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'I'll try to repeat what I did last year' - Shams Mulani looks to continue rapid rise

Mumbai allrounder was top wicket-taker in Ranji Trophy last season, apart from winning the Under-25 CK Nayudu Trophy

Deivarayan Muthu
File photo: "I'm working on how to bowl long spells with the same amount of revolutions" - Shams Mulani  •  ESPNcricinfo Ltd

File photo: "I'm working on how to bowl long spells with the same amount of revolutions" - Shams Mulani  •  ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Allrounder Shams Mulani had a bumper 2021-22 domestic season, starring with both ball and bat. Top wicket-taker in the Ranji Trophy: check. Five half-centuries in nine innings: check. Winning the Under-25 CK Nayudu Trophy for Mumbai: check.
In the 2022-23 season-opening Duleep Trophy, Mulani threatened to tick off another landmark - a maiden first-class hundred - but fell agonisingly short by three runs when he spliced a return catch to Bishworjit Konthoujam on the fourth afternoon in Chennai. But he isn't resting on his laurels, and hopes to reprise his all-round efforts from last season.
"I would've been happier if I would've gotten a hundred," Mulani said after his team West Zone drew with North East Zone. "But it's a learning process for me as well - as to how to play when you're in the nineties - and this game was a good practice game for us because obviously they had a good bowling attack.
"And just because the wicket wasn't helping much doesn't mean they didn't bowl well. The batters came in and said: 'They were on the money and they were bowling well'. Going into the season, it's a good start, and hopefully this continues - the good form I have with bat and ball. I'll try to repeat what I did last year."
Mulani wheeled away for 26 overs with the ball but managed only one wicket on an atypical Chepauk track that didn't provide any assistance to spin. Mulani's latest outing with the ball amid scorching heat was a bit of a throwback to his gut-busting 48-over shift against Tamil Nadu at the same venue in January 2020.
After contributing 87 with the bat, Mulani had toiled away with the ball at the time, taking four wickets - including that of R Ashwin for 79. With a full-fledged home-and-away Ranji season now coming up, he is prepared to bowl similarly long spells and do the job for his team.
"Last season was phenomenal for me. But that's in the past now, and I want to take a fresh start because the wickets are going to be different and I need to bowl on tough tracks where the ball isn't spinning that much and not doing much," Mulani said.
"I need to chip in with the wickets [on those pitches] as well. Yes, last season was very good for me and everyone was saying, 'Wow, well done!', but I'm not looking forward to the new season [in terms of wickets only]. Going forward, I'm working on my bowling - on how to bowl long spells with the same amount of revolutions. Let's see if that comes off."
Bowling with the Kookaburra ball made life difficult for bowlers in the first round of the Duleep Trophy - both in Chennai and Puducherry. The ball seamed around sharply in the early exchanges, but got softer soon after and favoured the batters. Mulani, who was operating with the Kookaburra ball for the first time, conceded that he found it tough to grip the ball.
"I think it's my first time playing with the Kookaburra ball, and I had a similar experience to what he [North-East spinner Ankur Malik] had," Mulani said. "After 20-25 overs, the seam goes away - it's not like the SG ball - and there was not much help from the wicket. It's quite difficult to grip as well and try to bowl in good areas with good amount of revolutions.
"It was amazing... I needed to get used to what length I needed to bowl on that track. It was a very good experience"
Mulani on his recent UK tour with Mumbai Indians
"I think we need to get used to it, going into the semi-finals and final. It was a good learning process of how I need to bowl and at what pace I need to bowl with the Kookaburra ball because it's a bit different."
Mulani has also had some exposure outside of Mumbai's cricketing circles. Last year, he had captained Mumbai on a white-ball tour of Oman, and had emerged as the team's second-highest wicket-taker there with nine strikes in seven matches at an excellent economy rate of 4.78.
More recently, ahead of the Indian domestic season, Mulani was part of the Mumbai Indians contingent - which also included the likes of Dewald Brevis and Tilak Varma - for their UK tour.
"Oh, it was amazing," Mulani said of his experience with the IPL franchise. "Different conditions, different wickets that offered more bounce. I needed to get used to what length I needed to bowl on that track. It was a very good experience, and we enjoyed it a lot."
West Zone will next play Central Zone in the Duleep Trophy semi-final in Coimbatore, which also recently hosted the 20-overs Tamil Nadu Premier League final in July.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo