It would have hurt a lot of people in Mumbai cricket after they lost to Maharashtra in the last Ranji trophy quarter final. Mumbai cricket is going through a phase, what is known as, transition period in cricketing dictionary. A certain Sachin Tendulkar won’t even make those rare appearances for them any more.
With national selectors forgetting him, Wasim Jaffer may find it difficult to motivate himself for more than couple of seasons. Add to that, he has to decide where he should bat, opening or coming in the middle order. That question arises mainly because Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma will be busy in national duties.
Rahane definitely in Tests for his recent exploits in overseas conditions and Rohit has the “wow” factor that will remind the selectors that he is too classy a batsman to be wasted in domestic circuit. In the bowling department, Zaheer Khan is approaching the end of his cricketing career. If he retires from international cricket, he won’t be playing Ranji and if he is dropped, it won’t be an easy and a lengthy comeback. Without the motivation of representing India, it is difficult to think Zaheer will come day in and day out for Mumabi. Ajit Agarkar did exactly that for 6 years but he won’t be there as well. So who are the players who must step up for the domestic power house in the next five years?
Abhishek Nayar is now 30 years old. He has bowled 18 balls and faced 7 balls in three international appearances and is yet to open his account on either count. To make matters worse, MS Dhoni bowled alongside him in the 18 ball spell and picked up a wicket. It can be argued that he wasn’t given enough opportunities and chances are slim that he will get a second look. That might turn out be a blessing in disguise for Mumbai Ranji team.
In first class cricket, he still averages over 50 with the bat and good enough to be considered as a genuine fifth bowling option. He may not be exciting to the eyes but he is dependable and very effective. As he shown against the match against MP, where he bowled unchanged for 14 overs and delivered a memorable win, his commitment to the team is unquestionable. He is returning from injury and should lead Mumbai in the next season.
In terms of international opportunities, Dhawal Kulkarni can consider himself more unlucky than Nayar. He has made into the fifteen member squad of Indian team but is yet to make his debut. Injury at crucial junctures means others have jumped ahead of him in the queue. But given the music chair game involving Indian fast bowlers, he may able to make it in the future. It will be interesting to watch how he bowls after the recent injury. But whenever he is fit and available he has been consistent for Mumbai and should perform the role of a spearhead.
If it were not the performance of Iqbal Abdulla against Gujarat, Mumbai wouldn’t have met Maharashtra in the quarter final. With a number of left arm spinning option available, he has not been a regular member of the squad. He has faced criticism for his brand of bowling and after the match winning performance expressed how he is no longer worried by those remarks. But he will have to produce them regularly to keep the likes of Harmeet Singh out of the team. In addition to his bowling he is more than a handy lower order bat and should perform the kind of role that Sairaj Bahutule and Romesh Power did in the past.
There won’t be dearth of natural talent in Mumbai for sure, but to it would take a core of senior players to grow them. The responsibility of Nayar and Kulkarni is to help the likes of Suryakumar Yadav, Hiken Shah, Aditya Tare and Javed Khan to realize their potential and perform consistently.