First session will be crucial: Kulkarni
Mumbai, Nov 1: The Mumbai Ranji Trophy team is ready to kick off the season on a high note when they take on Railways at the Wankhede Stadium on November 2. With Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan, apart from skipper Ajit Agarkar, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Ramesh Pawar, in the squad, the 39-time champions have been preparing diligently for their opening game of the coveted tournament.
Speaking to the media ahead of the match, coach Sulakshan Kulkarni said, “The preparation has been excellent.”
“We have been training for a good three days from Monday to Wednesday, so today we decided to have one light session,” he added.
Speaking about the boost that the presence of stalwarts like Zaheer Khan and Tendulkar gives to the team, he said, “It is good sign for Mumbai cricket that they are playing in a Ranji match. Sachin is probably playing after about three years. It is good sign for the team and the boys will learn a lot of things.”
“It benefits in terms of inputs. For example, we had called a lot of bowlers to bowl in the nets. Some of them were Ranji probables but some of them were not, they were not even from the Under-19s, but I remember Sachin helped one left-arm spinner. He gave the bowler some important advice, which will definitely help him,” Kulkarni elaborated.
Speaking about Tendulkar’s training regime, Kulkarni said, “He is working very hard. He comes here at around 8:00 am and does his fitness training on his own and then joins the team. The way he is playing in the nets he is very serious. He was batting everyday for 45 minutes to 1 hour non-stop and he is shaping well. His foot movement has been going very well. I don’t remember any other player, except maybe Rahul Dravid [who practices like he does]. Without taking a break for even a single ball, he plays for one hour. It is a type of achievement to play five bowlers at a stretch for one hour. It takes a lot of time [and stamina], because in 15 to 20 minutes you are facing 100 balls. In 20 minutes the batsman is facing five bowlers, which is 100 balls. That means in one hour around 300 balls without a break. So you have to concentrate hard in the nets, sometimes without a sightscreen. It is very difficult to concentrate like that. It is very hard. That shows his commitment level, his concentration and his focus.”
Speaking about the focus being on the two Team India stars in the team, he added, “This is not that for the first time that we are playing with Sachin, Zaheer and other stars. The boys are familiar with these things. They have played before as well, they have played with Sachin and Zaheer and without Sachin and Zaheer and other players, so they are quite familiar with such situations, particularly the Mumbai players.”
“I remember, around 20 years back, Dilip Vengsarkar and Sunil Gavaskar said in the dressing room, that any youngsters who come into the dressing room, don’t expect sympathy and give sympathy. That is the Mumbai dressing room. It means that once you are in the dressing room you are a graduate. You have done everything and that’s why you are in the dressing room, so they are quite a familiar.”
When asked about his advice to Rohit Sharma, Kulkarni replied, “My only advice to Rohit Sharma is to get runs and more runs. That is the only advice to any cricketer. Runs or wickets, you have to perform and let the selectors do their job. Like last year he scored runs in the three matches that he played.”
The Mumbai team will be playing the first few matches without former skipper and batting mainstay Wasim Jaffer. Speaking about the absence of Jaffer, he said, “We will definitely miss Wasim. He is very big player and the amount of impact that he has had in the last 15 years [has been tremendous so] we will definitely miss him. But again it is an opportunity for other players.”
On their game against Railways, the Mumbai coach said, “The first session will be very crucial. The opening start like the opening spell or the first forty minutes set the tone of the match. The first session will set the tone of the match and then we will take it from there.”
“If we are batting first and we get a good start, then we can set the tone after lunch. If you get three-four wickets in the first session [we will take it from there].”
Speaking about the Wankhede wicket, he said, “The Mumbai wicket is always sporting. It will initially help the seamers, it will help the batsmen; it will help the spinners later on. It is a true sporting wicket.”
About the season ahead, the Mumbai coach said, “We will take the season match by match. As we all know Zaheer and Sachin are there only for the first match, next match we will again see the options. We will take it one match at a time.”
Asked if they will be pressing for an outright win and try for an extra point against Railways, he said, “Always every team’s target will be that. Since we are going to get an additional point, it is a bonus, it is a motivation. Since we have bowlers like Zaheer, Agarkar, Dhawal and spinners, [we will go for an outright win]”
“Nowadays most teams play aggressive cricket. Most teams score 300-plus; you also tend to lose some wickets [and] when you lose wickets you there are more chances of an outright win,” he concluded.