For most first-class teams in India, qualifying for the Ranji Trophy knockouts is a pat on the back and a feeling of a job well done. But reaching the knockouts for Mumbai is just the beginning. Anything less than a victory is considered a failure.
The Mumbai team, which has won the Ranji Trophy 41 times, has been in disrepair over the years. They last won a title in 2015-16 and had failed to qualify for the knockouts in the last two seasons.
After this, heads began to roll and new officers took charge to maintain the status quo and restore glory.
The first major change was the appointment of Salil Ankola as the chairman of the selection committee. Ankola, who has been away from cricket for nearly 20 years, started taking Mumbai cricket seriously a few years back and once he got the job, things became clear.
Ankola told News18 CricketNext, “There was talent, but after taking a closer look at 2020, I felt the brotherhood was missing.” “What was in the teams of the 1990s. Sachin [Tendulkar]Sunday [Shastri]and sanjay [Manjrekar], there was no senior-junior occupation. As juniors, we knew our limits. But we’d drink two beers together, we’d go out together, we’d jail together. There was no Ravi sir or Sanjay sir.”
When Amol Majumdar was appointed as the coach in June 2021, Ankola had a serious conversation with the modern-era legend of Mumbai.
“Since Mumbai did not qualify as much for the knockouts, there was talk that something needed to be done. I told Amol that we need to see new blood and players bonding,” recalls Ankola. If he does well, then the whole team should feel good. That’s what we worked on.”
The team was sent to Oman for a pre-season preparatory tour in June 2021.
“This season we thought we should move on from the word Go. It’s not like we’ll have to wait 15 days before a contest to start our campaign. The more you play as a team, the closer you get. A match is worth 15 days of practice in bringing a team together,” says Ankola. “Theoretically it’s simple, but it can be difficult to implement. Anand Yalvigi, Sachin talk to the boys. Seniors of the past showed what Mumbai’s pride means and this team’s victory is still for them.” How much does it matter.”
But the matter did not stop here. Ankola stepped in at crucial moments to talk to various players in the team. “I spoke to Yashasvi [Jaiswal] And told him that I had high expectations from him, but it was up to him to fulfill it,” says Ankola. He scored 100 runs in 229 balls. It was not like anything we had seen before. He faced the 54th ball (in the semi-final against Uttar Pradesh). This shows that he is eager to learn. The urge to learn had turned in favor.”
Another player who has impressed is all-rounder Shams Mulani, who tops the wickets table with 37 scalps.
“With Shams, from Ranji Trophy we asked him to play U-25. When I was playing, if I got established in Ranji and someone asked me to play under-25, I probably wouldn’t,” admitted Ankola. “But he was eager to play. Mulani had said, ‘I was waiting for you to ask, but if you weren’t there I would have called you.’ It’s a matter of pride, want to play, want to win.”
Mulani not only went and played in the Under-25 tournament, but he was also a key figure in Mumbai’s success, which turned into a crucial match against Karnataka.
In a long season, you need different players to get ahead at the crucial moments. And the same has happened with Mumbai.
“We have found a new discovery in Suved Parkar. Aditya passed away as a star as senior, but Hardik Tamor stepped in and passed the test with flying colours. The way he batted, the way he batted. Dhanush Kotian, and Mohit Awasthi, all of them have done well. Dhawal Kulkarni was told from day one that he was in charge of the bowling. He always helps the bowlers at mid-off or mid-on. He is a quiet man, but he has challenged himself and taken responsibility.”
A major problem facing Mumbai in recent times was outside interference in the team and team selection. Ankola laughed when asked about this. “You may have heard when Iron Man actor Robert Downey Jr. once said: ‘Listen, smile, agree and do whatever you want to do’. That’s my motto. For Amol and me, it’s just the team That is what matters,” says Ankola.
“External influences are not only from MCA, from politicians, from others… But who knows cricket better than cricketers? We have won Ranji Trophy… If you listen to others and the team doesn’t do well, you will be blamed. Maybe your work too and still take the blame if things go wrong. It must be tough to get into the Mumbai team, but once you are in, because you deserve, you should be supported.”
When you tell Ankola that the team is back on track, and maybe the result in the final doesn’t matter because good practice has been put in, he immediately stops you.
“Of course, it matters. We are not here to participate. You have come so far, you have to close the deal and win,” says Ankola. “It is called the Mumbai Cricket Association, not Mumbai Carrom Association or Mumbai Chess Association. As long as cricket is played well, everything is fine.”
For the time being, it seems that all is well in Mumbai cricket.
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