Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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The Mumbai team haven't had lengthy meetings. There have been no long messages or speeches either. Players have been left to prepare the way they want to and figure out what works best for them and what doesn't. This doesn't mean the players have been left to fend for themselves. It's just a way to make players more responsible for their own actions.
Amol Muzumdar, the man guiding them, has seen it all during a two-decade-long first-class career. Even as a player, he invariably played the role of a mentor towards the end of his career, especially once he left Mumbai to play for Assam and Andhra. He has also been involved with Netherlands, South Africa and in the IPL with Rajasthan Royals. Much of his coaching philosophy is born from his varied experiences in cricket.
Muzumdar is clear this is not about him. He has won the Ranji Trophy as a captain and has been part of several title-winning teams. His opposite number, Chandrakant Pandit, has had a tremendous track record as coach, plotting title wins with Mumbai and Vidarbha in the past. Now, he is looking to shepherd Madhya Pradesh to their first title.
Muzumdar and Pandit are old friends and team-mates. The mutual respect is evident, but the competitive streak hasn't been lost. Muzumdar is mindful of not wanting to make this Mumbai vs Pandit or Muzumdar vs Pandit, as tempting as it may be to hype up the match along those lines.
"It's all about the players," he stated firmly on the eve of the match. "Of course, every team has its own engine room, but at the same time the main focus has to be the players. He [Pandit] is a proven customer. This is my first season [as coach]; his must be the umpteenth season. I wouldn't like to compare. He has been there, done that."
Muzumdar spelt out his priorities clearly the day he was appointed head coach in June 2021. "Getting back on track in red-ball cricket" was written in bold. Through the course of a Covid-shortened season, the focus was on building a core group of young players who could serve Mumbai cricket for many years to come. And so far, the signs are promising.
"When I took up this job, all the entire association asked about was getting back in red-ball cricket," he said. "That was our main focus. Coming so far, we've slightly tried to achieve that. Credit to the boys, they're on track. Red-ball cricket was a concern for everyone from Mumbai. Looking at the last five-six years, even you guys [journalists] must have thought so.
"But the guys have done splendidly well. The focus was on how to get gen-next hooked on to deliver in Ranji Trophy. With this kind of performance, we're pushing towards it. I am certain these guys would serve Mumbai for a long time."
Suved Parkar missed out on a chance to represent India at the Under-19 World Cup two years ago but comes into the final with a reputation of being a marathon batter, much like Muzumdar. Then there's Armaan Jaffer, a prolific age-group run-getter who has finally brought all that promise to the first-class level with a maiden century in the semi-finals.
Sarfaraz Khan's form has been pandemic-proof; he leads this shortened season's run-charts by a mile with 803 runs in seven innings, including three hundreds. He is 297 runs ahead of Rajat Patidar, his nearest competitor in the final. This hunger for big runs in the dressing room augurs well for the future. Muzumdar underlines the culture and "processes" - that boring cliche - for helping bring about a change in mindset that first-class cricket is as important as the IPL.
"I personally believe it is about the process and culture you have in the dressing room and automatically players will buy into that," he said. "We've tried to do that, almost all of the [players] have bought into the future. Yes, IPL is a culture where people go in and play but they shouldn't forget their roots, which is domestic cricket."