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August 27, 2005
The Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) has finally put an end to the speculation surrounding transfer of players to their state by selecting Sairaj Bahutule, the former Indian legspinner, Nilesh Kulkarni, the former Indian left-arm spinner, and Munaf Patel, the Mumbai fast bowler, for the forthcoming season.
Ajay Shirke, the president of the MCA, sanctioned the move while Pandurang Salgaonkar, the chairman of the selection committee, added that the rest of the team would be probably picked by the first week of September.
The signing of these three players is part of Maharashtra's revamp process as they gear up for the new season. Darren Holder, an Australian coach, was recently appointed as the Maharashtra Cricket Association's (MCA) cricket director and Chandrakant Pandit, the former Indian wicketkeeper and Ranji Trophy-winning Mumbai coach, was named as the coach.
The departure of these three players leaves a gaping void in the Mumbai bowling line-up, which was until recently the most varied attack in the country. Bahutule was a colossal presence both as their captain and strike bowler and led them to the Ranji Trophy in 2003-04, a season where he also finished as the highest wicket-taker in all first-class competetions. He also made valuable contributions with the bat lower down the order and his brand of captaincy, unassuming but efficient, helped galvanise the team. However friction with the establishment and a greater monetary allure probably prompted his decision to end a 15-year career with Mumbai and move on to neighbouring Maharashtra.
Though not as beguiling as Bahutule, Kulkarni played a crucial role with his left-arm spin delivered from a considerable height. The bounce that he extracted often undid batsmen and he was an asset on batsmen-friendly pitches, when he bowled marathon spells without conceding too many runs.
Munaf impressed in his 13 first-class matches so far, before he was blighted by injuries, and his extra pace was a huge boost to an already varied attack. But on his return from injury he will be bowling for a new team, which, considering the massive off-season revamp, might just turn out to be a dark horse in this year's Ranji Trophy.
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