Kulkarni comes good in a Ranji final, again!

Kulkarni’s four-wicket haul, that too on a comeback after missing the last week’s semi-final owing to a hamstring pull, helped Mumbai justify its decision to field in opening day of the Ranji Trophy final against Saurashtra at the Maharashtra Cricket Association stadium.

Dhaval Kulkarni of Mumbai celebrates the wicket of Saurashtra Captain Jayadev Shah while Ankit Vasavada looks on during day one the Ranji Trophy final.   -  Prashant Nakwe

Temperament and ability to succeed in big-match situations is often considered as a parameter for distinguishing ordinary sportspersons from the great ones. Dhawal Kulkarni, on Wednesday, yet again showed that he belongs to the latter category.

Kulkarni’s four-wicket haul, that too on a comeback after missing the last week’s semi-final owing to a hamstring pull, helped Mumbai justify its decision to field in opening day of the Ranji Trophy final against Saurashtra at the Maharashtra Cricket Association stadium.

Kulkarni seems to have made it a habit to excel when it comes to the Ranji final. In two of his three previous final appearances, in 2008-09 and 2012-13, Kulkarni has starred with the ball. To add to it, in the nail-biting win against Karnataka in the 2009-10 finale, Kulkarni came good with the willow as well. His knock of 87 in the second innings turned out to be the key factor in Mumbai’s narrow win.

“The final is a big game for anybody, let it be me or anyone. It is a big game. You have to be confident,” Kulkarni told reporters after the opening day’s play. “And there is pressure, you have to enjoy that pressure. Performing in the final is a big thing and it makes you feel proud if you win the game.”

Kulkarni struck early in each of the first two sessions and then got rid of Saurashtra’s top-scorer Arpit Vasavada in the last over the day to ensure the balance is tilted firmly in Mumbai’s favour. But the one dismissal that he would have enjoyed the most was of Cheteshwar Pujara’s.

Four incoming balls followed by one that moved away late resulted in an edge off the Saurashtra vice-captain’s willow to Suryakumar Yadav at second slip. “Pujara is always a little dicey on the ball which comes in. And that’s what I had in my mind. I have played against him before also, so that’s what was there in my mind to keep bowling in. And then, surprise him with the outgoing delivery,” he said.

The last time Mumbai played a final, Kulkarni always had a senior statesman like Ajit Agarkar or Zaheer Khan for advice. In his first final as the pace spearhead, he has displayed that he is far from being bogged down under the responsibility. Instead, he is “enjoying” it.