Leaders of a revival
Although the final was won by two irresistible performances - Sachin Tendulkar's sublime century and Zaheer Khan's destructive bowling - there was more to Mumbai's revival from dust than two stars having a good match.
Like any good performance, Mumbai's road to victory was propped up a fine supporting cast. Perhaps the most significant display came when Mumbai were 0 for 5 against Baroda in the semi-finals, when Vinayak Samant scored a courageous 66, partnering Wilkin Mota and Nilesh Kularni down the order. Kulkarni scored only 17, but spent 145 minutes at the crease; Mota eked out 33 in 102 minutes. It was hard-fought innings like these which brought Mumbai this far. Here, Cricinfo picks out the men who did consistently well for Mumbai throughout the season.
Of the seven Ranji titles he's been part of, this was easily the most hard-earned and ultimately satisfactory for Muzumdar. As captain, in personal and team lows, he saw the bottom of the bottle and tasted the champagne. The bubbly Muzumdar found himself soaked in after a 132-run over Bengal at the Wankhede Stadium would have felt all the sweeter after the tears he shed when Mumbai went down to Punjab on a first-innings basis. Then, he had single-handedly carried them close to Punjab's total only to run out in freak circumstances. Having missed out on a Kolkata featherbed, Muzumdar ground out a century in a losing cause, and another failure in Hyderabad meant Mumbai were close to bowing out.
The revival came with a crucial half-century against Gujarat, which set the side up for a good total. Next came his second century of the season, against Rajasthan. But it was his 97 in the semi-final, on a greentop, that was the most decisive, as the the resultant first-innings lead gave Mumbai the cushion to fight back from that second-innings collapse. All through the season, Muzumdar contributed more than just runs: a rock-solid belief when the others were engulfed in doubted.
Matches: 8, Runs: 538, 100s: 2, 50s: 2, Average: 48.90
Ironically, Kulkarni was not a member of the team when they won the Ranji final; he had to sit out because of the presence of international stars and a last-minute preference to an allrounder in his place. That won't undermine his achievements or the kick start he gave to Mumbai's ruthless comeback. A ten-wicket match haul against Gujarat in the fourth match was a statement that Mumbai were not going down, that they could still dominate. He contributed in the next two wins, coming good in the second innings when they desperately needed bonus points. In a bowling line-up that was unstable, Kulkarni was the only certainty. Change, he could well testify to, is the only certainty.
Matches: 7, Wickets: 24, 5WI: 2, 10WM: 1
Having represented India A and the Under-19s and participating in the Challenger Trophy last year, Sharma, a mature young batsman, was ushered into the Mumbai side. The side was in some uncertainty over the composition of their middle order, but in Sharma they found a reliable hand. His 267-ball 205 against Gujarat was a picture of utter domination and on a surface that was to deteriorate so much that Gujarat, as a team, failed to score 200 even once. He scored three other fifties and made sure Mumbai could focus on their other areas of concern, and not the middle order.
Matches: 8, Runs: 531, 100s: 1, 50s: 3, Average: 48.27
Batting at number seven, Nair, 23, scored crucial runs and bowled steady medium-pace to get important breakthroughs all season. He scored 97 in Mumbai's total of 503 against Gujarat, took three wickets to dismiss Rajasthan for 155 in the next match, scored 88 and took two wickets against Maharashtra, and rounded off with five wickets in the semi-final. In Nair, Mumbai had a skilled go-to man, who incidentally wasn't part of the horrible run earlier in the season.
Matches: 5, Runs: 360, 50s: 3, Average: 51.42, Wickets: 15, Average: 15.20
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo