Ranji Trophy 2019-20: MCA needs to shoulder blame for Mumbai’s slide

Having bowed out of the Ranji Trophy, Mumbai’s trophy drought continues, and the buck doesn’t stop with the players.

A game of musical chairs: The selectors will do well to appoint one captain for the entire season.   -  Vivek Bendre

Mumbai cricket — the erstwhile dominant force — has degenerated from bad to worse.

Despite never being in the race for qualifying for the knockouts in the Ranji Trophy — the be all and end all of domestic cricket — Mumbai had the Vijay Hazare Trophy in 2018-19. This time around, with its ‘so-near-yet-so-far’ finish against Saurashtra on Friday, Mumbai ensured it would have another trophy-less season.

While cricket tragics would be wondering how Mumbai fell from grace in recent years — four years without a Ranji title, its longest since the nine-year drought between 1984-85 and 1993-94 — one isn’t surprised with the kind of descend.

The buck doesn’t stop with the players, the blame also has to go to the Mumbai Cricket Association for its lackadaisical attitude towards the senior team.

Towards the end of the last season, it sought resignation from the then selection committee. It was followed with an advertisement for a new coach. Weeks before Mumbai began its season, the same coach was reappointed, primarily due to lack of choice. It was followed by the game of musical chairs with the selection committee.

More Delhi than Mumbai

One of the hallmarks of Mumbai cricket has been that only cricketers — current and former combined — handle selection matters for the senior team. This time around, though, at least one player was inducted in the Ranji team, not just squad, on the insistence of an MCA official. Sounds more like Delhi than Mumbai, right?

Once the selection committee had a settled look midway through the season, it started its own game of musical chairs. Considering the limited availability of a majority of international cricketers — some of them even skipping a few games despite being in the city during games — changes in the squad were inevitable. But the selectors, after announcing a captain for the season, decided to persist with his replacement even after the original leader rejoined the squad.

A combination of all these factors resulted in the dressing room being far from united. It reflected in the fact that despite boasting of four international regulars, Mumbai lost to Railways, at home, in less than three days. That loss derailed the campaign and the wheels kept coming off as the tournament progressed.

It’s imperative for the MCA to get into action mode well in time for the next season. For starters, it should appoint: a coach who commands respect and is able to develop the squad (he will have to be handsomely rewarded, something that MCA has been reluctant to do); a captain for the full season (Mumbai had three captains in the 2018-19 Ranji season, two this time around); and professional selectors who don’t let administrators fire from their shoulders.

If the MCA doesn’t act in time, one won’t be surprised if it goes from worse to worst next season.

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