What's going on in Mumbai cricket?

Abhishek Nayar’s reign as Mumbai captain was short-lived as the experienced all-rounder has been ruled out of the Ranji Trophy game against Odisha, starting at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday. Nayar, who led the side to a grim draw against Jharkhand earlier this week, has been replaced by former captain Wasim Jaffer at the helm.

Abhishek Nayar
Abhishek Nayar. Pic/Atul Kamble

The India opener gave up captaincy in February last year to focus on his batting. According to Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) joint secretary, Nitin Dalal, Nayar has been forced to miss the game owing to a couple of injuries sustained in the hip and ankle in the previous game. 

Rookie pace bowler Akbar Khan, who suffered a fractured wrist in the same game, has been ruled out as well, and the duo have been replaced by opener Kaustubh Pawar, who has had an ordinary season, and medium pacer Balwinder Singh Sandhu Jr Mumbai, the defending champions, had a torrid time against Jharkhand, the bottom-placed side in Group A, and Nayar’s injury will only compound matters for a team that’s still coming to terms with the absence of veteran paceman Zaheer Khan, who played a crucial role in their wins against Haryana, Punjab and Vidarbha.

All is well?
The 40-time champions are on course for a quarter-final berth, but looking at the off-field developments in the past couple of days, one is left wondering whether all is well within the unit. On Tuesday, MCA managing committee member Abey Kuruvilla reportedly tweeted that Nayar was going to be axed after just one game in charge, forcing Dalal to explain that he was not aware of any such tweet.

Wasim Jaffer
Wasim Jaffer

In hindsight, it’s also interesting to note that Nayar and coach Sulakshan Kulkarni gave the post-match media interaction against Jharkhand a miss. They sent wicketkeeper Aditya Tare to face some pointed questions about their forgettable performance. As expected, Tare was hardly in a position to speak about the issues that were likely to crop up in the forthcoming games. What’s more, there is speculation that sections of the team management wants Tare to lead the side, but he has declined.

Meanwhile, the Mumbai bowling attack that wears a thin look at the moment has to continue operating without the services of the experienced Dhawal Kulkarni, at least for the next fortnight. The pacer, who was injured after the opening game against Haryana in Lahli in October, will be available only in the latter stages of the tournament.

The squad 
Wasim Jaffer (captain), Aditya Tare (wk), Kaustubh Pawar, Hiken Shah, Suryakumar Yadav, Balwinder Singh Sandhu (Jr), Vishal Dabholkar, Siddhesh Lad, Javed Khan, Shardul Thakur, Sushant Marathe, Kshemal Waingankar, Manish Rao, Pravin Tambe and Sagar Kerkar. 

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