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Bangalore in a win, win, win situation

Updated on: 28 March,2024 06:52 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Clayton Murzello |

This week marks 50 years of Karnataka’s maiden Ranji title in 1974. This golden jubilee and RCB’s recent WPL triumph open up the possibility of a grand year if the franchise’s men’s team win the IPL

Bangalore in a win, win, win situation

Karnataka skipper Erapalli Prasanna with the Ranji Trophy at Jaipur on March 27, 1974. Pic/mid-day archives

Clayton MurzelloSeldom in recent years has the Ranji Trophy been so talked about. It probably all started with the establishment deciding to leave out Shreyas Iyer and Ishan Kishan when it came to handing out BCCI central contracts. The unofficial reason put forward was that these two players stayed away from playing the Ranji Trophy.

The national championship got expected traction when the Mumbai v Tamil Nadu and Vidarbha v Madhya Pradesh semi-finals played out. And then of course, the Mumbai v Vidarbha final which was open till the end of the first session on the final day at the Wankhede Stadium.

The Mumbai Cricket Association did well to invite their former players to witness the final. I hear invitations were extended to even players who played one Ranji Trophy game for Mumbai.

It was great to see images of some of the biggest names in city cricket watching the action from the pavilion end. This ought to have been a massive motivational tool for the young players participating in the finale. It certainly was for Musheer Khan, who noticed Sachin Tendulkar was watching him as the 19-year-old became the youngest Mumbai centurion in a Ranji Trophy final. Even current India captain Rohit Sharma made an appearance.

While Mumbai bask in their domestic glory and rightly so, their 42nd Ranji triumph has come in the 50th anniversary of them losing their grip on the trophy after winning it for a record 15 seasons on the bounce from 1958-59 to 1972-73.

Mumbai’s disappointment came in the form of the 1973-74 semi-final loss to eventual champions Karnataka. The southern state marks 50 years of their maiden Ranji triumph this week and there’ll be a few functions to celebrate it. The EAS Prasanna-led team beat Rajasthan in the final at Jaipur after outwitting Mumbai in the semi-final at Bangalore.

At the heart of Karnataka’s win over Mumbai was the belief instilled in the team by Prasanna that Ajit Wadekar’s champion team could be beaten. “I had always reckoned that many teams had lost to Bombay over the years due to lack of mental strength. I had, therefore, to convince the younger players that the Bombay team could be beaten. I realised that the Bombay team in 1973-74 could be beaten when I led the Rest of India to victory over them in the Irani Cup in Bangalore. I had a very young side—the only seasoned stalwarts being myself, Chandra [BS Chandrasekhar] and Vishy [Gundappa Vishwanath],” said Prasanna in his book, One More Over. Karnataka batted first and put up 385 after being 281 for three at one stage at the Mysore State Cricket Association ground. Ace spinner Padmakar Shivalkar and leggie Rakesh Tandon not only claimed four wickets apiece (after Abdul Ismail sent back VS Vijayakumar for a first-ball duck, they also bowled 43 overs each as Vishwanath and Patel hit memorable centuries.

Mumbai fell 79 runs short for a first innings advantage with only Ashok Mankad (84) coming close to a century. In the company of skipper Wadekar, Mankad got Mumbai back on track, ending Day Two on 170-2.

Earlier that day, Prasanna disturbed Gavaskar’s furniture with a ball he hasn’t forgotten. He told cricket writer Vedam Jaishankar in Casting a Spell—The Story of Karnataka Cricket: “You press write about Shane Warne’s magic ball that got rid of Mike Gatting. Well, this was mine. I tossed the ball and made it break away (a la doosra). Gavaskar, Mr Technique personified, stretched forward to play for the off spin. The ball pitched on a length, broke away, eluded his defensive bat and smashed into his off stump. Gavaskar hung on for a while in disbelief, applauded the ball and went away. Yes, it was my dream ball. I guess Ajit [non-striker] was so shocked that he ran himself out after that.” Wadekar was run out for 62 by R Sudhakar Rao; the dismissal ending the 127-run stand between Wadekar and Mankad.

Journalist Dwarkanath Sanzgiri, who was close to Wadekar, told me on Wednesday that the late India captain had a premonition that Mumbai would not be champions in 1973-74. The worst was to come for Wadekar after Karnataka beat his team by virtue of a first innings lead. Later that year, he captained an India team which lost 0-3 to England. And he played only one Ranji Trophy game after that semi-final— against Saurashtra the following season.

The game in Bangalore ended with Mumbai scoring 84 for no wicket after Prasanna declared his second innings at 279-8 with off-spinner Milind Rege accounting for Vishwanath (42) and K Lakshman (5) while Patel (63) was dismissed by Tandon. In the final at Jaipur, Karnataka prevailed by 185 runs in a low-scoring game at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium. Skipper Prasanna and Chandrasekhar tormented the Rajasthan batsmen through their turn and guile with only captain Hanumant Singh coming good with a classy 83 in the first innings and Parthasarathy Sharma’s 51 in the second. Vijayakumar, B Vijayakrishna, AV Jayaprakash and Syed Kirmani were the batting heroes for the victors at Jaipur.

Mumbai, under new captain Ashok Mankad, stormed back to win the title the following season by beating their 1973-74 semi-final opponents at the Wankhede Stadium, by seven wickets. They also won in 1975-76 and 1976-77 while Karnataka under Prasanna claimed their second Ranji title in 1977-78.

Though Karnataka exited this season’s Ranji Trophy after their loss to Vidarbha in the quarter-final, the golden jubilee year of their first triumph can be made extra special if the Royal Challengers Bengaluru men emulate their women counterparts to win this year’s edition of the Indian Premier League. One maiden triumph (1973-74) deserves another two, I guess.

mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello

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