A phenomenal performance by Dhawal Kulkarni in the Ranji Trophy semi-final and final for Mumbai has put the medium-pacer into national reckoning once again. The 24-year-old was yesterday rewarded with a berth in the India ‘A’ squad for a three-day game against Australia in Chennai from February 16.
Kulkarni was similarly rewarded in India’s Test squad for the New Zealand tour in 2009 after finishing as the highest wicket-taker in Ranji Trophy in his debut season in 2008-09.
This time, the Mumbai seamer doesn’t want to get too excited. “To get selected in the India ‘A’ squad is great. It is considered to be one step away from the India team. I don’t want to take things lightly or get carried away. I want to carry on the hard work and keep taking wickets. The rest is in the selectors’ hand,” Kulkarni told MiD DAY yesterday.
Kulkarni claimed 5-33 against Services in the rain-curtailed semi-final. He was instrumental in helping Mumbai win their 40th Ranji Trophy title with 4-24 in Saurashtra’s first innings and 5-32 in the second. He also returned his best first-class figures in a match with 9-56 in the final. Overall, Kulkarni claimed 30 wickets in nine matches this season. He was hurt when he was dropped from the Indian team without even being given a chance. “Obviously, I was frustrated.
I was nowhere in the reckoning after being included in the Indian team. But I kept working hard; took it as a challenge and blocked all negative thoughts. My job is to take wickets. Now, there is nothing on my mind other than that,” he added.
Asked to sum up the Ranji season, Kulkarni said he was not too concerned about wickets not coming his way in the league stage (he had just 14 wickets in six league games). “I was in good rhythm. So, I wasn’t too concerned about not getting wickets. I stuck to the basics, didn’t try too many things. I was confident that if I keep bowling in the right areas, I will get my reward,” he said.
The five-wicket haul in the semi-final boosted Kulkarni’s morale. “My confidence level was at its best after the fifer against Services. Guidance from senior players like Sachin Tendulkar and Ajit Agarkar helped a lot in the final. The learning (process) was tremendous,” said Kulkarni.
With Monday’s triumph, Kulkarni has now won all the three Ranji finals he has played since 2008-09. He, however, rated the 2009-10 victory against Karnataka in Mysore as his best. “It was a close match. We won by six runs. It was a test of our nerves. I’ll rate the victory against Saurashtra also highly because I took nine wickets in the match to help my team win. It was satisfying,” Kulkarni signed off.