Mumbai: Obviously, various factors will be looked at by the custodians of Mumbai cricket after Mumbai’s ouster from the Ranji Trophy this season. The coach getting sacked cannot be ruled out. It is a very convenient thing to do to demonstrate that you have taken strong action after the defeat.
Maharashtra’s Anupam Sanklecha celebrates the wicket of Kaustubh Pawar during their quarter-final against Mumbai at the Wankhede recently. The Mumbai batsman scored 244 runs in seven Ranji matches this season at an average of 17.42. Pic/Suresh KK
But whenever one thinks like this, it’s important to note that this gentleman (the coach) never stepped on the cricket field during those matches that were lost. He did not face a single ball, nor did he bowl one. So how does that make him chiefly responsible for the loss?
When will we realise that in cricket, a coach who does not even select players, has a very limited influence on a match and thereby deserves much less credit than he gets for a team’s loss or its win.
It’s the players on the field, who win and lose games and that’s where you must look first when you assess a team’s performance. All other people can come later. I must confess that I have not watched every game that Mumbai played this season, but I did watch every ball in the Mumbai versus Maharashtra game that Mumbai lost.
Poor batting averages
During the course of the coverage, something caught my eye. The batting averages of the Mumbai batsmen were shown and I was a bit taken aback. Kaustubh Pawar, who opened the innings for Mumbai, has a Ranji career average of 35.35. Vinit Indulkar, who batted at No 3 averages 38.14.
Aditya Tare is slightly better with an average of 42.08. Surya Kumar Yadav stands out with an average of 47.36. So, barring Wasim Jaffer, no Mumbai batsman averages over 50 and that’s where I think the problem lies.
Mumbai is just not batting as well as they used to. Mumbai over the years have rarely had a great bowling unit, it’s generally been their batting that has helped them dominate Indian cricket in the Ranji Trophy.
Specifically, what these current batting averages tell us is that the young Mumbai batsmen are not getting big scores often enough like their predecessors used to.
So, to make a simple diagnosis of the problem, the batsmen have not yet learnt how to get those big scores consistently. Getting big hundreds consistently was Mumbai cricket’s core strength and that seems to have gone missing.
This art of getting big scores consistently was passed on to Mumbai batsmen over the years by a senior batting stalwart in the team at any given point of time. During my formative Ranji years, it was Sandeep Patil.
So, more than a good coach, what Mumbai really needs is to reestablish that chain link where a senior accomplished batsman passes on his learnings to the next generation while on the field.
Nothing can match the guidance a young cricketer gets while he is in a match situation from a senior, fellow player. It is priceless.
Ideally, that senior batsman in this current team could be someone like a Wasim Jaffer. At this stage of his career, like past stalwarts of Mumbai did, it’s not just about getting runs, but also passing on the recipe of getting big scores frequently. I don’t know if Jaffer does that. If not, that has to be his job description going forward.