Part-time spinner Herwadkar shines

Akhil Herwadkar (6-52 off 22.3 overs) was a part-time spinner in Mumbai’s bowling arsenal. Three new-ball operators, one specialist slow bowler in Harmeet Singh and seamer Abhishek Nayar left little scope for the off-spinner on a Wankhede Stadium wicket assisting swing and seam on the first day, then easing out under a hot sun over the next three days.

Though picked as an opening batsman, Herwadkar claimed six second innings wickets to push Punjab over the edge.   -  R. Ragu

Akhil Herwadkar (6-52 off 22.3 overs) was a part-time spinner in Mumbai’s bowling arsenal. Three new-ball operators, one specialist slow bowler in Harmeet Singh and seamer Abhishek Nayar left little scope for the off-spinner on a Wankhede Stadium wicket assisting swing and seam on the first day, then easing out under a hot sun over the next three days.

Though picked as an opening batsman, Herwadkar claimed six second innings wickets to push Punjab over the edge. The home team won by an innings and 12 runs after a strong visitors’ batting line-up was bowled out twice over four days. The India U-19 player maintained a wicket-to-wicket line, used the rough spots on the track for assistance and played a major hand in ending Punjab’s resistance at 403.

Coach Chandrakant Pandit was aware of Herwadkar’s ability to bowl tight off-spin. “Sir knows I can bowl. Harmeet, who is our main spinner, was not able to get wickets despite doing well, so we had a chat about how I could take advantage of the rough areas created by the Punjab bowlers.” Herwadkar’s victims on day four included century-maker and top-scorer Mandeep Singh (116).

Mumbai snuffed out the Punjab fightback after lunch, gaining seven points from an outright victory. The first-innings deficit in the opening league tie against Andhra Pradesh is now forgotten as Mumbai pushes towards the top in Group B. “We were confident about individual and team quality,” said Herwadkar.

Swing bowlers Balwinder Sandhu and Shardul Thakur grabbed four wickets each on day one, Shreyas Iyer raced to a double century on day two, day three was marked by captain Aditya Tare’s ton, Herwadkar encashed on the opportunity on the fourth and final day.

Pandit said that sharing responsibility by all the players would define the team strategy in the upcoming Ranji matches, starting with next week’s home tie against Tamil Nadu. “Each player is told about his role. I expect them to understand their part and deliver. Punjab was a solid batting side, so 20 wickets is a superb show by our bowlers. We will face tougher opponents in different conditions.”

Herwadkar explained his part in the Mumbai victory and his feeling after the Yuvraj dismissal. “My role was to maintain a tight line and wait for mistakes. The rough areas worked to my advantage as an off-spinner. Yuvraj can destroy attacks, we wanted him to attack. He swept and missed.” The off-spinner’s career high 6-52 came in his ninth first-class game. Previously he had only two wickets to show for his efforts.