Samant: Team effort the key behind Mumbai’s success

The 43-year-old coach of the Mumbai under-23 team said: "My philosophy is very simple. We have to play session by session and win them in order to get successful results, most importantly the first session and the first day."

A 2009 file photo of Vinayak Samant in action in the Ranji Trophy final.   -  K. RAMESH BABU

Vinayak Samant, who has roughed it out for 17 years in India’s first class cricket competitions, representing Mumbai, Assam, Tripiura and East Zone, believes that it’s a good idea to focus hard in the first session and on the first day of a match to get consistent and positive results.

Talking to Sportstar, the 43-year-old coach of the Mumbai under-23 team said: “My philosophy is very simple. We have to play session by session and win them in order to get successful results, most importantly the first session and the first day. So if a team puts its heart and soul in the different sessions, it will be rewarded, and that’s what we have been focusing on right through the season.”

The Mumbai team will have a shot at the title in the final against Madhya Pradesh, to be played at Indore from February 24. After conceding a small first innings lead to Gujarat in the opening league match, the team beat Karnataka, Bengal and Baroda, and drew against Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Thanks to Armaan Jaffer’s superb 181, Vikran Auti’s169 and Shivam Dube’s 114, the Eknath Kerkar led team amassed 697 runs against Maharashtra in the semi-final played at the Sharad Pawar Academy ground and took a first innings lead of 230 runs to advance to the final.

The former wicket-keeper-batsman-turned coach, Samant, stressed a point that his team performed as a team and that’s the reason it’s in the final. “It’s been a team effort. Whenever it’s a team effort, there will be good results. Not because of one or two players. Even in the semi-finals against Maharashtra, four bowlers took two wickets each on a ‘pata’ (flat) wicket.”

Jaffer’s inclusion in the team, after the ICC under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh, boosted the batting department of the team against Maharashtra. “Armaan Jaffer and Jay Bista (dropped from the Mumbai Ranji Trophy team) are tremendous contributors to the team. Both are in form. They have helped the team in a big way. Armaan is a very cool player, just like Wasim Jaffer. He always stays in the present. He will play by the merit of the ball. That’s the reason he’s very successful.’’

There have been many examples of under-19 and under-23 players impressing Mumbai’s senior selection committee and getting the nod for the Ranji Trophy. “There will always be such instances. The under-19 and under-23 teams are the main supply line for the Mumbai team. The senior team is well established and hence it’s difficult to make a breakthrough. There is no doubt that the under-19 and under-23 players are eager to progress to the Ranji Trophy team, but one has to perform consistently to hold on to his position in the team. Jay (Bista) has been fantastic for us; he’s scored 864 runs with four centuries and two half centuries. I am sure he will be part and parcel of the Ranji team next year.”

While the team’s batting looks adequate, it’s the lack of depth in the bowling department that slightly worries Samant ahead of the final. “I am actually worried about the pace bowling department. We have struggled with it. Even the Ranji team has only Shardul Thakur and Dhawal Kulkarni. And the under-23 team only Tushar Deshpande.”

The Mumbai team for final: Eknath Kerkar (Captain-wk), Jay Bista, Akarshit Gomel, Akash Parkar, Arman Jaffer, Vikrant Auti, Shivam Dubey, Sachin Yadav, Dhrumil Matkar, Parikshit Valsangkar, Abul Kalam, Atif Attarwala, Prasad Pawar, Aditya Dhumal, Tushar Deshpande.eom