Ranji thriller bodes well for the season

While the administrative kings of Indian cricket were charting the future of the IPL at the Cricket Centre in Churchgate yesterday, grit and determination were getting a good game in suburban Mumbai — at the MCA-BKC ground.

Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy team were stretching every sinew to get on top of a formidable Tamil Nadu outfit and succeeded in doing so by a slender, one-wicket margin. Despite reaching last season’s Ranji Trophy semi-final, Mumbai received no great plaudits, mainly due to their rocky road that started with a loss to lesser fancied Jammu and Kashmir. This year, Aditya Tare’s side have regrouped and appear to have an extra layer of steel, which blends well with that common factor in all domestic cricket teams — talent.

After the draw against Andhra Pradesh in an away game, Mumbai beat a Yuvraj Singh-led Punjab by an innings and 12 runs. Tamil Nadu who had Test opener Murali Vijay and the redoubtable Dinesh Karthik in their ranks, were last year’s Ranji finalists and beating them would take some doing. After conceding a 140-run first innings lead, Mumbai refused to surrender and bowled out TN for 95 through left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar’s 7 for 53. Yet, Mumbai had to score 236 to win, which can never be easy on a Day Four pitch. The supremely gifted Shreyas Iyer top-scored with 83 and gave his supporters more reason to believe that he can live up to lofty expectations. Runs and wickets are never accumulated in the dressing room and coaches don’t get credited with these aspects of the game on the scoreboard, but who can say this young Mumbai team are not prospering under coach Chandrakant Pandit’s guidance? Pandit knows what it takes to coach a team to domestic honours and has done well to have past masters like Sachin Tendulkar and Amol Muzumdar at the nets. And of course, the selectors have been vindicated through this fine showing.

Yesterday’s thriller is only a step on the long ladder that will take Mumbai to their 41st Ranji Trophy triumph. The victory over Tamil Nadu tastes sweet, but even if Mumbai had ended up on the losing side, a narrow loss would have still caused pundits to pull out their praise brush. The fighting side of this Mumbai team has been well and truly seen.

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