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January 16, 2014
The Mumbai Cricket Association is set to sack Sulakshan Kulkarni as coach of the senior team, after the side's quarter-final exit from the Ranji Trophy last week. The MCA technical committee has recommended Lalchand Rajput's appointment as coach for the rest of the 2013-14 season, which includes the West Zone one-dayers for the Ramakant Desai Trophy and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Twenty20 tournament.
Mumbai, who were defending champions this season, lost to Maharashtra by eight wickets in the quarterfinal, in spite of a 122-run lead.
When asked for a reaction, Kulkarni told ESPNcricinfo: "I have not heard anything from MCA so far. I can comment on it only after someone from the MCA officially informs me."
Rajput, who is the coach at the BCCI's batting academy in Mumbai and is in charge of the India A squad, said he will seek the board's permission before committing to the position.
"I have been offered the position," Rajput said. "I have told MCA that even though I respect their decision, I can accept it only after I get a clearance from the BCCI. I will now request the BCCI to release me for the limited-overs' leg."
Rajput, the former Mumbai and India opener, coached Mumbai in 2001-02 when the team exited in the pre-quarterfinal round of the Ranji Trophy. He was then in charge of the India U-19 team for a couple of years before being appointed cricket manager and assistant coach of India's senior team during the transition period between Greg Chappell and Gary Kirsten. In 2008-09, he was offered the post of national junior selection committee chairman, but he declined saying he wanted to continue as the coach.
The MCA managing committee will meet on January 24 to ratify Rajput's appointment, provided he gets a BCCI go-ahead. The technical committee, which replaced the association's cricket improvement committee earlier this season, has also recommended a selection committee overhaul before the limited-overs leg of the domestic season.
Kulkarni replaced Pravin Amre as the coach at the start of the 2011-12 season. In his three seasons as coach, Mumbai were eliminated in the semi-finals in 2011-12, won the championship last season and were defeated in the quarter-finals by neighbouring rivals, Maharashtra. However, the former wicketkeeper-batsman's tenure was controversial due to his spat with Ajit Agarkar and Ramesh Powar in his opening season.
Agarkar left the team in Cuttack on the morning of a Ranji game in 2011-12 alleging he was unfairly treated. Zaheer Khan had also backed Agarkar during the crisis. Even though Agarkar and Kulkarni patched up and the former even led the team to its 40th Ranji title last season, the squad appeared to be divided in multiple groups over the last three years. Before the start of the 2013-14 season, offspinner Ramesh Powar, who had been dropped the previous season and didn't share a good rapport with Kulkarni and Wasim Jaffer, moved to Rajasthan as a professional.
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