Ranji: Mumbai’s relentless quest for glory

Along with New South Wales and Yorkshire, Mumbai has to be among the top domestic sides in the cricketing world. The Mumbai cap is a prized possession.

One of the senior players in Mumbai, Abhishek Nayar keeps the team together.   -  V. Ganesan

There is something about these champion sides that separates them from the rest. It’s probably the way they go about their business. They are focussed, professional, seize their chances and are ruthless when on top. When under duress, they invariably fight back.

Along with New South Wales and Yorkshire, Mumbai has to be among the top domestic sides in the cricketing world. The Mumbai cap is a prized possession.

No wonder Mumbai has triumphed an incredible 40 times in the Ranji Trophy and has a fighting chance to increase that tally this year.

Coach Chandrakant Pandit, a feisty wicket-keeper batsman during his playing days, constantly reminds his boys of the side’s glittering past, the galaxy of formidable names who have turned out for the team over the years and the responsibility of the present bunch to carry forward that legacy.

For these Mumbai cricketers, there is no dearth of inspiration or heroes. The present Mumbai side is a largely young outfit. Often, the competition for places is intense. A sense of bonding in the side, however, is undeniable.

It’s quite a sight to see the Mumbai cricketers go through their training session on the ground after a day’s play. Apart from the trainer, senior cricketer in the side Abhishek Nayar dons a central role.

He keeps the cricketers engaged, particularly the younger bunch. Even as they stretch their limbs, some light-hearted banter on the day’s play light up their faces. And the stress of the day evaporates.

Importantly, Nayar’s role as the experienced professional in the side is clearly defined. Mumbai captain Aditya Tare said, “Nayar has the responsibility of keeping the team together. He enjoys that role.”

It is clear that the younger cricketers look up to Nayar. And the all-rounder, with his long years in the game, has much to offer.

Tare, a young captain, said he believed in keeping the ambience relaxed in the team even while retaining Mumbai’s famous combative instincts.

“I give freedom to the players. You can’t control anyone,” he said.

When there was a crisis of sorts ahead of the match (after Suryakumar Yadav’s tweet critical of opener Jay Bista’s omission from the squad for the semifinal), the team-management stepped in quickly to resolve the issue. A potential clash was averted.

And then there is Mumbai’s culture of winning. The belief from these triumphs passes from one generation to another. Handling and coming out of tough situations, they say, is now in Mumbai team’s DNA.

So much so that when the semifinal was in the balance after second day’s play here, senior Madhya Pradesh cricketer Naman Ojha said the contest was 60-40 in Mumbai’s favour. “I have played a lot of cricket, I know,” Ojha said.

Respected by its adversaries for its achievements, Mumbai’s relentless quest for glory is a fascinating one.