Mascarenhas hopeful in swansong of sorts
The biggest day in the English domestic cricket calendar, as Dimitri Mascarenhas puts it, will also be his swansong. Not necessarily in all aspects of the game, but most certainly in the format in which he will always be best remembered. Hampshire's T20 captain retires at the end of the season, his future at the Ageas Bowl or elsewhere still to be resolved. He is in discussion with Rod Bransgrove, his chairman, about moving into coaching.
Echoing 007, he did emphasise that he will never say never again. Mascarenhas might just be enticed elsewhere in the world where T20 is played, which these days is just about everywhere. For the time being, he is concentrating on beating "a very strong" Surrey side and is insistent that Hampshire will not be over reliant on Michael Carberry, the man of the moment, who has scored 496 runs in the competition this season.
"I am glad we are playing in the second match at Edgbaston," Mascarenhas said. "It gives us time to have a look at the pitch. We are not wholly dependent on Carberry, as James Vince has been excellent in two of our matches, but he is our best player and despite being over 30, is only going to get better. They will make for a good partnership for the next three years. If I was picking the England team, Carbs would definitely be in it."
Mascarenhas will be 36 in October, his stubble is greying and his body is creaking. As it is, he reckons the Hampshire physio has prolonged his career by at least one season and possibly more than that. "I am going to miss T20 hugely. I love everything about it - batting, bowling and captaining these great lads. That is why I shall not turn down an offer from IPL or New Zealand or Bangladesh, where I have played before, but I haven't had one as yet."
Carberry, like Mascarenhas, spoke to Shane Warne when he watched Hampshire's quarter-final victory over Lancashire last week, and they expect to meet up with him again at Edgbaston if he is commentating on Finals Day. Did their former captain impart any particular advice? "I can't give away all my secrets," Carberry said. "But he has had a massive influence on me, launching my career and giving me freedom. The fact that I'm improving is the most important thing. James Vince and I bat together nicely but an England call-up is not on my mind."
There have been other successes. Chris Wood, now very much regarded as a specialist 'death bowler' at the end of the innings, as he emphasised in Cardiff at Flt20 Finals Day last year, has only ever played in a winning side on Finals Day. "I get told in advance if I am going to bowl in the closing overs. I think if one shies away from anything in sport, one is going to be on the end of a defeat. But taking wickets at the start of an innings is just as important as not conceding runs at the end.
"Trying to be a 'death bowler' when the opening batsmen are at the wicket would not work. I would not take wickets like that. I have picked up on the grapevine that the England selectors are looking for left arm bowlers. And my batting is improving - I want to play in all our Championship matches, not just half, and so I have to work on that."