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Ranji Trophy, Super League, 2008-09

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Final, Day 3 Mumbai v Uttar Pradesh, Hyderabad, 3rd day Zaheer's seven takes Mumbai close to title January 14, 2009 Mumbai 402 and 130 for 0 (Jaffer 74*, Samant 53*) lead Uttar Pradesh 245 (Shukla 99, Zaheer 7-54) by 287 runs Scorecard and ball-by-ball details How they were out 386351.jpg7up against UP: Zaheer was just too good for domestic batsmen © Cricinfo Ltd A devastating Zaheer Khan was too much for Uttar Pradesh's batsmen and his second five-for in back-to-back Ranji Trophy finals took Mumbai within striking distance of a 38th title. Zaheer was the one big difference between Mumbai and Bengal two years ago, and he proved to be the same with UP. He didn't stop at five this time, taking two more wickets to finish the job emphatically, and helped Mumbai to a 157-run lead. Umpiring continued to be the focus too. Shivakant Shukla, who resisted for 393 minutes and 99 runs, ended up on the wrong side of a marginal lbw decision, and that dismissal started UP's slide. Wasim Jaffer and Vinayak Samant helped themselves to fifties against a lacklustre UP in the second innings to put it almost beyond them. It was almost unfair to unleash a superlative Zaheer on the domestic batsmen. He has played only three Ranji matches for Mumbai so far - he started his career with Baroda, and has rarely found time off from his international commitments since shifting to Mumbai. The first, when he took nine in the match against Bengal, brought them the 37th title. He was off colour in the second, in the semi-final this year, but has come back strongly with his best performance in the Ranji Trophy. In his second spell with the second new ball today, Zaheer took five wickets for 20 runs, and UP went from 214 for 4 to 245 all out. He started the day with perhaps the highlight of the match: a spell of immaculate reverse-swing bowling, although he went wicketless because Parvinder Singh handled him admirably. That seven-over spell from Zaheer was a fierce interrogation that would have tested any Test batsman. From round the stumps, and wide of the crease, Zaheer angled the ball in, and continuously got it to move away. He got Mohammad Kaif with a similar delivery yesterday, but Parvinder learned the lesson. He played as late as possible, kept the bat close to the body, and even took a blow on the forearm. There was no show of pain at that moment, and he went back to tackling Zaheer. Parvinder took 32 deliveries to get off the mark, but clearly he was not anxious about reaching that milestone, unlike Suresh Raina yesterday who ran himself out first ball. Parvinder lost that intense concentration half an hour before lunch to let Mumbai sneak back. His first error proved to be his last, as he chased a juicy wide delivery from Abhishek Nayar. Along with a fortuitous Shukla, he had frustrated Mumbai for 126 minutes, but those minutes translated into only 55 runs for the partnership. Nayar, a modest medium-pacer at best, has this happy knack of getting match-turning breakthroughs. He did that again here. After his 821-minute epic in the semi-final, Shukla had said he could bat on for three-four more days. It seemed the case, especially given the two dropped chances and various edges falling either short of fielders or in the gaps. But Shukla stayed patient, unhurried in his strokeplay and body language. Zaheer got him to edge one though gully, before Dhawal Kulkarni got back-to-back edges off him. After surviving the second of those outside-edges, Shukla walked away from the stumps and admonished himself, keen to make the most of those chances. But four overs later, Ajit Agarkar beat him outside the off stump twice. And then he tried to cut Sairaj Bahutule, and expertly bisected first and second slip with an edge. Neither Jaffer, blind-sided by Samant's gloves, nor Ajinkya Rahane, at second slip, went for it. Shukla was 68 then. Shukla's innings was similar to Rohit Sharma's, though he wasn't as quick, Two catches went unclaimed, he looked loose outside off, and in-between he hit a few attractive boundaries to reach 99. Along with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shukla added 68 for the fifth wicket in quick time. Bhuvneshwar played an odd cameo - characterised by being beaten outside off comprehensively at one time, and driving the next ball for a crisp boundary. With more than 20 hours gone between dismissals for Shukla, it would have taken a special delivery to get him. Zaheer produced just that: a sharp inswinger, catching him in front of stumps. But Shukla was hit on the flap of the front pad, and height was a question. It was a touch-and-go decision, but one that went against UP again. Zaheer just proved too good against the other batsmen, who lacked application. So crushing was Zaheer's effort that a dejected UP took the field with two days and a session to go still. Gone was the fizz their bowlers had in the first innings, and the resilience that has been their trademark all season. Jaffer and Samant found it easy, and did exactly what was required to start the home stretch towards yet another title. Another POV Mumbai fly high as Zaheer destroys UP, Mumbai tighten grip in Ranji final Zaheer Khan's best figures in the Ranji Trophy, 7 for 54, derailed UP 2009011457542101.jpgIN THE THICK OF ACTION: Zaheer Khan (third from left) played a cameo with the bat and then bowled a superb spell on day three of the Ranji final. . For the second successive day, the man the whole nation looks up to as a role model and whose presence in the Mumbai dressing room is inspirational, was absent from the field. Sachin Tendulkar did not take the field for the entire UP innings because of a fever. In his absence, the many-time Ranji champions were put on the path for their 38th title by India's spearhead Zaheer Khan. The 30-year-old left-armer finished with seven for 54 including a dream spell of five for 20 from 4.2 overs with the second new ball as Uttar Pradesh, replying to Mumbai's 402, were shot out for 245, giving the team from West Zone a 157-run lead. At stumps on Wednesday, with neither the UP medium-pacers nor the spinners making any impression, Mumbai openers Vinayak Samant (53 batting) and Wasim Jaffer (74 batting) rode comfortably on their 130-run unbroken partnership. With an overall lead of 287 and two days remaining, Mumbai have tightened the noose around UP's neck. Shukla and Singh fail to repeat semifinal heroics When play resumed at 91 for three, UP relied on Shivakant Shukla and Parvinder Singh to reduce the deficit but the pair could not repeat their semifinal heroics. The fourth-wicket duo nearly batted for two hours as the Mumbai bowlers could not do much with the old ball. Zaheer too could do little as the conditions did not favour the reverse swing. Off-spinner Ramesh Powar and leg-spinner Sairaj Bahutule did not get much turn out of the pitch and appeared to be just playing a holding role, giving the medium-pacers the break. However, the dangerous pair was separated by 'partnership breaker' Abhishek Nayar, when Parvinder played an outswinger away from his body and edged to wicket-keeper. Not shaken by the loss, Shukla concentrated hard and settled down in Bhuvaneshwar Kumar's company. The duo consumed time and frustrated Mumbai for more than an hour after lunch. They even saw off the first 10 overs of the second new ball. Left-handed openers across the world dread Zaheer with the new ball. Even the best in the business over the last few years — Matthew Hayden and Graeme Smith — have been on his ‘bunny’ list. Though UP’s left-handed opener Shukla had survived Zaheer’s new-ball burst on Tuesday, the Mumbai paceman changed gears on Wednesday just as things were starting to slip out of Mumbai’s hands. His sharp in-cutter has accounted for several big names in the recent past, and Shukla couldn’t be blamed for missing the line and getting out lbw. Shukla walked almost immediately after the impact, not waiting for the verdict from umpire Tarapore. In any case, expecting a semi-final encore from Shukla would’ve been too much to ask for. With his unbeaten 178 against Tamil Nadu in the semis, he had helped UP climb Mt 400. This time, he took the team to the halfway mark but when he lost his trusted sherpa Parvinder Singh — the man who gave him company during the heroics at Nagpur — the climb got tougher. Dream spell 15_01_2009_024_007_004.jpg Here began Zaheer's dream spell. While no other bowler looked like taking wickets except for Agarkar, who had Bhuvanesh throw his wicket away to a slip catch, Zaheer came up with his second five-wicket haul for Mumbai. In a spell of controlled swing bowling, the UP tail fell to catches either behind the wicket of within the 30-yard circle. Uttar Pradesh’s bowling hero Bhuvneshwar Kumar stuck around and gave Shukla some support, but it didn’t prove quite enough. Once he and Shukla got out, it was a combination of shattered confidence and inspired bowling. The tail-enders didn’t really have a chance against Zaheer, who by now was moving the ball around at will. “It was a good track to bowl on, and I just wanted to put it in the right areas. It was a long day for us and we were getting tired, so I just wanted to finish the game early,” Zaheer said about his spell, talking like a neighbourhood elder who, after getting bored with a sub-standard backyard game with the juniors, had taken off his kid gloves. Patience pays But Zaheer did have a few words of praise for Shukla. “He was batting really well, it was turning out to be good contest. We just maintained the pressure and were patient,” said Zaheer. After Shukla fell, Zaheer dismissed Praveen Kumar (6) and Amir Khan on successive deliveries, both edging the moving ball into the hands of wicketkeeper Samant, before dismissing Piyush Chawla and last-man Praveen Gupta. Watching Zaheer’s perfect seam and precise movement must have been a lesson for the other pacemen in the match. But at the same time, the return of India’s star bowler on the domestic circuit also puts the season’s Ranji performances in perspective. Before the Ranji Trophy semi-final, Zaheer Khan was enjoying a well-deserved international break. “All I did during that time was catch up on sleep,” he says about the brief time away from the game. After almost sleep-walking through the semis, he woke up on the third day of the final, and his one inspired spell has all but handed the Ranji Trophy to his skipper Wasim Jaffer. Zaheer’s seven for 54 helped Mumbai take a 157-run first innings lead. With openers Jaffer and Vinayak Samant following it up with an unbeaten partnership of 130, Mumbai have pulled away from UP and with two more days to go, a turnaround seems close to impossible. Before Zaheer went into the zone, the game was interestingly poised and the smiles hadn’t yet faded on the faces in the UP dressing room. They had crossed the 200-mark and the man in form Shivakant Shukla was in the 90s. With six wickets in hand, they thought they could double the score to overtake Mumbai’s first-innings total of 402. Zaheer praises the track and Shukla ZAHEER KHAN likes to play as much as he can and enjoys bowling lots of overs, and, of course, taking wickets, whether for India or for Mumbai. 386418.jpgZaheer Khan's best figures in the Ranji Trophy derailed UP © Cricinfo Ltd. In 1998, a young Zaheer Khan travelled with the Mumbai Ranji team without playing a single game. He could not even find a seat in the dressing room - the space was taken by Mumbai's stalwarts - and would park himself in the adjoining room. He left Mumbai the next year, helped Baroda win the Ranji Trophy in 2000-01, returned to Mumbai in 2006-07 for one game, the final, and won another Ranji Trophy title. Today, he propelled Mumbai to the verge of its 38th Ranji Trophy. Zaheer plucked four wickets in eight balls in the afternoon to knock the wind out of Uttar Pradesh. In the morning, he walked out with just rubber soles and not his bowling shoes, telling some of his team-mates not to worry, "Main lunch ke baad khatam karta hoon. (I will finish them after lunch.)" Zaheer's words came true, and he did not let the batsmen have it easy in the morning. He got the old ball to reverse, and was denied a wicket only because Parvinder Singh managed to handle what many Test batsmen wouldn't. Three overs first-up with the second new ball didn't bring a breakthrough, but a few overs later Zaheer breathed fire with a devastating spell that read 4.2-1-20-5. The ball swung in the air before leaving the batsmen late, a few bounced nastily and in general he created hell. His 7 for 54 was his best in the Ranji Trophy . On Wednesday, his body was tiring and he wanted to finish off the Uttar Pradesh innings early. The result was his best bowling figures in national competitions in India — seven for 54 in 27.2 overs. “I am happy to know that,” he said, smiling after a profitable day “It is a good track to bowl and there is plenty in it for the bowlers. It was a long day for us and I was getting tired. I wanted it to get over quickly .” The 30-year-old said that even though the other bowlers did not get wickets, they ‘combined well to maintain pressure on Uttar Pradesh. It was a breeze. "I was definitely tired and I wanted to get away quickly and am glad that I could get the wickets in that spell." That cool temperament led to the obvious question: "Is it almost unfair on the domestic batsmen to be playing against you in such conditions?" Zaheer responded with the right thing. "You can't say that. Shivakant Shukla played really well and offered a contest." Shukla later said it was a battle that he immensely enjoyed. "He reversed the ball, got it to swing normally and bowled really well." Zaheer returned the compliment. "He deserved a century but it obviously felt good to get him on 99". It was one that nipped in which caught Shukla in front of the stumps. We had to be patient and get the ball in the right areas and wait for the batsmen to make mistakes.’ “He deserved his 100,” said Zaheer of Shivakant. “He played very well. But it was good to get him out.” The Indian spearhead, though, has not yet begun celebrating even though Mumbai now have the title in their sights. “We have been champions 37 times and Mumbai play to win. I enjoy playing for Mumbai and playing in semifinal and final of a Ranji Trophy is very pres tigious. It is very impor tant for Mumbai to win and not take the opposi tion lightly.” 386416.jpgShivakant Shukla enjoyed his battle with Zaheer © Cricinfo Ltd. Till then Shukla had made sure he wasn't exposed by Zaheer. At the start of the season, he wasn't sure whether he would be in the squad but stunned many with a marathon hundred in the semi-final. The turnaround in his batting happened under interesting circumstances in September 2008. An irregular bowler, he was identified with a suspect action and asked to report to the NCA. There he bumped into Dav Whatmore and a batting coach from Sri Lanka, Mattau Owen, who had worked with the likes of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara and under whom Indian batsman such as Shikhar Dhawan have benefited. "I corrected my action under the supervision of Sivaramakrishnan sir [L Sivaramkrishnan] and worked on my batting with the Sri Lankan coach," said Shukla. "It was a great experience. We worked hard on my batting technique and that has really helped in improving my batting." A struggling batsman went to correct his bowling action and returned as a more confident batsman. His family too helped him overcome the insecurity that arose out of playing for his spot in the side. "Jyaada sey jyaada kya hoga, cricket nahi chala toh tum apne ghar hi aa rahe ho na." (Even if your cricket doesn't click, you are just going to come back to your home, so why worry?)" Shukla relaxed as a result and decided he would enjoy his cricket. The new year has dawned brightly for him. Mohammad Kaif believes the innings in the semi-final is the turning point in Shukla's career. "He is going to be more self-aware of his batting now and I think you will see a different Shukla from now on. It's great that we have some one apart from Tanmay [srivastava], [suresh] Raina and [Mohammad] Kaif in the UP team." And that is exactly what is really giving Shukla the biggest kick. "I hear murmurs from the coach and the team in the dressing room. "Shukla hai abhi, hume abhi be chance hai game mey. (Shukla is still batting, we still have a chance.) I feel important in the team and I feel really nice about it." Sometimes, self-esteem rises from what others that matter think of you. And for Shukla, this season will be the time in which he has earned his team's respect. Shukla disappointed UP's Shivakant Shukla sounded a bit low, but also vowed to give Mumbai a run for their money. "I am not disappointed on missing a ton today, but I am disappointed at not helping the side take the first-innings lead,” said Shivakant. “The knock was a big boost to my confidence, but this would have been enjoyable, if the side had taken lead. Our bowlers should bowl with the same enthusiasm they showed on the first day .” “It’s true that I played a bit slow today, but it was our game plan. Our primary target was to take the first innings lead and keep on batting as long as we could.”

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One jealous umpire' date=' you are !!! :giggle:[/quote'] seems the Umpire is correct, I mean ICF umpire, not Amish Joker Sahiba! ========== 74.3 Chawla to Sharma, no run, close shout for lbw, too close to call, bowled with a flatter trajectory on the off stump, seemed to straighten and caught Rohit on the pads as he came forward to defend, struck the pad first and then the bat, but umpire Sahiba shook his head. Probably out, and Rohit survives again, after a lucky streak in the first innings ================================= :omg:

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Final, Day 4 Mumbai v Uttar Pradesh, Hyderabad, 4th day Rohit and Samant shut out UP January 15, 2009 Uttar Pradesh 245 and 0 for 0 need 525 runs to beat Mumbai 402 and 367 (Samant 113, Rohit 108, Jaffer 85, Chawla 4-94) Scorecard and ball-by-ball details How they were out 386541.jpgVinayak Samant kept Mumbai on course for their 38th Ranji Trophy title win © Cricinfo Ltd Rohit Sharma played his second important innings of the Ranji Trophy final as Mumbai batted Uttar Pradesh out of the match. For a session and a half, the UP bowlers put on a spirited performance, but Vinayak Samant, at first, and Rohit kept them at bay with contrasting centuries. In truly khadoos manner, Mumbai didn't declare even when the lead had gone beyond any reasonable proportions. But that's how Mumbai play their cricket: when your opponents are down, grind them into dust. With three sessions to go, UP will need the highest successful chase in the Ranji Trophy (previous record: Assam's 371 for 4 against Services earlier this season), and the second-highest fourth-innings score in the tournament's history to win the match. Well that's an academic thought. UP's tough task was set by Samant, who scored his maiden first-class century after being promoted to open in the last league match of the season, and Rohit, who became only the sixth batsman to score two centuries in a Ranji Trophy final. The last to do so was Sachin Tendulkar against Punjab in 1994-95. On a personal level Tendulkar wouldn't have enjoyed this final. In the first innings he scored his first duck in Indian domestic cricket, then spent the whole UP innings off the field because of a viral fever, and managed only 4 from No. 7 in the second innings. He was the last wicket of a middle-order collapse that had given UP a faint glimmer. But UP had bowled their hearts and their bodies out to reduce Mumbai from 130 for 0 to 241 for 6. After bowling 16 successive overs for one wicket in the first session, Praveen Kumar went off the field and was disqualified from bowling when UP were forced to take the second new ball after 100 overs (a rule in Indian domestic cricket). Although part-time medium-pacer Parvinder Singh and Piyush Chawla did a commendable job in the middle session, UP were always short of time and behind by too much. By the time the second new ball was taken Rohit had beaten them into submission with attractive stroke play. And with RP Singh off the field throughout the day, Bhuvneshwar Kumar had to share the new ball with Praveen Gupta, the left-arm spinner. UP were not so deflated in the morning, though. A spirited effort from the Kumars, Bhuvneshwar and Praveen, who troubled the batsmen consistently by moving a semi-new ball, caused Mumbai to wobble. But Samant didn't give in. He put behind him the edges and plays-and-misses, and nudged and late-cut his way to a satisfactory hundred. Samant started the day on 53 and got the majority of his runs through late-cuts. He played those shots with soft hands, made sure he kept them along the ground, and found the gap between two slips and two gullies regularly. Even in his 90s, he played two such strokes. Samant and his team-mates were overjoyed at his reaching the century: they knew he had taken them one session closer to the title. After Samant became part of the middle-order collapse, which included a pair for Ramesh Powar and an embarrassing 24-ball stay for Ajinkya Rahane, the second-highest run-getter of the season, Rohit took advantage of aggressive field settings. He was much surer than he was in the first innings and didn't look hurried even though he had to wait 27 balls for his first run. Those first runs were three consecutive boundaries off Chawla - a flick wide of mid-on, a pull, and a straight loft. Rohit kept picking on Chawla, slog-sweeping every time the bowler tried a googly. He knew that UP had employed aggressive fields, and even mis-hits would fall safe. The elegance that separates Rohit from other domestic batsmen was on liberal display, with gorgeous drives and pulls decorating his century. Even after Parvinder took two wickets in two balls, Sairaj Bahutule and Dhawal Kulkarni frustrated UP for 17.3 overs and 20 runs. UP will have no ground for complaints, because they did the same to Gujarat two matches ago. After securing a 188-run first-innings lead in the quarter-final, they didn't enforce a follow-on and went on to bat until they were bowled out - giving Gujarat 564 to chase in one-and-a-half session. What goes around comes around. Another POV Mumbai set UP Mission Impossible Rohit joins an elite club; Vinayak Samant scores maiden first-class century in his 85th match 2009011656532101.jpgSPECIAL INNINGS: Mumbai’s Vinayak Samant acknowledges the crowd’s cheers after scoring his maiden first-class century on Thursday. . HYDERABAD: Mumbai’s Rohit Sharma joined a select band of five other cricketers who have scored a century in each innings in a Ranji Trophy final. His extravagant knock (108, 171 minutes, 146 balls, 17x4, 1x6) in the second innings against Uttar Pradesh was a perfect complement to an equally significant century by 36-year-old opener Vinayak Samant on the fourth day of the Ranji Trophy final at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium here on Thursday. Rohit joins the elite club Remembering batting records have always been big in Mumbai — be it a man in the maidan or the Master himself, memorable feats sit conveniently on their finger tips. So when Rohit Sharma, unbeaten on 77 at tea, met Sachin Tendulkar in the dressing room, he was reminded of the importance of scoring 23 more runs. Tendulkar had scored centuries in both innings of a Ranji final in the 1994-95 season and he wanted another Mumbai player to repeat his feat. Sharma didn’t disappoint as he followed his 141 in the first innings with a 108 on Thursday. He was the second centurion of the day after opener Vinayak Samant (113). If UP were pushed to the ropes by Zaheer Khan’s seven-wicket haul on Wednesday, the Sharma-Samant one-two delivered the knock-out punch on the fourth day of the match. Cricket doesn’t have a ‘referee stopped the contest’ option, but now that UP have been set a fourth-innings target of 525, the final day will mostly be spent waiting for the 38th title. Besides sealing the Mumbai win, Sharma also made a point on Thursday. His first-innings 141 had led to few toasts about his grace and unhurried approach and more mentions of dropped catches and run-out misses. The 20-year-old isn’t a 1,000-runs-per-season kind of player but he proved once again in his second innings that he is someone who can play match-defining knocks. Apart from his first-innings ton, which came with Mumbai struggling at 55/4, earlier in the year he had played a back-to-the-wall innings in the Challenger Trophy to take his team to the final. Talking about this knack, Sharma said later: “When I’m playing big matches, somehow my confidence level rises and I become more focused.†Though not severe as the first innings, Mumbai did have a crisis of sorts on Thursday. After a fine start by Samant and Wasim Jaffer (85), wickets fell in a heap. Of the nine batsmen who followed the opening pair, six managed only single-digit scores and two others didn’t cross 20. Sharma was the lone man standing tall in the middle of the late-order mess. For the record, Rohit joined Hanumant Singh, Surinder Khanna, Vijay Hazare, Mushtaq Ali and Sachin Tendulkar who have had the distinction of scoring a century in each innings in the final. Mumbai was eventually bowled out, off the last ball of the day, for 367. Thereby it set a huge target of 525 for U.P., with only one day remaining. Mumbai plays the waiting game; Good knock by Jaffer Have all but claimed their 38th Ranji Trophy title. They only have to assemble at the Uppal stadium here on Friday and go through the formalities on the final day. With a 157-run first innings lead, Mumbai had no intentions of securing an outright win. They batted on before being all out for 367 at the scheduled close on Thursday A maiden first . class century by Vinayak Samant (113) and a second hundred of the final for Rohit Sharma (108) took the game beyond UP's reach. UP, to protect their pride, have to try and bat out the final day being left with a target of 525 from 90 overs which is merely academic. When play resumed on Thursday, UP's only outside chance was to take quick wickets and apply pressure. Praveen Kumar was outstanding but unlucky in the morning session. With captain Wasim Jaffer (85, 13x4) leading from the front, Samant too batted with authority to score his maiden first-class century (113, 312 minutes, 239 balls, 17x4) in his 85th match.UP struck early through Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, who trapped Wasim Jaffer leg before wicket for 85. UP relied on Praveen Kumar to do the needful as R. P. Singh, with a shoulder injury, did not take the field. Praveen bowled 16 overs on the trot in the morning without complaining but luck was not on his side. He swung the ball away from the right-handers, often missing the edge. While Samant was determined not to give away his wicket, Rahane was tempted to play his strokes. Stuck for 35 minutes and scoring only 5, Rahane drove Praveen straight to short covers. Abhishek Nayar batted at number four instead of Sachin Tendulkar and he too did not last. But Samant, in the company of Sharma, went on to realise his dream of scoring a century, coming in his 85th first class match and 80th Ranji game, 13 seasons after his debut. Samant was promoted from number nine to five and eventually to open the batting four matches ago. He did not disappoint as the bowlers struggled. The 36year-old wicket-keeper fell for 113 but Mumbai did not stop. Sharma, lucky to be ruled not out on one by Amish Saheba when he was struck in front off Piyush Chawla, played strokes all around the wicket. Soon, Rohit unleashed some vintage strokes. When he walked down the pitch to loft left-arm spinner Praveen Gupta over long-on for a huge six to reach his century, it was perhaps symbolic of the domination of Mumbai. Sharma, only the sixth batsman in Ranji history to score a century in each innings of the final, fell for 108 and with the overall lead beyond 500, Mumbai stuck to their guns, not making a declaration at any stage. UP's bowlers, towards the end, showed no interest, with Praveen even sending down slower and wider deliveries at the last pair of Bahutule and Kulkarni to make known his team's protest Mumbai's decision not to declare. Sachin fails Disappointment was in store for the many who expected fireworks from Tendulkar. They had to be content with one square-cut that raced to the fence, and the duck in the first inning was followed by a four in the second. Sachin Tendulkar had a forgetful final — failing for the second time when leg-spinner Piyush Chawla lured him to drive straight to mid-on, much to the dismay of the sparse crowd. But Sharma, at the other end, was doing all he could to keep the crowds entertained. The purists appreciated his sublime flicks and carpet cover-drives but it was his slog-sweep off Chawla that was the day’s most popular stroke. What made things easy for Sharma was that two of UP’s most experienced pacemen were missing from action as injury and fatigue forced RP Singh and Praveen Kumar to stay in the dressing room. Hyderabad is without doubt Sharma’s favourite ground but there is also a not-too-pleasant memory associated with the venue for him. Earlier this year, when playing the Board President’s XI game, he was told that he’d been dropped from the Test squad. He went on to score a ton in that match against Australia and now has two more centuries at the Uppal Stadium. With his performance in the Ranji final, the race to the Team India middle-order may have just become more interesting. So the day belonged to Samant and Rohit as the two dashed whatever hopes U.P. might have entertained on a pitch which was rock solid. Players of the day Vinayak Samant: IN SEPTEMBER 2008, Mumbai's fittest cricketer, Vinayak Samant, attended selection trials for the Kolkata IPL team but was not considered. But, at 36, Samant has capped a fine season, scoring his maiden first class century even if it came in his 85th first match. "Opening was a challenge and I accepted it," Samant said. "Batting at No. 8 or No. 9 gives you little chance to score. I worked on my technique and was able to handle opening." Samant, naturally considered his innings special. "Sachin (Tendulkar) was also there and it was a very special experience to get a hundred in the final. Very few get to score a 100 in the Ranji final." "In a five-day game, the opposition can come back and hence no declaration,†he said. Piyush Chawla: LEGGIE Piyush Chawla bowled 35 overs, his highest in an innings this season, and had 4/94, including the wicket of Tendulkar. But, he wasn't satisfied with his performance. "Getting Mumbai out twice is a big achievement for the team, but I am not satisfied with my own achievement. I should have bagged five instead of just four," said Chawla. The spinner, who bowled 15 wicketless overs in the first innings, claimed that the pitch was not as sisting the bowlers. "It's a batsmanfriendly wick et so bowling is always a difficult task. It was going to be difficult to stage a comeback in the match, but we did it," he said. *********************************************************** It was disappointing display of lack of fight and willingness from UP. Perhaps their gameplan in the season revolved around securing the first inning lead only and hence they look to bat for 140 overs no matter how slow that might be. It is disappointing when a team playing for draws reach the domestic tournament final and we are in need of a better system than just the first inning lead! UP had just one outright victory the entire Ranji season!!

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So what are problems that UP is facing? Praveen struggles to come to grips with lack of swing Devendra Pandey Posted: Jan 14, 2009 at 2321 hrs IST Hyderabad: The trademark, goofy smile on Praveen Kumar’s face has gone missing. After bowling 34 wicketless overs in Mumbai’s first innings, he looks pensive as he sits in the dressing room. That’s when he makes a confession most bowlers in his situation wouldn’t dare to utter in public. “I think I have lost the swing,†he says. Looking helpless, he adds: “Getting the ball to move was always easy for me. I really don’t know how things have changed so suddenly. Maybe I’m trying too hard.†In the fragile world of professional cricketers, even a minor flaw in technique can make a major difference. Just a year back, Praveen could do no wrong. After making a big impact in the Ranji final against Delhi — which took his total to 36 wickets from six matches — he was picked for the tri-series in Australia. He played a stellar role in India winning the final, making it a habit to get the wickets of Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist. That seemed in the distant past as he struggled to make the ball talk on a pitch that did offer a fair bit of assistance. Surprise all around Lalchand Rajput, who was the coach of the team on that Australia tour, says he can’t believe what he is seeing. “He bowled exceptionally well in Australia. He always gave us a good start, but I don’t know what has happened to him this season.†The Mumbai dressing room too is pleasantly surprised by Praveen’s ineffectiveness. “I think there is some problem with the wrist position and that’s why he isn’t getting the swing that he used to,†Praveen Amre said. But despite the lack of movement, Praveen has had his moments in the final. In the early part of century-maker Rohit Sharma’s innings, he had the batsman edging a ball to the slips, but Mohammad Kaif failed to latch on. Besides, there were several instances of the ball narrowly missing the edge of the bat or the stumps. As UP bowling coach Ashish Winston Zaidi says, “Sometimes it happens, he is still getting the outswinger going, but there is a problem with the inswing. He might be thinking too much, he might not be pitching the ball in the right area or there could be a problem with his wrist position,†Zaidi said. This highly successful Uttar Pradesh team are strictly old-school — but under the circumstances, Praveen wouldn’t have minded sitting down for some video analysis. One-at-a-time trend finally bites UP Devendra Pandey Posted: Jan 15, 2009 at 0003 hrs IST Hyderabad: There is an intriguing statistic connected to UP’s amazing run to the Ranji final. Despite overhauling several first-innings scores this season, they just have one batsman — Tanmay Srivastava — among the top-15 run-getters in the tournament. Batsmen have scored big 100s but a typical UP scoreboard consists of one three-digit score surrounded by several single-digit failures. And that’s the reason coach Gyanendra Pandey has a worried look on his face when one asks him about batting. “It is really strange. Batsmen have not been consistent. Different batsmen have had big scores in different games but most of the time they have not received much support,†he says. This came out quite clearly in the semi-final and the final. While Shivakant Shukla and Parvinder Singh scored centuries against Tamil Nadu, they didn’t get support from the big names in the team such as Mohammad Kaif and Suresh Raina. The trend has continued in the final too. Raina was run out early and Kaif scored 33, putting the pressure again on the semi-final heroes. Shukla did score 99 but UP needed another big hundred from him. Shukla had scored a modest 244 from five games before the semis. In the early part of the season, the two men in form were Srivastava and Kaif. They were involved in important partnerships and were responsible for UP taking the first-innings lead in six games. “If you see the league matches, Tanmay and Kaif saved the team several times. We were lucky that Shiva and Parvinder came to our rescue in the semis. But one can’t win all the time with this kind of record,†coach Pandey says. Besides these four, the other regular UP run-getters have had a forgettable season. A lot was expected from Raina but he hasn’t even crossed the 300-mark this year. Same is true for the two all-rounders in the side, Praveen Kumar and Piyush Chawla. In contrast, the Mumbai batsmen have fired together on several occasions. Wasim Jaffer, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma are in the Ranji Trophy top-10 list. And, in the backdrop of UP’s batting troubles, Zaheer Khan’s stunning spell on Wednesday will prove to be the difference between the two sides. ****************** But Samant is really pleased after hitting his first Ranji ton. Truly memorable: Samant HYDERABAD: Mumbai opener and centurion Vinayak Samant said that it was a special feeling to score a century in the Ranji Trophy final especially considering the fact that you have the likes of Sachin Tendulkar in the team. “Opening the innings was a challenge which I accepted. And I made necessary adjustments in my technique such as leaving the moving ball and offering a straight bat to the incoming balls. It has been a truly memorable innings for me,†said this 36-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman. “It was the team’s strategy to bat the whole day out as we wanted to give the bowlers some rest. We also were aware of the importance of second innings in such a prestigious final. There were no thoughts of any declaration,†Samant said to a query. Samant who played for Assam in Ranji Trophy for quite some time before coming back to his home State, said it was always a great feeling to play for one’s home State. “I am lucky to be a member of this Mumbai team,†he added. “It is every player’s dream to be a member of a Ranji Trophy winning squad and I am looking forward to cherish the moment when we are crowned champions,†the opener said. ************************************* Mumbai has been the much better team than UP this year.

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This is getting quite boring really.. How many titles will Bombay keep winning? Lets not forget India has 25 states and 7 union territories ( or whatever that number is).. They should also win every now and then.. This is horrible, if your'e not a Mumba-ite that is..:D

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A whole lot more. The two outstanding performers this season were Rahane and Dhawal, two of the youngest members of our squad. Other guys being groomed for the future like Iqbal Abdulla have so much talent, and Bombay U19s just won the last regional U19 tourney. With that calibre of youth, it'll be great to see who stands up to replace the old guard like Sairaj, Amol and Jaffer over the next decade or so.

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It was a tremendous achievement by UP to reach the finals once again. Their catching let them down on the opening day, else this could have been a lot closer. For a state with no big names in the past, no proper facilities, and lacking a strong cricket culture that places like Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore, Madras etc. possess to reach 3 out of the last 4 finals and win one of them is nothing short of extraordinary and a testament to a proper team spirit. Hopefully, these strong performances by UP coupled by the emergence of players like Kaif, Chawla, RP Singh, Raina, and P Kumar over the last few years will spur UP cricket to new heights and get the BCCI to invest more in the game there.

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Final, Day 5 Mumbai v Uttar Pradesh, Hyderabad, 5th day Mumbai complete 38th title win January 16, 2009 Mumbai 402 (Rohit 141, Nayar 99, Bhuvneshwar 5-78) and 367 (Samant 113, Rohit 108) beat Uttar Pradesh 245 (Shukla 99, Zaheer 7-54) and 281 (Bhuvneshwar 80, Kaif 72, Kulkarni 5-76) by 243 runs Scorecard and ball-by-ball details How they were out 386646.jpgWasim Jaffer and Vinayak Samant pose with the Ranji Trophy © Cricinfo Ltd Mumbai clinched their 38th Ranji Trophy title with about a session to spare on the final day, reaffirming their reputation as one of the most dominant domestic first-class sides - they have won over half the 75 editions of the tournament. They had all but sealed the result yesterday, with only the final rites to be completed on the last day. After having secured a 157-run first-innings lead, Mumbai had batted on and on to leave Uttar Pradesh so far behind that they couldn't even imagine making a comeback: they started the final day needing a virtually impossible 525 runs, but kept losing wickets regularly. This was the 42nd time Mumbai had made it to the Ranji Trophy final, and they have lost only four times. There were token stumbles towards the end when Mumbai spilled two catches when just one wicket from securing the title. The stand between Amir Khan and Praveen Gupta delayed the inevitable for 10.2 overs. The tea break was delayed during that period, and then had to be taken after the last pair stood firm for more than half an hour. At 3.21pm Dhawal Kulkarni got Gupta to edge to captain Wasim Jaffer to finish the match. It was a fitting mode of dismissal to bring the title home for Mumbai: Jaffer was the leading run-scorer in the season, and with that wicket Kulkarni became the joint leading wicket-taker. Kulkarni, who had been key to Mumbai's success in the league stages, took five wickets to reach 42 for the season and draw level with Saurashtra's Ravindra Jadeja. He started the day with the wicket of Shivakant Shukla, who guided the ball straight to Rohit Sharma at gully. He later got Suresh Raina, who went for a cut and edged to Sachin Tendulkar in the slips. Kulkarni came back for a second spell to wipe the tail off, taking the last three wickets to fall. Mohammad Kaif and Bhuvneshwar Kumar prevented a complete humiliation, though. From 55 for 4, they added 112 for the fifth wicket. Both of them scored comfortable half-centuries, but missed their hundreds. Kaif fell for 72, holing out to Amol Mazumdar, the substitute fielder, off Ramesh Powar. That dismissal ensured even Muzumdar, a dedicated servant of Mumbai cricket over the years who was dropped for this match, made a contribution to the victory. Bhuvneshwar, who had a great match with a five-for and 41 quick runs in the first innings, fell 20 short of a second-innings century when he was adjudged caught behind off Kulkarni. Replays indicated there might have been a gap between the bat and ball. The dismissal embodied the kind of luck UP had had over the last four days, with opposition edges falling in safe areas and umpiring decisions not going their way. But more than their luck, UP had themselves to blame for their second loss in successive finals: they dropped four catches, missed two run-outs and a stumping. Rohit Sharma, in particular, cashed in on those chances, and became only the sixth man to score two centuries in a Ranji Trophy final. Another POV Mumbai win back their trophy V.V. Subrahmanyam Wins the tournament for a record 38th time in 75 editions Kaif and Bhuvneshwar offered some resistance Kulkarni finished with a five-wicket haul in the second innings 2009011756901701.jpgREIGNING SUPREME: The jubilant members of the Mumbai team after their historic win in the Ranji Trophy in Hyderabad on Friday. HYDERABAD: Mumbai reasserted its supremacy by winning the Ranji Trophy championship for the 38th time in 75 editions with a thumping 243-run victory over Uttar Pradesh on the last day of the final at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium here on Friday. With this, Mumbai have won the title one time more than all the other winners put together. The Mumbai camp’s professed reason for not declaring its second innings on Thursday was to provide adequate rest to its bowlers. And on Friday, the bowlers justified the move as they bowled out Uttar Pradesh for 281 with a professional approach. Setback Uttar Pradesh’s goal was to salvage a draw. But its campaign suffered a setback in the sixth over when opener Shivakant Shukla slashed at a perfect out-swinger from Dhawal Kulkarni and was caught smartly at slip by Rohit Sharma. In the next over, Zaheer Khan produced a beauty which swung back late to rattle Tanmay Srivastava’s stumps. Then Suresh Raina was caught by Sachin Tendulkar at first slip off Kulkarni as U.P. was reduced to 53 for three. Ajit Agarkar also joined the act as he forced Parvinder Singh to snick to Vinay Samant. This was Samant’s 300th victim in the Ranji Trophy (270 catches and 30 stumpings). U.P. skipper Mohd. Kaif (72, 173 minutes, 124 balls, 14 x 4) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (80, 132b, 14x4) added 112 runs for the fifth wicket to raise hopes of a draw. Kaif loses patience But Kaif lost patience and stepped out to loft off-spinner Ramesh Powar and holed out to deep mid-on. The burly Powar picked up two more wickets — Piyush Chawla who caught at slip by Wasim Jaffer and in the same over Praveen Kumar slashed straight to Abhishek Nayar at point. Tendulkar failed to react in time to latch on to a difficult chance at slip offered by Bhuvneshwar (then on 79) off Dhaval Kulkarni. However, the lapse did not prove costly as the 18-year-old added just one more run before he was caught by Samant off Kulkarni. Bhuvneshwar ended the Ranji season in style with 31wickets and 407 runs. He batted much better than most of the reputed players and his square-drives had class and authority. Inevitable delayed The beer bottles in the dressing room got extra chilled as the last UP pair delayed the inevitable. Tendulkar had a chance to produce the winning moment but in the third ball off his first over, substitute Sahil Kukreja at second slip dropped Amir Khan with U.P. on 270 for nine. Finally, when Kulkarni dismissed Praveen Gupta to finish with a five-wicket haul, it was an apt finish to Mumbai’s near-perfect season as the bowler completed a fiver on the last ball to become the joint highest wicket-taker in the Ranji Trophy this year. While the final touches to Mumbai’s 38th title were given by the 20-year-old Kulkarni in his debut year, it was unavoidable that Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan hogged the limelight in the final fortnight of the tournament because of their performances and their star status. Team effort But on Friday, the focus was on the other stand-out performers of the season. Minutes after Kulkarni was mobbed by the squad, captain Wasim Jaffer was holding up the famous silverware. For Jaffer, it was a double delight — he hadn’t just led the team to the title in his first season as captain but was also the chief architect of the triumph. By scoring 1260 runs in 10 games, he sat comfortably on the top of the list of run-getters, with his team mate Ajinkya Rahane, all of 20, in second place with 1089 runs. Add to that list the 21-year-old Rohit Sharma, who matched Tendulkar’s record of scoring two hundreds in the final, and Mumbai have several reasons to smile going forward. Such was the mood in the dressing room that even juniors in the side drenched Tendulkar during the post-win celebration, as he and Zaheer became one of the boys, shrieking and whistling in the team bus. With a flight to catch, the victorious team were in a hurry to leave the stadium but constant phone calls from Mumbai Cricket Association officials meant a big reception and a long night of celebration was planned back home. Skipper Jaffer, always politically correct, was on the ball when he said that it was team effort that had made them play at their clinical best this season. “We batted and bowled well all through the season. If one talks about this match, I want to say that the two dropped catches made the difference (in the first innings when Sharma was handed two life-lines after Mumbai were 55 for four). After that Rohit and Abhishek Nayar played sensible Cricket and we were back in the game,†he said. Planning for tournament Having made the Ranji Trophy final a one-sided affair, first-time captain Wasim Jaffer's side ended the tournament without a defeat, though they came close to tasting one in the League phase against Saurashtra. Chasing an improbable target of 525 in a maximum of 90 overs, Uttar Pradesh were bowled out for 281 in the first over after the tea break, to hand Mumbai a 243-run win. As for Md Kaif's side, it finished second best in the final for the second straight year. It was a sweet victory for Mumbai after their pride had taken a beating when they failed to make the knockouts last season. The selectors handed over the captaincy to Wasim Jaffer while coach Praveen Amre was retained. Planning began with the Buchi Babu tournament in Chennai in August. They identified the combinations that they thought would work in the Ranji Trophy. Mumbai were unshakable throughout the season, playing with purpose as they sought to reclaim the title. The only team that looked like possessing the firepower to challenge Mumbai were Tamil Nadu, but they were eliminated by UP in the semis. While there have been many who have contributed to the team's successful run till the final, Mumbai are hugely indebted to India pacer Zaheer Khan for helping them regain the title while Rohit Sharma proved his mettle with two stylish centuries. But it was Zaheer's seven first innings wickets following Sharma's fighting partnership with Abhishek Nayar that turned the match. UP, who dominated just one session in the game — the pre-lunch session on the opening day when they had Mumbai at 55 for four, were otherwise not in the reckoning. Required to score at nearly 6 an over on the final day, UP lost wickets regularly. Mumbai did not push hard. Wickets fell because of the batsmen's mistakes as they went for the shots. Dhawal Kulkarni, the medium-pacer who sticks to a steady, wicket-to-wicket line, ended his maiden Ranji season with his fourth five-wicket haul. Barring Kaif and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, both of whom scored half-centuries and the late resistance by Md Amir Khan and Praveen Gupta, UP did little to trouble Mumbai. Looking ahead The scene in the UP dressing room was naturally subdued. For the second time in two years, the team had fallen at the final hurdle, but there were still several positives to take from the season. Mohammad Kaif, who scored a fine 72 on Friday to deny Mumbai an early win, hoped that next year they would be able to take the crucial last step. When asked about the game, he took out a piece of paper. “I’ve written down points to ponder about from this game. I hope we will be able to change some things in the next season.†Reminded about Sharma’s dropped catch in the first innings, he just grimaced. In the final analysis, Kaif’s rare misses had made the big difference. But the UP captain didn’t want to think about them. “It is cricket, such things happen, drop me if you want,†he said, before adding with a benevolent smile as he headed towards the team bus: “Chalo, maaf karo. (Okay forgive me, let’s move on).â€

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How Mumbai won it, point by point Devendra Pandey Posted: Jan 17, 2009 at 0012 hrs IST Hyderabad: It's a maidan incentive that old-school coaches have had in place for years. A young Sachin Tendulkar won several coins his coach Ramakant Achrekar placed on his stumps, given to the batsman if he kept the bowlers out. In his debut season as captain, Wasim Jaffer put something similar in place. Not only did Jaffer and Praveen Amre reward performers in the team with cash awards, they also formulated a ranking system for the season. “Jaffer came up with this system and we adopted it on an experimental basis at the start of the season. We wanted to see how the players would react as we were not sure if they would take it seriously,” Amre told The Indian Express. Points were allotted for runs scored, wickets taken and catches held. A catch got a player one point, a score of 60-plus meant two points and a century meant three in the kitty. A five-wicket haul was equivalent to a century. Even the bench was made a part of the system, with cheering from the sidelines and lending a helping hand during net sessions earning points too. But the system wasn’t blindly based on statistics. A crucial knock, or an important breakthrough would be graded to merit. “Ramesh Powar played a match-saving knock of 23 off 171 balls against Saurashtra. He got the same points as a centurion would have,” Amre said. After each match, ranking updates would be announced in the dressing room. Gradually, that became a much-awaited event. Besides the applause, there were leg-pulling sessions and mock debates after the announcement of the ‘results’. “Basically this was a team-building exercise. We had to play constantly for 80 days, so we needed something to lighten the mood in the dressing room,” says Amre. Ajinkya Rahane, who was ranked No 1 for the first two weeks, said the system made the team more competitive. “It was the only time I got a chance to trump my seniors,” the batsman, who finished the season with 1089 runs, said. Asked who the eventual winner was, Amre smiled before revealing the name: Wasim Jaffer. There were loud claps and no debates when Jaffer’s name was announced in the dressing room. But since the man who formulated the system finished up as the winner, it’s likely that a leg-pulling session followed. ************************************************************ Pravin Amre 'There were no shortcuts' Interview by Nagraj Gollapudi January 16, 2009 Pravin Amre never won the Ranji Trophy as a player, but in his three years as Mumbai's coach he has won the Ranji title twice. Surely, the journey has not been smooth, but he has been able to get the best out of the Mumbai outfit once again. He shares Mumbai's journey to their 38th Ranji crown Two years ago when you won for the first time, you said you should be judged down the line, and not over one season. You must be a proud man now? This was something special, especially after last year's disappointment. We knew Mumbai is a champion side, but I still had a role to play: preparing advance training modules, keeping the dressing-room atmosphere positive, picking a balanced team every game, taking bold decisions. The journey was terrific. It is great to see that happiness on each and every face. The icing on the cake was sharing the moment with Sachin [Tendulkar] and Zaheer [Khan], and they also enjoyed the victory. Last evening we had a team dinner. Sachin congratulated each and ever member of the team for working hard and playing a part in winning the title. He said, 'Zaheer and I only joined in the semi-finals, but you were the guys who made us win the title.' He thanked me for putting in the hard work behind the scenes, and Wasim [Jaffer] for leading from the front. What were the mistakes from last year that you eliminated? I had spoken to John Buchanan few years ago. He was in a similar position as me - everyone in Australia wants the team to be champions always. Since Buchanan's team had a lot of star players I checked with him how he handled them in particular. The first thing Buchanan told me was I needed to keep my ego in the back pocket. That has helped me a lot in handling the Mumbai team. Without disturbing the egos of the star players, I had to get the best out of them. That was the most difficult thing. What were the challenges before the season had commenced? The first challenge was to get a proper composition: whether to go with six batsmen or with five bowlers. Last year we fell short by a bowler so we added one this time, and probably that helped us to bowl out the opposition twice maximum times. Thanks to Dilip Vengsarkar we travelled to Anantapur to play practice games against Andhra as it was raining in Mumbai. Even if we lost three out of the four games it was a very important to get into the rhythm after the off-season. Then we lost to Saurashtra in Buchi Babu, and the critics started to pan us. But it did not matter to me. In those pre-season matches I was working out the individual strengths. At the same time the management decided that we would continue with only those who performed in Anantapur first and then in Buchi Babu. We wanted performers to help us get outright victories. Another key thing was I wanted Wasim to get a feel of his players as we had decided to appoint him the captain for the new season. That appointment might have raised a few eyebrows especially as Amol Muzumdar was a Ranji-winning captain two years ago, and the side's highest run-getter last year. So what was the idea behind replacing him with Jaffer? Firstly I must give credit to Wasim for staying with Mumbai. Before the season began Maharashtra had given him an offer and were willing to pay him any amount of money, but he opted to stay with Mumbai. That was the wisest decision he took as he would have ended up playing only league games there. Now he has won the Ranji Trophy, and also topped the run charts. Personally I felt Wasim, too, was going through a lean phase as he had failed at the international level, but he still had it in him to play for the country and needed to prove himself once again on the domestic circuit. He is a quality opening batsman, and we felt that the additional responsibility would motivate him further. So we dragged him out of the comfort zone to become more responsible for himself and the team. Was there a vision plan after last year's exit? I knew we had talented players who could go to the next level. If you look properly we have had the same team mostly - the only difference has been we started more intelligently this season. I got TA Sekar to screen a pool of 25 fast bowlers and categorise them as 'potential', 'raw', 'developing', or 'flawed'. As a coach I shared my work with him, and that part was very important. For the first time the management knew there were back-up bowlers, which encouraged a healthy competition. The journey was terrific. It is great to see that happiness on each and every face. The icing on the cake was sharing the moment with Sachin [Tendulkar] and Zaheer [Khan], and they also enjoyed the victory Travel was going to be another impediment if not handled properly. If we played 10 games counting the final that would mean a total of 41 playing days, about 65 including the travel. That was a tough itinerary as, at times, there was only a two-day gap between matches. That meant the bowlers would not get enough time for recovery, so we had to shuffle them. Was there any form of team-building exercise you worked on? Every player voted after every game for a Man of the Match, and I would declare the name so the player would know he had his colleagues' support. Then I decided that if any player was late, not only him but the entire team would play the fine because I wanted them to think it was their team and everyone needed to be responsible. Around the halfway mark in the league stage you were forced to follow on against Saurashtra, and you just about managed to avoid defeat. Was there any complacency after two outright victories? That was the toughest game although we saved it in the end. But whatever happened was good, and I told the boys that we were much better than the result showed. And when your last pair can bat for a long time like Usman [Malvi] and Dhawal [Kulkarni] did in the first innings, and then Ramesh [Powar] played an uncharacteristic 171-ball 23 in the final innings, I knew my team was back on the track. The presence of Tendulkar in the dressing room must have been a welcome change for you? Once he was there my job was that of the caretaker. He should communicate with the players more as he has tremendous passion for Mumbai and its cricket, and is always concerned about its welfare. Even after the Saurashtra game he was there in the nets to boost our morale. So with him around. I could be relieved and didn't need to cover every point. His presence was important. Apparently Tendulkar had an honest chat with the entire squad after the semi-final against Saurashta. What was his message before the final? We had scored 647, but still struggled to bowl out Saurashtra. We were lucky to escape as the rain arrived just half hour after play was called off on the final afternoon otherwise we would have missed out. Sachin's message was that if we had to be real champions the attitude and approach had to be important. For that we needed to be more fearless. At times in the semis, he pointed out, players were going through motions but a champion side always dictates the events. Last year you pointed fingers at the batsmen for playing the wrong shots. How did you work on that? I made my own plans on how each batsman would contribute. The way they got out never helped the team. There were not many hundreds, and only Amol got 500-plus runs. This year you have two batsmen - Wasim and Ajinkya [Rahane] - who crossed 1000 after eight games. I pointed to each batsman which areas they were getting out in, which strokes they were more susceptible to playing around a particular score in their innings, and how they could nullify the mistakes to get to the target of hundred. We also decided that four batsmen should score at lease 800 each in the season. But more importantly we put a challenge to them by letting them know they would get four innings to grab the opportunity, do well for himself, and do well for the team. "It just means Mumbai cricket has not gone down. If we had lost, our cricket would have gone back by three years. I vouched that each and every member worked hard. There were no shortcuts." © Getty Images As for the bowlers the target for the seniors was to achieve a minimum count of 25 victims, but I knew this would be difficult. The other area, where we found ourselves really weak, was in the fielding, so we worked hard on that, especially on our slip catching. We had high-intensity sessions of at least 50 catches each, which helped us a lot. Was dropping Amol - the first time ever in his career that he has been benched after being named in the 15 - was the most difficult decision of your coaching career? That was very, very tough. It was also emotional as we had won the Ranji title under him two years ago. That was my first year as coach and it was a very, very special moment for me, too, because I had never won the title during my playing days. But this time around we had to take the decision for nothing else but winning the tournament. There were only two other names apart from Amol's - Abhishek [Nayar] and Sairaj [bahutule]. Abhishek had been batting well, and was giving us that extra balance. The main reason behind finally opting for Sai was because this was the first time in two years that we were playing a five-day game. We thought we might need a second spinner, and did not want to take a chance. Also Sachin was batting at No. 4, Amol's position. It was a tricky thing, conveying the message to him. The timing was important so as to not break his confidence. In the end it went fine. Both me and Wasim went to his room on the eve of the game, and told him. Obviously he was disappointed, but agreed his was not an extraordinary season but he could still play a part. But if the seniors felt they needed to drop him, he would take that on the chin. Is it true that Jaffer initially opposed the idea of opening with Samant? Forget him, if I had proposed it to any other senior he would have first made sure I was actually serious. But I was, so I asked Wasim to think about it. In end it worked out. Didn't it? What does the victory mean for you? It just means Mumbai cricket has not gone down. If we had lost, our cricket would have gone back by three years. I vouched that each and every member worked hard. There were no shortcuts. ******************************************************* Up close and jovial Sriram Veera January 16, 2009 In the stands a lady in a burkha glided towards the far end to sit in the shade. In the tier above the sightscreen, where final touches were still being done to the structure, a labourer walked across alone with a cement bag. The rest of the crowd, sparse but very vocal, were chanting the Indian fan's mantra - "Sachin … Sachin!". In the middle, the game, with Uttar Pradesh struggling at nine wickets down, was wobbling towards its death. Tendulkar turned around towards the crowd and moved his arm as if bowling a leg break. The crowd roared. They have wanted him to bowl for a while now. Tendulkar pointed to Wasim Jaffer, Mumbai's captain standing next to him in the slips, and suggested in jest that it was up to him. The crowd roared again. The next over, Tendulkar bowled. In the UP dressing room Mohammad Kaif led the laughter. The third delivery whirred in the air invitingly and Amir Khan edged his drive to first slip where Sahil Kukreja spilled it. The crowd sighed. It was pure theatre. More laughter broke out in both the dressing rooms. The tea break intervened. In the UP area, Parvinder Singh, one of the semi-final heroes, turned philosophical, sipping his tea. "Bhai sahab, jo bolta hai na 'luck doesn't play a part in cricket', voh bewakoof hai." Parvinder started his cricket seven years back and was in and out of the side before getting his first full season this year and hopefully has sealed his spot with a big ton in the semi-final. He was also referring to the dropped chances given to the centurion Rohit Sharma in the first innings and the numerous times the ball went past the edge, but it was a sort of a statement on his own career as well. "I will make sure I play for UP at this level as long as possible," he said. Outside, a member of the UP contingent promised reporters he would bring more of the special made-only-in Allahabad "Dohra", an indigenous preparation of tobacco. Sudeep Tyagi,the highest wicket-taker last year but out of the playing XInow, struggling to come to terms with his changed action, spoke about his intended visit to the National Cricket Academy this week and about his hope for a better new year. In the Mumbai area, everyone eagerly waited for the game to end. The celebration had started last evening in the hotel. 'Singh is Kinng', a popular Hindi film number, blared as players, Tendulkar included,Tendulkar danced around. And today Mumbai's 38th Ranji triumph came at 3.22 pm when Praveen Gupta, who hit the winning runs in the semi-final, edged to Kukreja, who didn't make any mistake this time. And the usual melee ensued. Stumps were uprooted from the earth for souvenirs and the Mumbai dressing room emptied on to the playing field. Kaif rushed out of the dressing room and led his team to shake hands with Mumbai's players. And then, more of the same. Camera 'no 7' broke down just before the prize ceremony. Another camera was hurriedly brought in and the show continued. UP retreated and Mumbai continued with their Kodak moment. More laughter and camera flashes. The frenzy continued in the dressing room where champagne bubbled and Sula wine and beer drenched the floor. But there was a flight to catch and the players filed out one by one to the team bus. More Tendulkar moments. Some happy, some well … A Mumbai player was talking to a reporter when Tendulkar emerged from the room. A security guard tried to clear the way but unknowingly shoved the player, who was talking to a reporter, out of the way. The player stumbled, held his balance some how, shrugged his shoulder, smiled and stepped aside. It comes with the territory of playing with a legend. A crowd had gathered outside waiting to catch a glimpse of their Tendulkar. And they erupted at the sight of their beloved. Tendulkar waved. The crowd grew delirious. All was well with the world. ******************************************************** UP's Point of view: Mohammad Kaif 'Now we know how to win' Interview by Sriram Veera January 16, 2009 Uttar Pradesh will no doubt be heartbroken by the missed opportunity in this year's Ranji Trophy final, after suffering their second loss in successive finals. Captain Mohammad Kaif believes it still is a very huge achievement nonetheless, as he discusses the positives to take from this season 322368.jpg"Now when you talk about Mumbai, you need to mention UP as well in domestic cricket"© Getty Images Wasim Jaffer talked about the two catches you dropped in the first innings as turning point. Hold me responsible. Drop me if you want! Chalo mujhe maaf karo. Cricket hai. (Forgive me! It's cricket.) Others too dropped catches and missed stumpings. I think that if we had scored a few more runs and kept the lead down from 157, it would have been close. We made a mistake of respecting the bowlers too seriously in the first innings and batted slowly. So we came back today with a plan of winning. It didn't go that way of course, but we tried. Three finals in the last four years. How big an achievement is it for UP? In my eyes, a very huge achievement. The UP record in the past has not been great. We won only once three years back; earlier we were not one of the big sides. Now when you talk about Mumbai, you need to mention UP as well in domestic cricket. UP don't have many facilities. Your achievement is despite the system. When will the situation change? Not sure. Hopefully in the future. We are getting things organized slowly. Now we have a coach, a physio and a manager. We didn't have them before. Even in the year when we won, we didn't have a physio. I wish we will have the same facilities like other big teams have. They have gyms, proper nets, videotaping facilities. Why do you think it is in this state? Maybe because we were not the best side. We were not winning anything. Now we know how to win and what the things are required to form a good side. Things are changing back home slowly. I had to call one guy from Madhya Pradesh, Rathore, only for the final to look after the boys, during the year we won. There is talk of too much politics being in the system... In UP, well I don't need to tell you. You all know what it is. Probably, you want to hear it from me as a captain which is fine. You know about the good things, the bad things, politics, how players come from, how they get picked . We have some difficulties at the under-age levels. Hopefully the selection criteria and the infrastructure will improve. If I turn the question around and ask you that if you are on the administration side, what things will you look into? Infrastructure and proper selection at the under-age levels, in the 30-member squad and give more chances to the players you finally pick. That's what I have been trying to do as a captain as well. For example, Parvinder Singh - he has been playing for seven years but he was not able to get support from the management and the players and never felt at home. But this time, he has played his first full season. I assured him that he would get five to six games, but he had to show us what he could do. He didn't start well, but grew in confidence as he knew if he got out, he would have some support in the dressing room and he would get more chances. That has worked. He delivered for us. How difficult it is to captain this side full of diverse characters and strong personalities? Yeah you need to know about their nature. Sometimes you've got to be hard, sometimes you've got to be soft, and know how to guide the younger boys. There is a group of young inexperienced guys on one hand, while there are some who can be at times a touch difficult. Any worries? What you see of them is not how I see. All I need is commitment once they enter the ground and I get it. That's all I am bothered about. Have you enjoyed the captaincy? Yeah. At times there is fatigue and stuff like that because of non-stop cricket. People think I can do a good job and I am happy that I have been able to work with the young guys and get to three finals. What are the positives from this season? The allrounder Bhuvneshwar has been a find. Bhuveneshwar, yes, and the whole team has done well actually - Parvinder Singh, Shivakant Shukla. As a captain I look things differently. Praveen Gupta is a good bowler. Sometimes, in a match, you need to keep switching plans. You cannot give a big spell to a bowler. So someone like Praveen has not got a chance to bowl big spells compared to Piyush [Chawla], Praveen [Kumar], RP [singh]. To me, all are equal. Our strength in the past few years was our bowling. But this season our batsmen have clicked and we have chased some big scores. So the team is looking good allround. Moving to your career, how and where do you see it going now? I am not sure. If you ask the selectors they will give you a better idea. To me, all I can do is just to score runs. Some people have called you a very unlucky Indian cricketer, in terms of opportunities given to you. Would you agree? Sometimes there are stages in your career you feel when you are getting runs and you still get dropped. I scored 91 against England and was dropped for the next match. In West Indies, I scored 146 not out in a Test match [in 2006], batted only three innings after that and never played again. It's disappointing. Players who were getting dropped are coming back. But I haven't made a comeback in more than two years. It's been frustrating and very tough. Have you got the answer to the question, why you have been dropped? You can't ask those questions as a player. Selectors have not spoken to me. When you are dropping someone you need to know in what area you need to work on. That's how it's supposed to be. You need to be more transparent. If I am not good enough, just tell me on the face and I will work hard on those areas. It will help that player and at the same time to the team also na? Are you still hopeful of the India cap or have you stopped thinking about it? No, I am still hopeful. I am not done.

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‘BCCI all for sporting tracks’ For the first time, the BCCI will give CDs of all Ranji Trophy matches to the five zonal curators and ask them to look into the behaviour of pitches. Excerpts from an interview with Daljit Singh, chairman, pitches and grounds committee. More... ‘BCCI all for sporting tracks’ G Krishnan, Hindustan Times January 19, 2009 First Published: 13:00 IST(19/1/2009) Last Updated: 01:34 IST(19/1/2009) For the first time, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) will give CDs of all Ranji Trophy matches to the five zonal curators and ask them to look into the behaviour of pitches. Also high on the agenda is to make each association identify at least four first-class centres that can hold matches on a rotational basis. Excerpts from an interview with Daljit Singh, chairman, pitches and grounds committee: Are you satisfied with the way pitches were prepared this season? Last year, we played the Ranji final at a neutral venue for the first time and everyone appreciated it. We should give this (concept) time. I agree the pitches for the semifinals were in favour of the batsmen. But the quarters were played on sporting tracks. Previously, we only saw fence hitting by the batsmen in the first three or four games. In the next half, there were dramatic changes in the pitches as the teams faced promotion/relegation. The board has now put its foot down on this. Why is nothing being done to provide sporting pitches? The BCCI is thinking of certifying curators and they will be accountable. A certain element of home advantage is acceptable but it should not be blatant. Shouldn’t youngsters be made to play on bouncy pitches? We are paying too much attention to senior cricket. If we can rear our juniors on bouncy, hard wickets, their mindset will be different. I know of India under-19 teams wanting to play only on turning tracks at home. At this level, they should be playing on all kinds of pitches. Like the Karnataka State Cricket Association, should foreign help be taken to prepare pitches? It is not a good idea. You cannot prepare a pitch 4-5 days before a game. You need 6-8 weeks. Foreigners are not aware of local conditions besides communication with the groundsmen is a problem. What is the way ahead? The BCCI has published a guidebook for groundsmen and it talks about what goes into the preparation of a pitch, its maintenance and what needs to be done to preserve it after a match.

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Ranji Tales International touch at Ranji C Rajshekhar RaoMonday, January 19, 2009 2:16 IST Email New Delhi: The just concluded Ranji Trophy final may not have been a thrilling contest, but it still came across as a whiff of fresh air in the modern era of packed international calendars that don't guarantee top class cricket. It is not often that we see a domestic fixture featuring so many players with international experience, and the presence of the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan only increased the profile of the championship. Mumbai scored a comfortable 243-run victory over Uttar Pradesh in a match that saw a total of 12 players who have played international cricket. The importance of such big names figuring in domestic cricket can not be overstated, but it is not just the players who are close to selection who stand to gain from such performances but also those on the two extremes of the scale -- the youngest lot and the most experienced ones. VVS Laxman, who has been through the rigmaroles of different levels of the game, is one who swears by first-class cricket and feels any success against big stars can go a long way in boosting the confidence of young players. "It is a great learning experience for young bowlers like Bhuvneshwar (Kumar) to dismiss greats like Sachin (Tendulkar) in the final of the Ranji Trophy. Playing in the final is a big occasion for any youngster and doing well and getting the prize wicket of Sachin will give him lot of confidence for the future," said Laxman about the 18-year-old Uttar Pradesh seamer who got rid of Tendulkar for a duck in the first innings. Laxman, who has played 102 Tests, said even the stars gain valuable practice and keep match fit. "By playing in these matches, top international players contribute to their team's success and also share their experiences with teammates and help in their growth," said the 34-year-old who is famous for his wristy shots. "Also, let us not forget that the opposition indirectly learns by watching these players," added Laxman. But what about those who have played for the country, but don't stand a realistic chance of a comeback in the near future? "Luckily motivation has never been an issue with me. I know it sounds clich餠but I love playing the game and would continue playing for as long as I'm enjoying it," said Delhi skipper Aakash Chopra, whose fine run through last year could not earn him a comeback to the national squad as Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir had entrenched themselves at the top in all forms of the game. "From time to time it gets very frustrating not to find my name in the national squad, but then there's nothing I can do about that. So you make peace with the circumstances and move on," said Chopra, who has written a book on domestic cricket titled Beyond the Blues about his experiences during the domestic season last year that saw him score 1339 runs. But he is not too excited about this season. UP's upward climb Without anything close to adequate and effective infrastructure, Uttar Pradesh may have been writing a fairy-tale script in the Ranji Trophy over the last four seasons — they won in 2006 and have been runners-up twice since then. Much as UP’s Ranji success owes to the purely human factor — good coaching, good captaincy and a squad of very talented young cricketers with boundless enthusiasm and vaulting ambition — this is ultimately a story of Cricket itself, and how cricket ties itself in with the world around. C.L.R. James’s Beyond a Boundary — a cricket book that gave the world the aphorism “What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?” — became a legend because it showed just how cricket takes itself beyond its own boundaries. It wasn’t just a simple set of power equations between coloniser and colonised, between master and servant, between one class and another. James’s book also underscores for us something that we tend to forget — that the heart of cricket lies in first-class cricket. Not surprisingly, the best of classic cricket literature pertains to the domestic game. If cricket, like any other sport, is a spectacle with an open-ended narrative, it is time to once more enjoy first-class cricket in its own right. Undoubtedly, domestic cricket is the breeding and testing ground for international players. But it is much more. For instance, UP’s recent success is nuanced by the shifting power balance within the sociology of the state’s cricket. Just as there is an interesting and intriguing psycho-sociological story behind the body language on the pitch, there is entertainment and education in the way Mohammed Kaif, who made his own international debut in 2000 having risen from similar circumstances, is now marshalling his juniors. If he says these boys need encouragement to do better, then encouragement they must get. And even if they don’t deliver, the game would still be spectacular. Mumbai: A season to cherish Mumbai: Mumbai’s cricketers, who have made a remarkable impression this season, have been amply rewarded. Winning the Ranji Trophy for the 38th time was the ultimate prize. Before Wasim Jaffer’s team beat Uttar Pradesh in the final on Friday, the under-19 team had won the Cooch Behar Trophy by crushing Punjab. The under-22 team went down to Punjab in the final and the under-16 team lost a close semifinal against Delhi. From Monday onwards, University of Mumbai will lock horns with SRM, Tamil Nadu, in the final of the Rohinton Baria Cup here. Dedicated approach The teams picked by distinguished cricketers, trained by dedicated coaches (Praveen Amre, Satish Samant (u-19), Pradeep Sundaram (u-22), Ravi Kulkarni (u-16) and Vilas Godbole (University)), were provided with match practice and excellent facilities and specialised camps have returned desired results. “ “Mumbai dominated the games right through the season, except for a one-off bad game against Saurashtra at Rajkot,” said Dilip Vengsarkar, former chairman of the Mumbai selection committee and Vice-Preisdent of the association. On Friday evening, MCA’s joint honorary secretary Hemant Waingankar presented a special bouquet to Jaffer at the Mumbai airport. The MCA President Sharad Pawar has announced a bonus of Rs. 60 lakh to the team. The Mumbai team will also receive Rs. 60 lakh as prize money from the BCCI for winning the national championship. Jaffer, who led from the front, had a great run scoring 1260 runs and taking 20 catches in ten matches. The other distinguished performers were Ajinkya Rahane (1089 runs and 10 catches), Rohit Sharma (747 runs, including a century in each innings of the final), Dhawal Kulkarni (42 wickets) and Vinayak Samant (471 runs, 37 catches and 3 stumpings) and Ramesh Powar (34 wickets). Mumbai fielded in all 21 players in ten matches with Jaffer, Rahane and Samant playing in all ten. Rahane has played two seasons and Kulkarni, one. Overall,Ranji, an uninspiring grind MUMBAI: In retrospect, it would be fair to conclude that it wasn’t the Indian Premier League (IPL) or international cricket that sapped India’s premier domestic tournament, the Ranji Trophy, of any interest. Instead, it was the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s listless planning that failed to make Ranji matches happening. While taking nothing away from Mumbai who are celebrating their 38th title win after batting Uttar Pradesh out of the final, it is pertinent to note that the 76 days of cricket the tournament witnessed - for the record played out at 23 different venues across the country - was uninspiring. There were flashes of brilliance though. Cheteshwar Pujara’s century in the quarter-final at Mumbai, Shivakant Shukla’s 178 in the semi-final at Nagpur, nine seven-wicket hauls including that of Basanth Mohanty in the highly entertaining match between Orissa and Punjab and Ravindra Jadeja’s performances that make him the all-rounder of the year. The rest of the tournament spoke harshly about the fast diminishing standard of India’s domestic circuit. ToI takes a look at what all was appalling. Flat pitches The promise of making the 22-yard strip more exciting failed disastrously. The two semi-finals were played at Nagpur and Chennai, respectively. At both venues, tracks remained flat at best, an absolute downer if seen in the backdrop of the neutral venue theory proposed to improve the quality of cricket. Out of the 56 matches, 29 yielded a result and it should be taken into account that most venues where matches ended in a result, weren’t the leading international stadiums. Instead, lesser known grounds in Valsad, Ratnagiri, Mysore, Bhubhaneshwar, Ghaziabad and Cuttack delivered. No takers for overseas player Another BCCI decision which failed was one with respect to introducing one overseas player among the four guest players in each team. The rule dictated that cricketers who have played either 20 ODIs or 10 Test matches can only be invited, which in the end proved to be senseless. Three associations - Baroda (Dilhara Fernando), Bengal (Muttiah Muralitharan) and Maharashtra (Emanul Haq Jr) - went ahead and signed foreigners out of which only Haq Jr turned up. The rest were either deprived in terms of spending or did not have a choice. That Muralitharan couldn’t turn up for a single game for Bengal either suggests that Cricket Association of Bengal simply used the off-spinner’s name to publicize their campaign or that the star spinner simply wasn’t available. In any case, the BCCI needs to do a rethink. Semis of four days makes no sense The BCCI seems to be struggling to accommodate domestic cricket. If not, there is little reason to believe why the semi-finals were of four days duration and not five. Several players who were a part of the semi-finals admitted to the ToI that ‘‘four-day match doesn’t make any sense’’. It is understandable, they say, that matches throughout the season are played in four-days format to squeeze in the number of games but ‘‘at least the semi-finals of the tournament need to be for five days, simply because there can be a straight result". True. It makes no sense that the team entering the final does so by way of first innings lead. Five days can ensure a good match. Poor umpiring One thing that has unanimously been accepted this season, is that the level of umpiring in the Indian domestic circuit seems to be going from bad to worse. Amesh Saheba’s poor show in the semifinals between Mumbai and Saurashtra and again in the final at Hyderabad was the most glaring example. Net run-rate rule The net run-rate rule left players and coaches confused. Teams expressed dismay and surprise over the rule for the final which said if a team’s first innings was left incomplete, the winner would be decided on the run-rate. ‘‘Isn’t it starnge? If we score 700 off 200 overs and then UP are 150 for 9 in 30 overs, they will win. In a four-day or a five-day match, there’s no need to decide the winner on the basis of better run rate,’’ Mumbai skipper Wasim Jaffer said before the match. For the semi-final too, the BCCI guideline that the net run-rate calculated from previous games will decide the winner in a knockout game in case the first innings is not completed, did not go down well. Neutral venue Sachin Tendulkar gave his verdict on the neutral venue policy adopted by the BCCI, saying it made no sense. ‘‘You don’t have the atmosphere at a neutral venue. If you play home or away, you have the home crowd rooting for its team while the other side will be up against it. This is a part of the learning process for the young cricketers,’’ Tendulkar said. Despite having neutral venues, the board failed to provide sporting wickets which left the bowlers toiling away in the dust.

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‘Cricket is a way of life in Mumbai’ Like the champion sides from Mumbai in the past, the current squad led by Wasim Jaffer too has an immense sense of bonding, a lot of depth and the desire to excel. No wonder the team won its 38th Ranji title in Hyderabad recently. By S. Dinakar. 20090124501000401.jpgSkipper Wasim Jaffer with the Ranji Trophy. For the Mumbai players, the pride of playing for the team has remained undiminished. The side continues to conquer. Sunil Gavaskar recalled an interesting story the other day. It was about how the young cricketers of Bombay would, from the upper berths, listen to words of wisdom of the masters during the long train journeys of the Ranji Trophy team. Much of the talk in the lower berths, occupied by the seniors, would revolve around the game’s nuances, strategy, successes and failures. Even as the accomplished players discussed cricket over a game of cards, much knowledge would be passed on to the eager aspirants. Those times are behind us now. The teams, largely, fly to their destinations these days. The money in domestic cricket has increased vastly too. And Bombay has become Mumbai. However, certain things don’t change. Mumbai continues to win Ranji Trophy. The other afternoon in Hyderabad, Wasim Jaffer’s men nailed Mumbai’s 38th Ranji title. Importantly, the pride of playing for Mumbai has remained undiminished. The side continues to conquer. The Ranji Trophy this season had the biggest stars parading their skills during the climactic stages. Sachin Tendulkar turned out for Mumbai, so did Zaheer Khan. Coach Pravin Amre highlighted the significance of Tendulkar, the legend, playing for Mumbai. He spoke about the younger crop benefiting from interacting with the maestro. And Zaheer, from his position at mid-off, was often seen walking up to the young Dhaval Kulkarni between deliveries and guiding the emerging paceman. Even as the seniors pull their weight in more ways than one, Mumbai continues to churn out bright young cricketers. Kulkarni harried and consumed several batsmen with his movement; he could do with a yard or two of pace though. The talented Rohit Sharma went back to the basics to script two match-winning hundreds against Uttar Pradesh’s well-rounded attack in the final. Under pressure, he thrived. Rohit’s century in the first innings — after the UP pacemen had made major inroads in the first session of the match — orchestrated a remarkable Mumbai recovery. His century in the second innings batted UP out of the match. Most Wickets A path-breaking India captain, Ajit Wadekar, comprehends much about Mumbai and its cricketing culture. He was also a famous Bombay skipper. “You know, we start by playing for the club in the Kanga League. You develop loyalty to the club. You bat on different types of wickets. You do not get batting tracks all the time. There are occasions when you bat on sticky wickets,†reveals Wadekar. 20090124501300706.jpg Then he says something significant. “All this makes our cricketers ‘khaduus’ (meaning hard to break).†20090124501000402.jpgThey bond so well... the Mumbai players celebrate their victory in the Ranji Trophy final in Hyderabad. ‘Khaduus’ is a quality that underlines Mumbai’s cricketing culture. Wadekar himself was ‘khaduus’ when he walked in at No. 8 against Saurashtra with Bombay reeling at 100-something for six. The elegant left-hander notched up a hundred. That effort, really, was the beginning of his cricketing journey. 20090124501300707.jpg Wadekar adds: “We learn to win from an early age. In Mumbai there are officially around 320 clubs and 110 tournaments. Then we have ‘galli’ cricket where the young cricketers pool in the money. Cricket is a way of life.†Most Runs The former India captain also throws light on the immense sense of bonding and the intense competition in the Mumbai team. “We used to have six or seven Indian players in the Bombay team. And there was this great desire to excel in front of your peers. There was a lot of depth in the ranks and we knew that if we missed a single game for Bombay our careers could be on the line. Money wasn’t there, but it did not matter. We enjoyed our cricket. There was this great spirit within the side. Even today, you can see the bonding in the Mumbai team. Cricketers help each other out.†In the triumphant campaign of 2008-09, the seniors in the Mumbai camp guided the younger bunch. Jaffer made a mountain of runs in an elegant fashion. He also inspired someone like No. 3 Ajinkhya Rahane to pile up big scores. The young Rahane has a few issues to sort out in his initial movement, but he times the ball sweetly and is hungry for runs. Mumbai dished out a positive brand of cricket — aggressive field placements were backed by well-directed bowling. The team played smart cricket, set the batsmen up. The team executed its plans neatly. Abhishek Nayar, who revived Mumbai in the first innings with Rohit in the final, has interesting possibilities. He is a punishing left-hander and a handy seam bowler; more importantly, he seems to relish the sniff of a combat. Along the campaign trail, cricketers of varying kinds put their hands up for Mumbai. Vinayak Samant, in his mid-30s, picked a perfect occasion to score his first Ranji hundred — in the final. The ploy to send the wicketkeeper-batsman as an opener worked. Ramesh Powar prised out batsmen with flight, dip and spin. He remains a grossly under-rated off-spinner. The seniors in the team displayed heart and commitment. Tendulkar braved fever to carve a stroke-filled century in the semifinal against Saurashtra in Chennai. Ajit Agarkar generated fiery pace and extracted disconcerting lift. Zaheer operated with rhythm and control for a title-winning seven-wicket innings haul in the Ranji final. Like most champion sides, Mumbai was ruthless in the composition of its XI. Amol Muzumdar may have been only a handful of runs behind Amarjit Kaypee’s record as the highest run-getter in Ranji history, but the senior batsman’s lack of form saw him being omitted for the final. Sahil Kukreja may have scored a double hundred against Delhi earlier in the season but the compulsion of finding the right balance in the XI ruled him out of the side in the climactic stages. There are several aspects to Mumbai’s cricket. Cricketers from other states aver that the players from Mumbai attempt to unsettle opposition through sledging. Indeed, Mumbai is the Australia — in its pomp — of Indian domestic cricket.

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