Ajinkya Rahane: Focus now on domestic T20, not IPL

Mumbai skipper Ajinkya Rahane said his team's focus is firmly on the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and currently not on the Indian Premier League (IPL) whose countdown has already begun.

Captain Ajinkya Rahane (r) and speedster Shardul Thakur watch their Mumbai teammates train at the Emerald International School ground in Indore on Wednesday.   -  Amol Karhadkar

The countdown for the Indian Premier League (IPL) may have already begun but the domestic season is yet to be over.

After the rigours of red-ball cricket over the last three months, all the 37 teams in domestic circuit will return to coloured clothing for the next three weeks to vie for honours in the last inter-state tournament of the season.

The timing of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, in its rejigged avatar with the zonal league having made way to assortment of teams in five groups, is such that the domestic T20 championship will serve a different purpose than the trend of last few seasons.

Over the last decade, the domestic T20s have often been scheduled before the IPL auction in order to let cricketers impress IPL talent scouts.

READ: Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2019: Spotlight on comeback man Wriddhiman Saha and Mayank Agarwal

But, with the expanded domestic calendar this season, the tournament will instead serve as a virtual warm-up for the IPL, scheduled to begin on March 23, a week after the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy final.   

“Playing T20 here and straightway most of the guys will move on to IPL. It’s good in a way but right now, the focus should be on domestic T20 rather than thinking about the IPL so I always believe you have to be in present,” Ajinkya Rahane, the Mumbai captain, said on Wednesday.

“Once you do that, everything else is looked after, so right now, as a team we are focussed on Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. We are here to do well.”

Mumbai hopes for turnaround

Mumbai is placed in Group C, along with host Madhya Pradesh, powerhouse Punjab, scintillating Saurashtra and dark horses Railways, Goa and Sikkim.

But besides gearing themselves up for the IPL, the Mumbai cricketers - nine of the 15 in Indore have an IPL contract - will be hoping to turn the tide around for the domestic giant.

Prithvi Shaw and Shreyas Iyer share a light moment at the Emerald International School ground in Indore on Wednesday.   -  Amol Karhadkar

 

Despite starting the season by claiming the Vijay Hazare Trophy title, Mumbai lost the zing in Ranji Trophy and was never in reckoning to make it to the knock-outs.

But with a star-studded line-up - barring Rohit Sharma who will be with the India side and all-rounder Shivam Dube who is unfit - Mumbai is looking forward to ending the season on a high.

Mumbai starts its campaign versus domestic newbies Sikkim at the Emerald International School ground but Rahane isn’t willing to take the game lightly.

“Challenge is to be consistent in this format. T20 is a dangerous format and anything can happen. One over can change the game drastically, so it’s important to give your best throughout 40 overs,” he said.

“We are not going to take any team lightly. For us, it’s important to play with same intensity with all the teams. In the end, results will take care of itself if we show the same intensity in all the games.”