Amol Muzumdar: Rahane’s commitment and enthusiasm are second to none

INTERVIEW: It is an amazing feeling to have Ajinkya Rahane back in the Mumbai dressing room for the Ranji Trophy, says the team’s head coach Amol Muzumdar.

Ajinkya Rahane plays a cut shot en route to a century on day one of the Ranji Trophy contest between Mumbai and Saurashtra, at the Narendra Modi stadium in Ahmedabad. Rahane has been out of form with the bat for India, and a good run in the domestic season will bode well for him and the Indian team.   -  VIJAY SONEJI

Amol Muzumdar took over from Romesh Power as Mumbai’s head coach in 2021. Mumbai, the 41-time Ranji Trophy champion, last won the red-ball title in 2015-16, when it beat Saurashtra in the final.

Muzumdar, a veteran of 171 first-class games, spoke to Sportstar on a host of subjects before this year’s Ranji Trophy.

Excerpts

Q. You took over as Mumbai head coach last year. What has been your focus since?

A. It’s always been the case with Mumbai, we pay a lot of attention to red-ball cricket. That said, white-ball cricket is a big chunk of our domestic calendar year. There needs to be a balance. The Ranji Trophy is extremely important. It is returning after more than a year. Of course, these have been unprecedented times… we didn’t have it last year... so a lot of players missed out. Now that it’s back, it will give everyone an opportunity - scorers, umpires, the selectors too will get to see new faces and the coaches will be on their toes.

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Ajinkya Rahane made his Mumbai debut under your captaincy. He has been stuck in a rut of late. What’s your assessment of his batting and how will his presence lift the Mumbai dressing room?

It’s for the international coaches to comment whether there’s anything amiss as far as Rahane’s game is concerned. It is an amazing feeling to have a quality player like him in the Mumbai dressing room. His commitment and enthusiasm are second to none. That’s the key - no matter how many times you succeed or fail, you need to go back to your basics, which I feel are very strong in Rahane’s case.

Your thoughts on Prithvi Shaw’s leadership skills.

It is an exciting squad to be part of. We have a young captain in Prithvi, who is going to lead a team that has a mix of experience and youth. This is Prithvi’s first tournament as a leader since I have taken over. Whatever I’ve seen so far, he comes across as a natural leader. The boys respond to him pretty well. His man-management skills are a developing process. When we practised at Wankhede, I felt his zest to do well is intact - it all boils down to what commitment levels are - he has been doing well and is blessed with an amazing talent. The key now is to nurture it correctly and look after it.

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How has batting evolved since your playing days?

A lot has changed. There was a time when you were introduced to Tests first and then you ventured into limited-overs cricket. Nowadays, it’s the reverse... Clearly, trends have changed. But at the same time, cricket remains the same. A cover drive is a cover drive no matter where you play it.. in a T20 or Test. Domestic cricket has changed quite a bit - there is a lot of excitement now - not that there wasn’t excitement earlier... but now maybe a batsman is playing two shots an over more than what was played. The six-hitting ability is drastically scaling upwards.

Amol Muzumdar says there needs to be a right balance between red-ball and white-ball cricket in the domestic season. - M. KARUNAKARAN

 

The quality of spin bowling is a bit of concern for me. Playing spin is an art. You acquire that art by rehearsing it many times .. if you don’t see those shots being played at domestic level, you expect them not to be played at international level - it is very critical for batters to play quality spin so they can sort of score runs against quality spinners at the highest level. In Indian cricket, there was a wave that came six-seven years back — they looked after the pitches, the surfaces had a little help for quicks and look what we’ve got now, a battery of pacers. Similarly, if you invest in nurturing spin bowling, the same things will happen. I feel one more day should be added to Ranji. It changes the entire dynamics, right from playing combinations to tactics. On the fifth day, you’ll have to have two spinners on board — three seamers and two spinners, or vice versa depending on the pitch. That’ll change the equation - the pitches will be much better, curators will also have an idea how to prepare wickets for Test cricket.

You’ve been a mentor with an IPL team, were part of the South African coaching staff as well. If you could give your perspective on the changes you see in coaching methods since your playing days?

Coaching was more player-centric and players could figure out what was wrong with their game and fix it. It has evolved now. I wouldn’t say it is completely coach-centric but players do depend on coaches now more than earlier .. I personally feel a coach’s job is not limited to just helping players with downswing of the bat or monitoring what channel the bowler is bowling. You need to understand the intricacies of that particular player’s life to be able to understand him. I am learning every single day with these boys and it allows you to stay young also! (laughs)

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