Harmeet almost faded into oblivion after a fantastic U-19 World Cup in 2012. The left-arm spinner, famous for his Bishan Bedi-like flight and loop, decided to switch to Vidarbha before deciding to come back to Mumbai in 2013.
"As compared to the other two departments, we have a little bit inexperience in our spin attack. But I am a firm believer in doing our best with whatever resources we have. Our spinners have done well and I am sure they will rise to the challenge," Pandit said.
According to the coach, Mumbai's biggest challenge is meeting the high expectations. Mumbai have finished quarter-finalists and semi-finalists in the last two editions, but nothing less than a Ranji Trophy title is expected every time.
"Meeting the people's expectations is the biggest challenge. We have tried not to take pressure of it. We make sure the players are not burdened with all these thoughts," said Pandit.
On taking on Andhra, Pandit said: "We cannot underestimate any opponent. Andhra is a good side and are led by a very experienced cricketer in Mohammad Kaif. It is important to start well."