Mumbai's hunt for a Ranji title now extends to its seventh year, but the foundation has been laid for a bright future. These were the thoughts of head coach Amol Muzumdar
as he sat down to reflect on his maiden season in-charge.
Mumbai's white-ball season had been disappointing, to state it mildly, with the team failing to make it through to the knockouts of both competitions. In the Vijay Hazare Trophy
, the 50-over competition, Mumbai finished last in Group B with a solitary win in five games. In the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy
, the domestic T20 tournament, they fared slightly better with three wins, but couldn't get past the group stage again. Come the red-ball event, there was growing pressure from both within and the outside to deliver results.
While they couldn't win their 42nd title, Muzumdar felt the tournament provided a glimpse of what they could deliver going forward.
"It's been exciting ever since I took over last June," he said after losing the final to Madhya Pradesh
on Sunday. "I'm very proud of these young boys. We're watching the generation-next of Mumbai cricket and a little dose of it was provided this season. The future looks bright and I'm excited about it.
"When I took over in June 2021, I was only focused on improving and getting back on track
as far as red-ball cricket was concerned. That was the basis of the foundation we laid last July-August.
"We hadn't qualified for a Ranji final since 2016-17
, so that was one thing that was told by the MCA and the others around Mumbai cricket. Had we won, that would've come true, but at the same time, we're back on track with a young side. It's the next generation, they all have unbelievable talent and we need to just show them the direction."
Come the big final, Mumbai had most things going their way. Sarfaraz Khan
was in the form of his life
, having racked up over 900 runs already. Yashasvi Jaiswal
had struck back-to-back centuries in the quarter-final
and the semi-final
. Left-arm spinner Shams Mulani
had picked up 37 wickets. Then they had the experience of Dhawal Kulkarni to bank on in the pace department. In short, Muzumdar said, "all bases were covered," and it was just a matter of one determined team toppling them in key moments.
"It was all bases covered coming into the final," Muzumdar said. "In the bowling especially, we had the experience of Dhawal, the pace of Tushar [Deshpande], who is a slippery customer. Mohit [Avasthi] is young and exuberant. Then a left-arm spinner in great form. We had Tanush Kotian, an exciting offspinner. I think just the one day [the third day
] didn't go our way, it hasn't happened that we have failed to pick up wickets across lengthy periods. It was a terrific performance till the finals."
Muzumdar was particularly pleased about how Mumbai bounced back at different stages this season despite the hard knocks. Their inability to pick up one final wicket to beat Saurashtra in their opening game
could have gone against them. In their second match
, they bounced back from being shot out for 163 in the first innings to beat Goa by 119 runs. In their final game
, they were in a must-win situation against Odisha, because Saurashtra too were eyeing the lone qualification spot from the group, and Mumbai went through. Muzumdar pointed to these results to explain how the gap had narrowed down among the teams.
"There are no small teams anymore," he said. "In fact, it's a little bit of a push for the bigger teams like Karnataka, Mumbai, and Delhi to push themselves to the next level. There was tough competition in the league phase. It was brilliant [that the Ranji Trophy was going] because at one stage I felt we were personally going to lose out on another year.
"We went to Kolkata for the league phase on January 3 and then the third Covid wave hit on January 5. We were pushed back to Mumbai. But credit to the BCCI for organising the league phase before the IPL and the knockouts in Bangalore, where there's less chance of rain in June. To give opportunities to so many of India's aspiring cricketers, credit to the BCCI for that. The Ranji Trophy is crucial, it's the basis of Indian cricket, so to get it going was great to see."