Matches (9)
IND v AUS (1)
CPL 2023 (1)
Asian Games (W) (4)
Championship (W) (1)
Marsh Cup (1)
Malaysia Tri (1)

Can't understand people who say Mumbai are in decline - Amol Muzumdar

Mumbai waited 11 years to add to the 50-overs trophy cabinet, but the victory reinforced that the side is still among the top dogs in India

Amol Muzumdar applauds from the dressing room  •  Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Amol Muzumdar applauds from the dressing room  •  Hindustan Times via Getty Images

When Mumbai last won the domestic 50-over championship, it was not even called the Vijay Hazare Trophy. It was still the Ranji One-Day Trophy. Mumbai were led by Amol Muzumdar and the established veterans were Wasim Jaffer, Ramesh Powar and Nilesh Kulkarni. Ajinkya Rahane had made his debut during the tournament, Rohit Sharma was barely a season old.
From March 2007 to October 2018, the wait has been a surprisingly long one, to add to the 50-overs trophy cabinet of the most dominant team in India's domestic cricket history. Victory in the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2018-19 final against Delhi not only brought fresh silverware, it also reinforced that Mumbai are still among the top dogs in India.
Why that needed reinforcing though, was mystifying to Muzumdar. "There have been talks about Mumbai going down and stuff, but I'll tell you honestly, those are mere talks," Muzumdar told ESPNcricinfo. "If you see the team still, it's a powerful side.
"How can you say that Mumbai cricket has gone down when in the last three years, Mumbai has won one title, been runners-up once in the Ranji Trophy, and now they've won the final here. On what ground are you saying that?"
Muzumdar held that the fabled era of winning across more than a decade, like Mumbai did in the Ranji trophy from 1958-59 to 1972-73, was over - and not because Mumbai had weakened, but that other teams had caught up.
"I can't afford to stay in the 1990s where we dominated," Muzumdar says. "The world has changed, so your thinking has to change. You can't have 16-17 years of victories now. It's not possible, because other teams have gotten better. It's not that Mumbai has gone down, the other teams have gotten better.
"Even today, you have Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Shardul Thakur, Shreyas Iyer, Prithvi Shaw - five of them are there playing in the Indian team. How is that Mumbai going 'down'? I can't understand. People say, 'Oh there were six-seven (players in the team) earlier' - well there's still five today! So on what basis are you saying that it's going down? I do not agree with that theory, no matter who says it."
Muzumdar clearly remains passionate about Mumbai cricket. "We are all shareholders of Mumbai cricket," he says. "It's not just the Mumbai players, but if you widen your horizon, then everyone who has been a part of Mumbai cricket [is a shareholder]. Even if he is watching. You feel good when Mumbai is doing well."
But while Mumbai may not win 16 titles at a stretch as they once did, they are still formidable enough. Since 2006-07 they have won five Ranji Trophy titles and been runners-up once. What they lacked in that period was a title in white-ball tournaments, which Shreyas Iyer's side rectified with their four-wicket win on Saturday. "Maybe we haven't concentrated as much on the white-ball cricket that we play," Muzumdar goes on to say. "Generally more focus is on the Ranji Trophy which is a big factor in Mumbai cricket, and even in the last ten years, we've won some four to five titles. So the entire energy is on the Ranji Trophy, and I've got a feeling that once the Ranji Trophy is done - generally the Vijay Hazare is played after it - the energy levels I think dip. Maybe that is one of the reasons, I don't know."
The current team emulating his side's triumph brought back particularly fond memories for Muzumdar. Although Mumbai met Rajasthan in the final of the 50-overs tournament, the key clash had been against Delhi even in that year. It was the quarter-final, and powered by Gautam Gambhir's 105, Delhi had racked up 297 for 5, formidable in 2007. Enter a rookie Rahane and Wasim Jaffer's 170 not out, as Mumbai won by six wickets with an over to spare.
"The Delhi match was more intense than the Rajasthan one," Muzumdar says. "I remember Gambhir getting a hundred, a terrific one. The meeting prior to that match, we were all keyed up because it was Mumbai-Delhi. You've got to pass on whatever knowledge you have of these games to the current generation, which was Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane. Passing on the knowledge is very crucial as far as I'm concerned, because if you can pass on the history, you can pass on the passion.
"Rahane, in fact, made his debut in that match. He got 61. He was fantastic in that innings. He hit [Ashish] Nehra over the covers, and that set the tone for us. Not many people at that time could hit Nehra on the rise. That's one shot that has really stuck in my mind. I associate that shot with Ajinkya Rahane, ever since his debut. Rohit's debut season, we knew as soon as he entered the Mumbai dressing room and played his first game, that we've got something special here."
The 50-overs tournament has generally been held after the Ranji Trophy, and the win that year capped off a memorable season for Muzumdar. Mumbai had begun the Ranji Trophy that year with zero points after three matches, staring at elimination. They needed to win their next three leagues matches by bonus points to qualify, a miracle. That miracle was wrought. Inevitably, they won the semifinal and final.
"It's a fantastic memory. Not just because of the silverware, but because we were having a glorious year," Muzumdar says. "In 2006-07 we won the Ranji Trophy, then we went into the one-dayers. That season… in Marathi we say, 'Na bhuto na bhavishya te' [Once in a lifetime, or literally 'neither in the past, nor in the future']. Because of the fact that after the first three games, we had zero points on the board. Then we had to win the next five to get into the finals, and we won all five, with bonus points. And then we won the final. It was an absolutely topsy-turvy season."
Now, one of the most illustrious shareholders of Mumbai cricket will be hoping that the current team can repeat his own side's 2006-07 double.

Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo