'The wicket demanded an extra medium-pacer' - Amre
Mumbai went into this match without Nilesh Kulkarni, their leading wicket-taker this season and guiding force in the side's resurgence. And the decision to omit the man Amol Muzumdar, Mumbai's captain, calls one half of the best spinning duo in the country may become critical come the second innings, when the Wankhede Stadium pitch starts to deteriorate.
Yet Pravin Amre, the Mumbai coach, offered the argument that the pitch called for four medium-pacers rather than two spinners. "Sometimes, you have to take hard decisions. Definitely he was our main bowler," he told reporters at the end of the first day's play. "But you have to pick your team looking at the wicket. Even Bengal went with four medium-pacers [one of them Sourav Ganguly]. The wicket demanded an extra medium-pacer."
Kulkarni, who has been part of six Ranji Trophy finals, was replaced by Wilkin Mota. Sent in at No.3, Mota managed just eight before falling to Ranadeb Bose's canny medium pace. "Mota was playing as an allrounder, Sachin [Tendulkar] was batting at four and Amol was not padded. But we know that Mota batted extremely well against Punjab for his 75 and he can bat," explained Amre.
Amre was pleased with the way the day's play went, given the centuries from Tendulkar and Jaffer . "We are happy with the score, especially after being reduced to 14 for 2. It was nice to see 281 after losing the toss and batting first," he said. "The last two wickets went quickly otherwise we would have been in the driving seat. Overall, it was a good day at the office."
Both Amre and Jaffer felt the pitch wasn't very easy to bat on, with the ball seaming around all day. "The wicket was definitely doing something. Not many can bat the way Sachin did. Leave him out and you find that scoring was not easy," Jaffer said. Added Amre: "They [Bengal] bowled very well. Sourav [Ganguly] was bowling really well. Ranadeb [Bose] was bowling at a good length. The ball was seaming the whole day. Even somebody of Wasim's calibre had to bat six hours for his hundred."
Given the conditions and their bowling attack Mumbai are looking at a total of around 400, but with two quick wickets falling at the end of the day, the first hour tomorrow will be crucial and may well bear on the way this match pans out.