Ranji Trophy: Mumbai in a spot of bother

Shubham Sharma’s spirited knock lower down the order, his valuable partnership with wicketkeeper Ankit Dane, and a late charge by the Madhya Pradesh pacers meant Mumbai was left in a slight spot of bother halfway into the Ranji Trophy Group A game.

The Mumbai bowlers could not restrict Madhya Pradesh's lower order as the side ended its first innings after amassing 445 runs on the board.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

Shubham Sharma’s spirited knock lower down the order, his valuable partnership with wicketkeeper Ankit Dane, and a late charge by the Madhya Pradesh pacers meant Mumbai was left in a slight spot of bother halfway into the Ranji Trophy Group A game.

At the end of the second day’s play at the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh International Cricket Stadium, the 41-time champion outfit was 38 for two in its first innings, after Madhya Pradesh had piled on 445 runs on the board.

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Had Mumbai openers Akhil Herwadkar – who continued to be troubled with a sprain in the foot he suffered while fielding on the opening day – and Kaustubh Pawar, making his maiden appearance this Ranji season, seen the day off, the defending champion would have been much better placed. But Ishwar Pandey got one to rise on Pawar – who looked fidgety during his 66-minute stay – forcing him to top-edge the ball to Rajat Patidar, the only centurion of MP’s innings, in the cordon. And Chandrakant Sakure then accounted for nightwatchman Balwinder Singh Sandhu with 14 balls remaining to round off the day for his team.

MP started the day on a positive note. Contrary to its approach on the first evening, overnight batsmen Patidar and Devendra Bundela started off in search of runs. Patidar didn’t take long to flick Deshpande for a brace and complete a deserving hundred. Sandhu then in a heartening spell first got Patidar to nick one to ’keeper Aditya Tare to end the 104-run partnership and then sent Bundela’s off stump cartwheeling with one that jagged back in after pitching outside off stump.

In between, Harpreet Singh Bhatia had thrown his wicket, holing out in the deep off left-arm spinner Vijay Gohil. At 300 for five, Mumbai was sensing to run through the MP side on a flat deck. But Sharma and Dane then frustrated them for almost two hours with a 102-run association for the sixth wicket. The fact that Mumbai’s ace pacer Shardul Thakur didn’t take the field in the second session owing to a shoulder problem didn’t help its cause.

Sharma and Dane continued to score freely till lunch. Once the Mumbai bowlers went on the defensive in the afternoon session, Herwadkar induced a nick off Dane for Suryakumar Yadav – who in Herwadkar’s previous over messed up a similar opportunity – who accepted the catch at slip. That opened the floodgates and Deshpande’s fiery spell ensured that the tail didn’t wag and help Sharma register a maiden century.

Mumbai rides on innovative cheer-captain policy

As much as they are renowned for sledging, all the successful cricket teams are known for their ability to not droop their shoulders when it's not going their way. When it comes to Mumbai, the most successful outfit in domestic cricket, has modified sledging to its advantage.

Ever since Chandrakant Pandit, one of the shrewdest brains in the game, took over as head coach last year, the team has been appointing a cheer-captain for ensuring the morale of the team high throughout the many long days in the field, just like their 160-over toil against Madhya Pradesh on a flat track at the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh Stadium over the last two days.

While the last season, which fetched Mumbai its 41st Ranji Trophy title, saw Pandit appointing cheer-captains by rotation, the first three games of this season have seen Suryakumar Yadav, the maverick, handed with the task of lifting the spirit of his teammates and, at times, frustrating the opposition whenever possible as well.

Take this, for example. On the opening morning, when a wicket fell close to the lucn break, Yadav egged his team-mates on with a sarcastic: “ Khaana milega (We’ll get food)” that ensured the bowlers and fielders were on toes as well as kept the MP batsmen under pressure.

“Everyone has been assigned a specific responsibility and Surya Yadav has been tasked with this (cheer-captain’s) job. I think he is doing a good job,” Pandit says. “Everyone has been assigned various responsibilities all through the season – on and off the field. It helps in keeping the team together; to have unity within the team.”

Pandit has no hesitation in admitting that he learnt the trade from the late Ashok Mankad, the former India batsman who was known for his tactical masterstrokes, during his formative years with the Mafatlal team in local cricket. During Pandit’s first three-year stint with Mumbai from 2002, gutsy batsman Amol Muzumdar used to play the cheer-captain’s role since “he was a little tough so he used to lift the team on the field in his own unique way”.

“When I was 19, Mankad gave me the responsibility to do it at a young age of 19. Similarly, I am trying to pass it on to the younger generation. Their attitude is a little different today but I am happy that the boys have taken it up and they are happily implementing it,” Pandit signs off.

Other matches (Group A):

> Bengal v Punjab

> Gujarat v Railways

> Tamil Nadu v Uttar Pradesh

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