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Ranji Trophy 2023-24 – Ajinkya Rahane toasts Mumbai’s ‘great team culture’ for Ranji success


Ending a wait that lasted eight years, Mumbai lifted their 42nd Ranji Trophy title in front of a jubilant home crowd at the Wankhede. Up against a stubborn Vidarbha team that refused to give in, Mumbai were eventually comfortable in defending 538 to win the final. Captain Ajinkya Rahane credited the triumph to the vision instilled in the team by head coach Omkar Salvi.

“I think our journey started in June and it was all because of Omkar’s vision. We all had a vision as a team, but it came from Omkar,” Rahane said in the post-match press conference. “We focused on player fitness, creating a great culture in the team and giving freedom to all the players, not only on the field but off the field as well.

“And you know, when someone is not doing well, you have to back that individual. It’s a team sport. Some players will do well in the team, few players won’t do well. But it’s all about backing all the players in the right time,” Rahane said. “So I think massive credit to Omkar. He has worked hard for this moment. Today I am really proud of him, really happy for him. His hard work has really paid off.”

Rahane said that the title win, and the fact that there are several players from Mumbai representing India, bodes well for the team.

“This victory means a lot. 42nd title, waiting seven-eight years. Last year we played really good cricket but unfortunately because of one run we couldn’t qualify for the playoffs. But this 42nd title means a lot. And as you mentioned, ten players representing Indian cricket, it’s massive.”

He also underlined the importance of players turning up in domestic cricket.

“I want to mention one thing about BCCI giving importance to domestic cricket which is a very good thing, telling players to play domestic cricket. Which is very important,” Rahane said.

“From here on, for Mumbai cricket, it is important to keep growing, to keep thinking about how can we get better in all formats,” he said. “Winning the championship after eight years, we did this, but again, we want to repeat this in the coming years. Our focus will be on that.”

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Mumbai on the fifth day of the final as Vidarbha skipper Akshay Wadkar and rookie Harsh Dubey played out a wicket-less morning session, sparking chatter about a potential upset of epic proportions. It wasn’t to be, but Rahane was the first to tip his hat to Vidarbha’s resilience.

“The way they played cricket, the way they have fought in this match. When you concede a 120-run first-innings lead and are chasing 538, it’s easy to give up. But the sport teaches you that if you don’t give up and believe in your abilities, anything can happen,” Rahane said.

“Chasing 538, the character which they have shown in the second innings was a great learning experience for all of us. The grit and determination with which they batted was very good.

“The last 7-8 years they have been doing really good. They had a couple of championships and they won Irani Trophy once or twice. They are playing really good cricket.”

Wadkar: ‘Never thought we were out of the game’

At stumps on the fourth day, Karun Nair had said that Vidarbha, 290 runs away with five wickets in hand, were faced with a “tough task” but also that they are a team that would not quit.

Wadkar and Dubey exemplified that in their defiant partnership that saw Vidarbha go into lunch on the final day 85 runs closer to their target with no more damage to the wickets column. Wadkar scored his second century in Ranji Trophy finals, while Dubey brought up his second first-class fifty.

“When we had our huddle, when we spoke in our team meeting, when we were speaking in our partnership, we didn’t think even 1% that we are out of the match,” Wadkar said.

“We were just thinking that all the batters together, we’ll win the match. Because it’s the final and the last inning, so there was no scope of giving up or thinking negative. You have to go for the win, so we just believed that we will win.”

Wadkar said that the Mumbai team kept having many discussions on their tactics since the fourth day, when he put on a 90-run stand with Nair and started his 130-run partnership with Dubey, but at no point did Rahane or his team look flustered, which meant that he knew Vidarbha still had a long way to go in the match.

“[Mumbai] were having discussions since yesterday. When I was batting with Karun, when I was batting with Harsh. So they had discussions on field changes and bowling changes,” Wadkar said. “I was just observing their captain, Rahane, that what are his expressions? Is he talking a little harshly with the bowlers? Because then we would know that we are in the game.

“But from his attitude, it looked like he was cool and calm. He didn’t let it show if he was getting frustrated or that we were getting close to the game.

“So we also felt that we are quite far in the game and we have to go a long way. We did have a long way to go, of course, but from the attitude of the opponents, you get vibes about what they are thinking. But from his attitude, it didn’t look like [they were getting frustrated].”

MCA increases prize money for Mumbai

While Mumbai were already receiving INR 5 crore from the BCCI for winning the Ranji Trophy, the Mumbai Cricket Association decided to double the prize money with a prize of INR 5 crore of their own.

“MCA President Amol Kale and Apex Council has decided to double the Ranji Trophy prize money. The MCA will pay additional sum of Rs 5 crore to the winning Mumbai Ranji Trophy team,” the MCA said in a statement.

Mumbai coach Salvi praised the board for the move, saying it would give the players more security.

“I think nowadays there are very less institutions that provide jobs [to players]. I think BCCI taking that step and giving that money and along with that MCA putting that step forward to equal that amount is a great help for the players who don’t have jobs or other sources of earning,” Salvi said.

“It also gives an inspiration. Definitely I feel [Inspiration] should be intrinsic but the monetary help will give them the security and it will stabilise them mentally and financially and they will give more to the game.”

Abhimanyu Bose is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo


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