Jaffer blames T20 mindset for Mumbai collapse
After Mumbai's first ever loss to Karnataka in the Ranji Trophy in 22 games, an irked Wasim Jaffer said the batsmen in his side didn't have it in their nature to spend a long time at the crease. Mumbai were set a target of 282 from 83 overs, but were bowled out for 121 in just over 50 overs.
"In their [youngsters'] nature they are very aggressive,"Jaffer said. "The perception of batting whole day like [KL] Rahul. That's what I asked a lot of my youngsters, to bat whole day and show me they can bat 90 overs and show me 120 runs or maybe a hundred. But it's a bit difficult for them as it's not in their nature nowadays."
When asked what he would attribute this to, pat came the reply.
"T20," he said. "You are playing so many T20s, one-day cricket, so it's going to be difficult. Kaustubh [Pawar] was capable but he didn't last long. He got a bad decision in the first innings, but he was the one who could do that and obviously I got out cheaply.
"A lot of players just want to play IPL as obviously you get a lot of recognition and lot of money involved there. To be honest it's a lot of hard work playing first-class. To bowl for four days or bat whole day and get a hundred. T20 or IPL is a lot easier. So obviously the minds have changed. The generations coming would probably think why put so much hard work when they can just play three hours of cricket and go home."
Jaffer conceded that his decision to field first after winning the toss had backfired. Mumbai restricted Karnataka to 251 and took an 18-run lead, but Karnataka rallied in their second innings to set a competitive target.
"We actually misread the pitch," he said. "We should have batted first and we needed to score more than 350, or probably more than 300 runs, so a lot of ifs and buts. But I thought restricting Karnataka to 250 we did a good job, but we didn't bat well in our first innings."
The target might have seemed within Mumbai's grasp, but with an asking rate of 3.40, Jaffer stated they had decided right at the start they were not going to go for the win.
"We were never going for the chase," he said. "We wanted to bat till lunch and tea time and then see how we end up. There are a lot of inexperienced players so they might have messed it up. So I didn't take a chance saying 'let's go for the chase'. If we were in a good position we might have gone for it otherwise we wanted to save this game. I thought the wicket would be better for batting as the day progressed. I didn't see it cracking like that and staying so low. I thought it would get better."
While this was Jaffer's 219th first-class match, the second-most experienced batsman in Mumbai's ranks was Hiken Shah, who was playing his 34th game. The inexperience, in the absence of Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Abhishek Nayar, was on display when the batsmen struggled to get starts and the longest partnership of the innings, between Shah and Siddhesh Lad, produced 43 runs.
"It's a very young side," Jaffer said. "I have played about 110-120 [Ranji] games and the next probably would have played 15-17 games, that's the maximum. There are some talented players but they will take time."
After winning three of their first four matches, Mumbai conceded three points to Jharkhand and, against Odisha, failed to take eight wickets on the last day, after enforcing the follow-on. Both of those had been at home. Jaffer said this was because the Wankhede Stadium pitch had turned flatter of late.
"I think the Wankhede wicket has become a lot flatter than what it was," he said. "It's a bit hard to get outright victory there because after the first day it becomes a bit difficult for the bowlers. It doesn't get a lot of spin like it used to and the team is very inexperienced. We played [Pravin] Tambe, he played his first game, Vishal [Dabholkar] is playing his 10th-11th game. It becomes a lot more difficult.
"Last couple of games we couldn't win. We lost to Jharkhand in the first innings, couldn't get the full points. We couldn't hold on to the three points here, that's what went wrong."
With their final game against Gujarat starting December 30, Mumbai and three other teams - Gujarat, Punjab and Delhi - will fight for two knockout berths. "Hopefully, if we stay positive, we can win that game," Jaffer said. "Then there is a chance."
Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo