Prithvi Shaw: The moment you take things lightly, game hits you hard

Prithvi Shaw, who the selectors stuck with as captain even after Ajinkya Rahane, was available for the league stage, sheds light on Mumbai’s league stage campaign in a chat with Sportstar.

Prithvi Shaw's Mumbai made the Ranji Trophy knockouts for the first time after four years.   -  VIVEK BENDRE

Barring Ajinkya Rahane, Aditya Tare and Dhawal Kulkarni, none of Mumbai’s 21 players who were selected for the Ranji Trophy’s league stage have won the title. After all, Mumbai is going through its second-longest title-drought, having last won the title in 2015-16.

Prithvi Shaw, who the selectors stuck with as captain even after Ajinkya Rahane, was available for the league stage, sheds light on Mumbai’s league stage campaign in a chat with Sportstar.

Excerpts

How did the team prepare since it was a curtailed league stage?

Before coming into the tournament, we had good practice sessions. The Mushtaq Ali Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy didn’t go our way but we came up with a plan and strategy after that. And with discipline, we played practice games with actual plans to be implemented in the Ranji Trophy. We just kept things simple. We didn’t want to go hard for it. We wanted to trust our process before coming to the Ranji Trophy. It was fantastic to see everyone contributing in the last month or so.

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Like you said, the limited overs’ tournaments were a disappointment. How did you, Ajinkya Rahane and the head coach Amol Muzumdar plot plans for the Ranji Trophy, where Mumbai hasn’t tasted success for a while now?

We were quite hit by what happened in Mushtaq Ali Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy. We took that to heart. Everyone, especially me, Ajjuda [Rahane], Amol sir and others in the support staff were quite disappointed with our white-ball performances. But we had certain amount of trust in the players, like we can do it in Ranji Trophy. There’s a bunch of talented players in our team and I just told them to trust themselves. “You are in Mumbai team because you are special, so you should believe in yourself. You’ll need those attributes while playing the Ranji Trophy. It’s no mean achievement to be playing for Mumbai.” That’s what I told them. I am extremely proud to be playing for Mumbai and so is each and every player. I play for the team first and then for myself, be it a practice game or a Ranji or Indian Premier League (IPL) or international. The format doesn’t matter, I believe giving your best for the team is the most important aspect. I believe that being a team-man is the key. As a captain and a leader, I believe the kind of ability they have, it was great to see them showing those skills. It was great to see them doing it for the team, throwing their skills, heart and emotions for the team. We trusted each other. That was the key.

After the first game versus Saurashtra, despite doing most things right, were you happy for gaining three points against the defending champion or disappointed for not winning at least six, if not seven, points?

Definitely it was disappointing. It was a very good game, they are a very good team. We almost had the game but… it happens in cricket. We had the belief that if we could win against Goa and Odisha, we will still go through. With only one team moving ahead, there was hardly any room for a mistake. We just believed in ourselves and trusted ourselves to execute all the plans we had tried out in the nets. That’s why we are here.

What was discussed during the first team meeting after the draw against Saurashtra?

Obviously everyone was disappointed. It reminded us that the game isn’t over unless the last wicket falls or the last run is scored. I won’t say we were overconfident but we did relax a little bit. I said: “there’s no room to assume that it’s just a matter of time and wait for things to happen.” This is cricket. I get scared with it. The moment you take things lightly, the game will hit you hard. That’s what I spoke about during the team meeting. We are here to win, not to be happy with the first innings lead or fight it out. We are here to dominate and that’s been the legacy of Mumbai cricket. I am delighted that everyone showed character in the last two weeks.

Since you spoke about the legacy of Mumbai cricket, what do you make of Shams and Tanush’s partnership versus Goa in the second innings?

Uff… that was the turning point of the campaign. Both of them won us the game. The way they batted, the way they bowled, it was their day. They really worked hard for it before coming here. I am really happy for the way they rescued the team. I hope they continue to pick many more wickets with the skills they have and go way ahead.

What does being in the knockouts after four years mean to the group?

It means a lot. If you see, we just had three games in the league stage, so we couldn’t afford to think about the knockouts. We had to stay focussed on each game. Yes, no doubt, we are playing to qualify for the knockouts but we were not desperately thinking only about it. We had to go through the processes rather than keep thinking only about the trophy while playing over here. I kept telling everyone to stay in the present and enjoy every session.

Except for the head coach, none of you are used to such a long break between the league and the knockouts. What’s your take on it?

Definitely it’s a long break. The next two and half months, many will shift focus to the IPL and will be playing white-ball. It’s going to be a matter of how we switch on again in the red-ball mode once the IPL is over. We will have to train hard in that short window just like we did for the league stage. It will be harder because you cannot take anyone for granted and all the teams are quality oppositions. It will be an opportunity for all of us to play the knockouts and do our best for Mumbai.

Besides Ajinkya, how have you dealt with Dhawal Kulkarni and Aditya Tare, the other two seniormost players in the team who appeared to be getting back to their best?

They have all the experience. They have been playing this game for long. They have been of great help to me, especially in the field. Dhawal has been looking after the fast bowlers’ group since he has that experience. Aditya also is always ready with his ideas. They have done really well, supporting all the lesser experienced players. In fact, as a captain, they have made my job easier to ensure there is no senior-junior divide in the team. It’s the intensity of a player that should speak. They understand it perfectly and I really thank them for that.

How will you assess your batting? Disappointed for not having converted at least one of your starts into a big knock?

Not really happy with my performance, should have been much better. You know 40s and 50s is nothing in cricket. But I feel it’s okay. I have been batting well and am feeling that something special is just around the corner.

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