Mumbai’s Ranji season: What went wrong?

Author : anurag chaudhary

Mumbai Cricket Association has made Sulakshan Kulkarni a scapegoat for below-par performances of a team

Mumbai cricket team is the oldest and the most successful team in the history of domestic cricket. Founded in 1930, it has won 40 Ranji titles, 16 Irani trophies, the Wills cup and the Vijay Hazare trophy multiple times.

It is also the team that is known for giving plethora of legends to Indian Cricket. Some of the greats who have come out of this side include Sunil Gavaskar, Polly Umrigar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Vijay Merchant and Sachin Tendulkar.

Yes, that is the contribution of Mumbai to Indian cricket. It is and will always remain one of the vital pillars of cricket lineage in India.

Mumbai has played 43 finals out of a possible 66 and won 40 of them, with the latest being 2012-13 season under the leadership of Ajit Agarkar.

The recent outing, however, turned out to be a failure. The just concluded Ranji season saw Mumbai bowing out in the quarter-finals on the back of mostly abysmal performances throughout the tournament. The fact that the arch-rivals Maharashtra provided the knockout punch has not done any good either.

Not only was the main tournament a massive disappointment but Mumbai also miserably failed in under-16, under-19 and under-25 tournaments.

In sports, failures are inevitable. Every team and player involved in any given sport goes through failures at some point of time. The greatest of athletes and teams have gone through this phase.

With the kind of lineage and names attached to its hall of fame, Mumbai usually comes into the tournament with huge burden of expectations every season. It is the richest state cricket board in the country and spends quite a sum on the sport, too.

With the calibre of players like Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Zaheer Khan, it is only natural that the expectations skyrocket when it comes to bringing the trophy home.

So what went wrong this time? Who are the culprits?

Jaffer openly criticized the sacking of coach Sulakshan Kulkarni

The coach Sulakshan Kulkarni was the first to be shown the door, a move that was not received well by the players. Mumbai’s senior-most player Wasim Jaffer expressed his displeasure openly.

Jaffer told the media: “It was harsh to see the coach sacked despite Mumbai making the knockout stages of the Ranji Trophy.  It doesn’t look nice because we did not wait for one-dayers or T20s to finish.”

He added, “The captain is always the boss because he handles the players and he is the decision maker. He can take everybody’s advice but at the end of the day, it is the captain who is to deliver. You can say that the captain may not have listened to the coach’s advice.”

It is to be noted here that the veteran batsman captained the side for a few games after Ajit Agarkar’s retirement, before being replaced by Rohit Sharma.

But can the coach and the captain take all the responsibilities? Let’s look at a few aspects which seem to have affected the side’s performance this season.

The most consistent team in the history of the tournament was highly inconsistent this season. They lost quite a few matches but somehow reached the quarter-finals with a lot of difficulty coupled with Iqbal Abdulla’s magical performances in a do or die situation. They kept shuffling their side in search of a perfect combination.

It all began with the then skipper Ajit Agarkar’s decision to hang up his boots. He might not have been the highest wicket-taker in recent years, but he definitely held the attack together with his experience.

Zaheer Khan has been struggling with his own demons of late, read injuries and ins and outs from the national side. Also, the veteran off-spinner Ramesh Powar opted to play for Rajasthan this year, leaving his parent team in limbo.

The team, therefore, had to rely on its youth brigade in the bowling department. In addition, they delved into some pit and found a old guard in the 42-year-old Pravin Tambe to bolster the bowling unit. Well, that didn’t help much.

In the batting department, Wasim jaffer was the only one who offered some resistance. Sachin Tendulkar did play a classy unbeaten 79 in Lahili against Haryana, thereby securing a win for his team before calling it a day, but it was just a one-off incident. Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma have become regular features of the national side travelling across the globe and hence, are nowhere near to save the floundering batting line-up of Mumbai.

Abhishek Nayar, who was the side’s run-machine last year, started off the season with confidence after his electrifying performances for India A, only to get injured early in the season and see his team fall systematically.

So, yes, Mumbai had its share of hardships to go through, and one can still say that reaching the knock out stage was a decent performance on its part.

But with all due respect to the difficulties, losing matches after gaining upper hand showed the lack of experience. Mumbai is desperately in need of rebuilding the side altogether. A few tough decisions need to be taken.

With the talent they produce every year, Mumbai can be back at the top very soon. Let’s assume that it is just a lean patch, and things will go upwards from here.

Matches

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