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

Bangalore lose nerve, lose game

Bangalore lose nerve, lose game

IPL 7, GAME 11—Vinay's over, Lynn's catch turns last-over finish in KKR's favour. More »

Boycotting IPL will not save cricket

Boycotting IPL will not save cricket

Boycotting the IPL as a means of protest against the grime in the game may not yield the desired results. More »

Jadeja spins out Rajasthan in close chase

Jadeja spins out Rajasthan in close chase

IPL 7, GAME 10—Chennai beat Rajasthan by 7 runs after last-over scare. More »

Gambhir a knock away from striking form - KKR coach

Gambhir a knock away from striking form - KKR coach

Gautam made an eight-ball duck in the opening game against Mumbai and in the second game against Delhi, he lasted only half those balls. More »

Rivals say Srini group delaying BCCI special general meeting

Rivals say Srini group delaying BCCI special general meeting

The group opposed to Srinivasan alleged that since BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel belongs to the president’s group, he was intentionally delaying the SGM… More »

April 24: A legend is born

As Sachin Tendulkar turns 41 - here's a look at some offbeat moments from the Master Blaster's innings. More »

Cleaning up the game starts with fans

Cleaning up the game starts with fans

... because, as recent events reveal, the BCCI has little intention of doing it. More »

SL in 'difficult place' after Farbrace exit

SL in 'difficult place' after Farbrace exit

Sri Lanka depart for assignments in Ireland and England in two weeks, and Sanath Jayasuriya suggested Marvan Atapattu would be interim head coach for those… More »

Chandimal axed as T20 captain

Chandimal axed as T20 captain

Sri Lanka's cricket selectors on Wednesday sacked Dinesh Chandimal as Twenty20 captain and replaced him with Lasith Malinga, while Angelo Mathews was… More »

Vithanage, Priyanjan get T20 call-ups

Vithanage, Priyanjan get T20 call-ups

Herath has been rested, while the team will be without the veteran pair of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, who retired from T20 internationals… More »

'BCCI should have picked panel with care'

'BCCI should have picked panel with care'

Dalmiya said that it was the first time that the BCCI had been faced with a situation where the apex court had hauled up the Board and it should have acted… More »

Farbrace is England's assistant coach

Farbrace is England's assistant coach

The ECB continued the restructuring of the England coaching set-up on Wednesday by announcing the appointment of Paul Farbrace as assistant coach. More »

SC asks Mudgal committee to continue

SC asks Mudgal committee to continue

Mukul Mudgal has communicated to the court his willingness to take up the investigation and has been asked to specify the terms and modalities on April… More »

Sri Lanka players resolve pay dispute

Sri Lanka players resolve pay dispute

The pay dispute between Sri Lanka Cricket and its 13 contracted players ended on Wednesday when the latter agreed to accept 10 percent of the participation… More »

Hope to be fit for next game - Pietersen

Hope to be fit for next game - Pietersen

With two heavy defeats at the hands of Bangalore and Chennai, Daredevils currently languish near the bottom of the table. More »

'SC decision could hurt BCCI's status'

'SC decision could hurt BCCI's status'

The Supreme Court prefers that the Justice Mudgal panel further investigate the IPL corruption scandal. More »

Mudgal panel drops bombshell in court

Mudgal panel drops bombshell in court

The Mukul Mudgal probe committee dropped a bombshell in the Supreme Court on Tuesday by making a sensational claim that it was forced to stop audio recording… More »

Perfect Punjab trounce Hyderabad

Perfect Punjab trounce Hyderabad

IPL7, GAME 9—Maxwell (95, 43b), Balaji (4-13) set up 72-run win. More »

Have the ECB played an unfair game?

Have the ECB played an unfair game?

Money talks, but it is in light of this ICC shakeup that the ECB's act of soliciting of another team's coach deteriorates from free-market aggression to… More »

Farbrace quits for England post

Farbrace quits for England post

He will assist Peter Moores who was unveiled as the new England coach on Saturday. More »

Moin appointed to manage Pakistan team

Moin appointed to manage Pakistan team

Pakistan on Monday reappointed Moin Khan as chief selector and manager of the national team, a week after fellow former captain Rashid Latif turned down… More »

Chennai smash Delhi for first win

Chennai smash Delhi for first win

IPL7, MATCH 8—Raina-led middle order, superlative catching give CSK a 93-run win. More »

'BCCI reputation lowest in 80 years'

'BCCI reputation lowest in 80 years'

The former BCCI president says he was "disillusioned" by the happenings at the emergent working committee meeting on Sunday. More »

Injured Bravo to miss rest of IPL

Injured Bravo to miss rest of IPL

Dwayne Bravo is set to be sidelined for at least four weeks due to a shoulder problem. Bravo sustained the injury when attempting a catch on the boundary… More »