Over the last couple of seasons, Tushar Deshpande has emerged as Mumbai’s pace spearhead. And this time around, with Dhawal Kulkarni unavailable, the youngster has stamped his class in the Ranji Trophy, claiming 14 wickets so far.
At the Brabourne Stadium on Tuesday, Deshpande claimed a fifer - his fourth five-wicket haul in First-Class cricket - to bundle out Tamil Nadu for 144 in the first innings. Making the most of the surface that aided the fast bowlers, Deshpande bowled in the right areas to put the visiting team under pressure.
Basking in the glory of yet another five-for, Deshpande revealed that captain Ajinkya Rahane has given him freedom, which is helping him improve his performance.
“Ajinkya has given me all the freedom. He has told me that ‘you are the leader of our pace attack, so if you feel something needs to be done, let me know, we will set our strategy accordingly’. I always want to keep the process right, irrespective of whether I get wickets or not. I don’t compromise on my pace and it has paid dividends,” Deshpande said after the day’s play.
Coming into the game after a defeat against Saurashtra in the previous outing, Mumbai won the toss against Tamil Nadu and chose to bowl - a decision that proved effective with Deshpande putting the batters on tenterhooks.
“When a team wins the toss (and decides to bowl first), it is the responsibility of the bowlers to keep it in the right areas. I try to bowl in attacking lines, but in such pitches, it is important to stay in the present and bowl in the right areas. Wohi karne ko dekha maine. The weather was pleasant and there was a bit of moisture on the surface, so all played out well,” he said.
After taming the Tamil Nadu top-order, Deshpande struck at the fag end, dismissing an in-form Pradosh Ranjan Paul, who scored 55, and L. Vignesh. By his own admission, it was a challenge to get rid of a ‘settled’ Paul.
“One was a set batter (Paul) and one was a lower-order batter so I challenged myself to get the wicket of a set batter, then I can get the next wicket as well. The plan was to bowl short… I had placed a fielder accordingly and anyways we knew he (Pradosh) will play his shots,” Deshpande revealed.
After restricting Tamil Nadu to 144, Mumbai also lost five wickets for 113 before Sarfaraz Khan helped the team end the day at 183 for six. In the middle of the Mumbai innings, Tamil Nadu’s Aswin Crist bowled short-pitched deliveries to remove captain Rahane and Hardik Tamore in quick succession.
“It was TN’s decision as they wanted to play to its strengths. I cannot comment on why they took that strategy. We played a few strokes and that’s why we lost the wickets, but if we could have negated it, things could have been slightly different,” Deshpande said, making it clear that even though 16 wickets tumbled on the first day, there were no demons in the pitch.
With the game evenly poised, Mumbai’s aim is to extend the lead as much as possible and Deshpande believes that a couple of ‘30-plus partnerships’ will help the home team take control of the game.