Mumbai’s red-ball preparations have begun, says Vinayak Samant

Having guided his side to the Vijay Hazare Trophy title, the Mumbai coach is gearing up in earnest for the Ranji Trophy.

File Photo: The presence of Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane helped the team, admits Vinayak Samant (in picture).   -  K. K. Mustafah

Mumbai’s Vijay Hazare Trophy win on Saturday was Vinayak Samant’s first title with the team after having taken over as coach in July.

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In a chat with Sportstar on Saturday evening, Samant explains the road ahead for the team. He also elaborates on the focus of his preparations for the Ranji Trophy.

Excerpts…

Q. Congratulations on the victory. Did the presence of seasoned campaigners Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma help Mumbai immensely in the knockout stage?

A. Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma are there, and their presence is very important for the dressing room. Their experience counts. Though they did not have very good performances, but still, their presence is really important.

In the final, the team struggled while chasing a low target, losing four early wickets. What was the mood in the dressing room then? Were you confident of pulling this one off?

That’s true. I was telling the boys to time the ball well. There was no need to hit it hard. Surya Kumar (Yadav) was trying to hit hard and so was (Aditya) Tare initially. Even (Siddhesh) Lad was trying to play hard. I sent them a message saying that you have to control and be patient. After that, the partnerships were built. I knew it was just a matter of eight-10 overs and after that the hardness of the ball will go and bowlers would be tired. The wicket was very good to bat on, and Tare capitalised; he played well along with Lad. While chasing a low score, you need to hit boundaries as well but before that, you have to be well settled.

Crisis men: Aditya Tare (left) and Siddhesh Lad saved Mumbai's chase from going off the rails. Photo: PTI

 

Now that the Vijay Hazare Trophy is won, the real challenge for Mumbai will be in the Ranji Trophy. This time, Rahane and Sharma may not be available due to international commitments. How do you plan to gear up for Ranji Trophy without the star players in the ranks?

It will depend on our second lineup. They will have to pull up their socks and get ready for the Ranji Trophy. I have already started preparations for red-ball cricket. The boys who went to Mumbai have already started practising with the red ball. I will go back, and then start training. It is a different form of cricket and it is a different task for me. Five-six players are in Deodhar Trophy, so once they return, we will take a day break, and then start the final preparations.

Despite some India internationals applying for the Mumbai coaching job, you were named the coach. And you started off with a title win. How do you see this?

I kept it very simple. For me, the process has to be perfect. You have to think what to bowl. You can’t swing it every time, so whenever you are bowling, you have to have bouncers ready. Now, you need to figure out whether it would be a off-stump bouncer or a middle-stump bouncer. It is all planned. Dhawal Kulkarni took the challenge and could stick to the plan. All bowlers [bowled] really well throughout the tournament. The [batsmen] have international experience and that really helped. They played really well.

Now, with Ranji Trophy a couple of weeks away, what are the areas that you will be working on?

I want to focus the fielding at slip, short-leg [and] point. I need to see how batsmen play in moving wickets. I am working on that. That’s my main aim. Tackling swinging ball in the four-day format will be challenge and [batsmen] should be ready for it.