Knocked out! Mumbai exits Ranji Trophy as Saurashtra snatch draw from 83/7
Mumbai fail to make a knockout round of Ranji Trophy for the second year in succession; coach Vinayak Samant slams poor catching and fielding in Rajkot and calls for better pre-season preparation and planning.
For the second consecutive year, domestic giants Mumbai have failed to reach the knockout stage of the Ranji Trophy.
On Friday, the 41-time champions put up a valiant effort but that was not enough for an outright win against Saurashtra at the SCA Stadium in Rajkot. Setting Saurashtra a target of 290 in 74 overs, Mumbai, who were a bowler short due to pacer Tushar Deshpande's knee injury, still managed to put the Saurashtra batsmen under the pump on the fourth and final day.
Mumbai declared their second innings on 362-7, adding 77 runs to their overnight score of 285-3 in 14 overs. Off-spinner Shashank Attarde and left-arm spinner Shams Mulani, who slammed 92 and 78 in both innings, ran through the Saurashtra top and middle order to reduce them to 83-7 in just 35 overs.
Defeat looked imminent with a full last session remaining, but Saurashtra's Dharmendrasinh Jadeja (33 not out) and Kamlesh Makvana (31 not out) put up staunch resistance on a deteriorating pitch to deny Mumbai an outright victory and a chance to stay in contention for the knockout spot.
Things could have been different had Bhupen Lalwani not dropped a dolly off Mulani to send back Jadeja in the final session. Mumbai coach Vinayak Samant blasted Mumbai's butter fingers. "That catch [by Lalwani] should have been taken. That catch hurt us the most. One shouldn't be dropping such easy catches, especially at this level. Poor catching and fielding prevented us from winning the match. Even in the first innings, we dropped a couple of catches," a disappointed Samant told mid-day. "Fielding was an issue in the last season as well. We need to tighten up in all departments. If our batting clicks, we don't get good support from bowling. If the bowlers do well, the batting lets us down."
Samant was also not happy with some umpiring decisions. "There were some bad decisions that went against us. Surya[kumar Yadav] was adjudged leg before in the first innings when the ball was going down leg. Jay Bista had a bat and pad but was given out leg before [in the first innings]. That hurt us as they were crucial wickets to put up a big score," said Samant.
He, however, defended the decision to declare after playing 14 overs on Friday. "I think it was perfectly timed. We had almost 40 overs to claim the last three wickets," he said.
Though Mumbai failed to win despite coming so close, coach Samant lauded the character his team showed to bounce back in the game. "After conceding the lead in the first innings, to come so close to winning the match was a superb effort. The way Surya batted... Shams, Sarfaraz and Bista's contribution was magnificent. Shams and Attarde put Saurashtra under pressure. They showed character. Shams has missed four centuries this season. He is an extremely good utility player," noted Samant of the man of the match.
While winning the Ranji Trophy is the only yardstick that decides Mumbai's success in the season, failing to qualify for the Ranji knockouts yet again will be viewed nothing less than a disaster in Mumbai cricket circles.
'One captain needed'
Though the coach refrained from commenting at the moment with one match to go against Madhya Pradesh [February 12-14 at Wankhede Stadium], the former Mumbai wicketkeeper stressed on a few factors: "We have to prepare much better. Pre-season camps and practice matches are very important. Any coach would require at least two to three months with the team before the season starts. I got the team just a few weeks before the season started. A thorough preparation is required."
Samant advocated the need for a single captain throughout the season. "Having one captain is very important. Ideally, we should have just one captain and vice-captain. Last season too, we had three captains," he said.
Mumbai 262 & 362/7d (S Yadav 134, S Mulani 92; P Mankad 2-52, D Jadeja 2-116) drew with Saurashtra 335 & 158-7(D Jadeja 33*, K Makvana 31*, A Vasavada 31; S Attarde 3-45, S Mulani 3-47)
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