Vijay Hazare Trophy: Mumbai coach Vinayak Samant confident of team's success

As Mumbai begins Vijay Hazare Trophy campaign, coach Vinayak Samant believes the team has enough potential to fare well this time around.

Dhawal Kulkarni with coach Vinayak Samant during a practice session. (File Photo)   -  VIVEK BENDRE

Such is the nature of India’s domestic set-up, more so with Mumbai cricket, that it is obsessed primarily with Ranji Trophy and success in inter-State white-ball tournaments doesn’t matter much. With a forgettable Ranji outing the domestic giant had last season — Mumbai set to start its Vijay Hazare Trophy title defence in Bengaluru from Tuesday — the new season is being billed as one for redemption.

Even coach Vinayak Samant, who struggled to ensure that the winning momentum generated with the one-day trophy at the start of the last season in his maiden season as the senior team’s coach, is eyeing the prized possession.

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“It’s important to live in the present and focus on each game of the Vijay Hazare Trophy but I would certainly like the team to set the record straight in the Ranji Trophy,” Samant said before the team left for Bengaluru.

Mumbai will enter Group A as one of the most under-prepared units. While Samant was reappointed less than a month before Mumbai’s season-opener, its pre-season tournament in Nagpur was washed out. While Samant admits it as a challenge the team will have to overcome, he stresses the key players have been in form and performing for international or representational sides.

Banking on experience

“Surya (Yadav) is more caring and reads the game very well. Now that we have a current India one-day player for the whole tournament, Shreyas Iyer, the captain, it changes the equation altogether. His experience and his form will make a lot of difference,” Samant said.

“Shardul (Thakur), Dhawal (Kulkarni) and Tushar (Deshpande) — the three key pacers — are fit and available. And Shivam Dube is at his best in all the departments for India A. Besides, we have a good youngsters — Yashasvi (Jaiswal) and Atharva (Ankolekar), so it’s a very good side. It’s important to back each other, something that we are working on. We have to keep the positive aspects going and rectify the mistakes of the last season. Senior players need to be given more responsibility and backing, for instance.”

Last year, after tasting the success early on, Mumbai’s campaign fizzled out as the Ranji Trophy progressed. A combination of injuries to pace bowlers, terrible captaincy and selection besides woeful batting performance by key batsmen meant Mumbai failed to qualify for the knockouts.

Samant took responsibility for failing to get the team to gel but also hinted at lack of support from selectors as a key reason for the mediocre season. “Actually, I was making mistakes. I realised later on that I should have ensured the players that I was backing didn’t lose their place in the side. But since I didn’t get the support a coach deserves, I was struggling to keep the players’ trust intact,” he said.

“It will not happen this year. With Milind Rege sir back as chief selector, there’s a collective effort to ensure we all are working together.”