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Mumbai tumbled to an embarrassing exit from the Ranji Trophy 2013-14 on their home turf. Unlike the other defeats in the past, this exit strongly indicates the need for rebuilding the team. Sulakshan Kulkarni’s words after the defeat suggest that it is the need of the hour. Abhijit Banare explains…
Victories and defeats go hand in hand in a sport. Good teams know how to bounce back from defeats and present a determined look to script fightbacks. Mumbai definitely fall in that category. But, the fire to get the better of the opposition to win was missing during the recent Ranji Trophy 2013-14 quarter-final against Maharashtra. The spirited approach from the two batsmen, Vijay Zol and Kedar Jadhav, helped Maharashtra trump the hosts.
There have been instances in the past when Mumbai have fought back and kept their winning legacy intact whenever they have been in a spot. Mumbai have boasted of a formidable record of doing so; the records clearly indicate what they are made of. Yet the words of Sulakshan Kulkarni after the match gave a dreadful indication that they are nowhere close to living up to that legacy. When it came to the strategy of bowling on the last day, he was quick to put the onus on the captain Zaheer Khan, who took the call on the field. The reply to one of the key question too was interesting to note. When asked whether he was worried about the future of Mumbai cricket, the coach dished out a guarded response that the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) should look into it. He further clarified that it’s not just the Mumbai Ranji team but even the age group sides need a look in.
Through the season, Mumbai had lost the cream of their squad due to various reasons. The bench strength just didn’t instill confidence in taking the team through. It came down to even depending on a young Siddhesh Lad, who too was out with an injury. The batting, which was the most solid aspect of the defending champions, failed to get going. As Wasim Jaffer mentioned, a lot is to be desired when it comes to youngsters in the longest form of the game. With as many as 23 players and three captains in a season, Mumbai selectors have shown a lack of confidence e selectors in the team.
During the era of Ajit Agarkar and other senior players, Mumbai was considered as a team with great bench strength, which wasn’t really the ground reality. While the growth has stagnated, let’s not forget that the other teams have grown immensely as well. Maharashtra is a clear example. Despite playing in the least competitive of the three groups, this team has played and stuck together as a unit which was missing in Mumbai.
What to look forward to?
The revival process will begin only when the MCA and the concerned authorities feel convinced that there is indeed a dearth of talent required for the team to progress. The association should invest their faith in new talent along with the grooming the existing players in taking more responsibility. There is definitely a need to have a captain to lead them for the future. Going back to Jaffer doesn’t do the future any good. Someone like Abhishek Nayar has the right blend of experience and energy to take the team ahead, but was criticised for his captaincy during the game against Jharkhand. And the most important quality would be having the patience and faith for the results to materialise. Perhaps the team would lose a few matches and fail to win the premier tournament, but at least it would be a step ahead in the quest for rebuilding the team. The defeats will become big news for a team known for its rich legacy; yet this seems to be the only available solution to fix the problem in the long run. One of the toughest job these days in Mumbai cricket would be that of the Cricket Improvement Committee (CIC), to once again play a leading role in making the changes that matter.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)
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