Sticky no more
Shitanshu Kotak's superglue methods at the crease appeared to have evaporated when Saurashtra needed them most. The veteran stonewaller chased a leg-side wide to be caught behind off just the third ball he faced in the second innings, a dismissal quite unbecoming of a man of his patience. What was worse that this may have been the 40-year-old’s last Ranji game. Kotak presently sits four tantalizing runs away from a first class tally of 8,000 – a record he may not get another chance to achieve.
0050697. This is what Saurashtra’s second innings scorecard read from the top down. Reared on the infamous flat track at Rajkot, the batsmen found themselves all at sea on a juicy pitch at the Wankhede Stadium. At one stage, the visitors threatened to collapse for below 21 – the lowest score in Ranji Trophy – before managing to heave across that line and finishing on 82, to go with the 148 in the first essay. Certainly not the most ideal way to perform in their first Ranji final in over half-a-century.
Medium pacer Dhawal Kulkarni took nine wickets for 56, routing Saurashtra twice over in Mumbai’s 40th Ranji win. But the 24-year-old was overlooked for the Man of the Match award in favour of Wasim Jaffer, who had scored a chancy hundred in the first innings. Not taking away anything from the veteran opener’s effort, Jaffer benefitted from at least three reprieves during his knock, although he did break a number of records on the way. Kulkarni had missed out on the award in the semifinal too, where his 5/33 was instrumental in Mumbai gaining first innings lead over Services. Ajit Agarkar’s hundred in that match was deemed more deserving of the honour.
Mumbai have now won 40 Ranji titles from 44 finals. In some sports there is a tradition to hand over a rolling trophy to the team that wins it thrice in succession. Imagine the number of trophies that the BCCI would have had to forge during the team’s unprecedented run in the 1960s. Mumbai’s big-match temperament came to the fore yet again versus Saurashtra. They played five bowlers, elected to field and worked perfectly to a well-conceived plan. It helped a great deal that their opponents seemed overawed, at least in their ill-fated second innings.
Ajit Agarkar led from the front when it came down to the crunch. He rescued his team from 23/3 against Services in the semifinal with a timely century. In the final against Saurashtra, Agarkar got rid of the openers for a duck apiece to pry open the innings, paving the way for Dhawal Kulkarni to wipe out the rest. The proud captain couldn’t have said it better at the post match: “It's always important you lead from the front and not take your place for granted. We have all grown up knowing the history of Mumbai, and we always try to live up to it.”
Wicketkeeper-batsman Aditya Tare has had a productive season. With 842 runs at a shade under 50, he has been Mumbai’s second-highest scorer behind the prolific Abhishek Nayar. His exploits include a double hundred versus Saurashtra in a league game and a crucial century in the semifinal against Services. Tare has also been busy behind the wicket. During Saurashtra’s second innings in the title match, he claimed four victims, and finished alongside Punjab’s Uday Kaul as the most successful ‘keeper with 41 dismissals.
Mumbai medium pacer Shardul Thakur is confounding to watch, at least when he is performing his primary duty with the ball. The 21-year-old, in his debut season, insists on spraying it wide, exhibits little control and is generally devoid of bite. Shardul, however, can clout it like the best. He has hit six sixes in an over in a local match and is feared in city circles. Unfortunately for his State side, his batting ability has yet to surface at the higher level, nor is his bowling worthy enough to warrant a place on the team.
MORE FROM THE RANJI TROPHY FINAL:
Report: Jaffer’s hundred gives Saurashtra agony
Mumbai Diary: Fickle fans and sore sights
Unfortunate I ran Tendulkar out: Jaffer
Report: Kulkarni runs through Saurashtra
Mumbai Diary: Missing Pujara and Jadeja
Pitch was great for pacers: Kulkarni
Walking around Wankhede
Wanted: Better domestic scheduling