Fallah goes from bench-warmer to match-winner in the course of one Ranji season

The seamer's 31 wickets this season have powered Maharashtra to a rare appearance in the Ranji Trophy final.

Samad FallahEbullient Maharashtra pacer Samad Mohammed Fallah has been raising his performance with each game in the Ranji Trophy this season, tormenting formidable rivals while guiding his team into the final. Now, Maharashtra are on the verge of making a sort of 'history’.

Having captured 31 wickets so far, Fallah has a golden opportunity to bowl another inspired spell to guide Maharashtra to their first Ranji Trophy title after 73 years. Maharashtra have won the title only twice in the 79-year history of the national cricket championship, in 1939-40 and 1940-41.

"Our next match is the final and if we play well and win, it would be a sort of history for Maharashtra as we haven’t won the Ranji Trophy for many years. Now, only the final game is on my mind, nothing else,” Fallah told MAIL TODAY.

"My state of mind is the same with which I’ve bowled in the entire Ranji Trophy tournament. It’s because if you treat a game differently you’ll lose your focus and personality. I’ll bowl my best in the final, like I’ve been doing this season,” he said.

Maharashtra will play Karnataka in the final in Hyderabad, a neutral venue, from Wednesday. Fallah is thinking about neither.

"I have played against Karnataka two-three times. The venue too is not on my mind; it doesn’t matter. Our team is enjoying the occasion,” he informed.

Fallah, 28, has been having a dream season. He began extremely poorly, taking two wickets in the first three matches. So when he was dropped, against Andhra, no one was surprised. But the coach and team management brought him back after just one match and since then it has only been an upward swing for Fallah.

"After taking just one wicket in the first three matches and getting dropped, I have taken 29 wickets in five games,” he points out.

The Pune-based Fallah says big matches challenge him to perform better and motivate him to duel with the best of batsmen. Those opportunities, however, have been few and far between for him as Maharashtra have been languishing in the lower groups in recent years.

First, they were placed in the Plate Division (till 2011-12) and when the Ranji format was changed in 2012-13, they were in Group B, the middle one of the three pools. A poor performance last year meant that the state was demoted to Group C, the bottom placed pool.

"I somehow don’t get bagful of wickets in Plate. You can say that has been a sort of problem with me. Since we have been playing in the higher divisions, I have been bowling well. I’ve taken a lot of wickets in the higher divisions, including 17 in the last two Ranji knock-out matches (against Mumbai in quarter-finals and 10 against Bengal in semi-finals). I’ve now taken around 150 wickets in the upper pools (since making debut in 2007-08),” he emphasised.

Fallah admits to not being able to motivate himself enough against weaker teams.

"In lower groups, it’s also at the back of the mind that whether or not performances in the lower division would count at all. That’s what I feel, and I guess everyone would be thinking the same way: 'If I take 50 wickets, would those count?’ Big teams bring out the best in me; I’m keener to perform better against them,” he said.

Fallah picked his seven-wicket match haul against 40-time Ranji champions Mumbai in the quarter-finals in their own backyard, the Wankhede Stadium, as the best this season.

"It has to be my most satisfying performance because Mumbai scored 402 in their first innings, in which I took four wickets, we bundled them out for a mere 129 in the second innings, and I captured three. I was motivated because we had conceded a 122-run first-innings lead and were virtually out of the match at that stage,” he said.

"Playing on their home ground, Mumbai were on top and if they wanted they could have batted us out of the match by occupying the crease for long in the second innings. But we made a superb effort to bowl them out for 129. That turned the match around, as we won by an emphatic eight wickets, that too within four days (of the five-day game).”

DON'T MISS TODAY—Cricket Photos of The Week

Virat Kohli of India reacts as he leaves the field after being dismissed by Tim Southee of New Zealand during the One Day International match between New Zealand and India at Seddon Park on January ... more 
Virat Kohli of India reacts as he leaves the field after being dismissed by Tim Southee of New Zealand during the One Day International match between New Zealand and India at Seddon Park on January 22, 2014 in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images) less 
1 / 18
Getty Images | Photo by Stringer / Anthony Au-Yeung
Sun 26 Jan, 2014 1:30 PM IST

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Punjab pull off another big chase

Punjab pull off another big chase

GAME 7, SHARJAH—Maxwell, Miller, Pujara chase down Rajasthan's 192. More »

Royal test for Kings

Royal test for Kings

Preview — Clash of philosophies between Australia-centric teams More »

Have nothing to prove to anybody — Sehwag

Have nothing to prove to anybody — Sehwag

The Nawab of Najafgarh says a good run in IPL could help his chances of a comeback on India's tour to England in June. More »

Shastri in proposed IPL probe panel

Shastri in proposed IPL probe panel

Some members stressed on the need for proposing names with an "impeccable record and clean image". More »

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Furious fifties by Duminy and Dinesh Karthik end a long losing streak for the Daredevils. More »

Five things England must do to bounce back

Five things England must do to bounce back

England have appointed a new head coach in Peter Moores. More »

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

Royal Challengers overcame a stutter to cruise to the small target they were set by Mumbai Indians. More »

‘Felt like helpless minority’

‘Felt like helpless minority’

Former BCCI treasurer Ajay Shirke says emotions got the better of Srinivasan and he tried to oversimplify things by calling Meiyappan an “enthusiast.” More »

Srinivasan can attend BCCI meeting

Srinivasan can attend BCCI meeting

His status as president of TNCA makes him eligible to attend the Working Committee meeting on Sunday. More »

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

Kevin Pietersen's hopes of reviving his international career appeared to end Saturday when ECB managing director Paul Downton said there was 'no way back'… More »

The world record that nearly wasn't

The world record that nearly wasn't

Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it. More »

Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell seems to project an icy disdain when at the crease. Match situations rarely faze him and the bubble in which he plays excludes everyone … More »

Moores gets second stint as coach

Moores gets second stint as coach

In a two-year spell from 2007 to 2009, the 51-year-old Moores led England in seven Test series. More »

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh's senior players will have three sessions with a psychological skill development coach later this month More »

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

Dalmiya feels that Srinivasan’s ‘power hungry’ attitude isn’t helping matters. More »

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

The 36-year-old believes the T20 format and rule changes in 50-over matches have made a real difference. More »

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Kevin Pietersen has ridiculed the idea of day-night Test cricket, saying the game would be so different to proper Test cricket that we will need a whole… More »

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

The bowlers restricted Hyderabad to 133 for 6 before Rahane and Binny took Rajasthan over the line. More »

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

The Kings XI batsman blasted a 43-ball 95 to help his team pull off a massive chase against Chennai Super Kings. More »

BCCI members want independent probe

BCCI members want independent probe

The board members are realising after the Supreme Court's observations that something has to be done — IS Bindra More »

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

Two former BCCI presidents, Shashank Manohar and Jagmohan Dalmiya, have reacted strongly to the news of the BCCI calling an emergent meeting on Sunday… More »

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Preview — The threat of Sunil Narine looms large again. More »

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Preview — Given the firepower in both line-ups, Dubai crowd may see another high-scorer More »

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj Singh was hardly convincing to begin with against Delhi, but a big dose of crowd support and a helping of poor bowling meant he had the opportunity… More »