They have the unique distinction of being 40 times Ranji Trophy champions and no other team has come close to Mumbai’s incredible record in Indian domestic cricket. But in the past few years, their stranglehold has been broken by teams like Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh or Delhi who have reigned at the top.
It is a new season and Mumbai has veteran Chandrakant Pandit as coach. The team is in the city as part of preparation for the season before playing Andhra in their first match at Visakhapatnam on October 1. The team is playing two practice matches at Gymkhana. Pandit speaks to City Express about Mumbai’s history and their bid to regain the past glory.
The 53-year-old coach is optimistic. “It is an entirely new team. We have a lot of youngsters. Of course expectations have always been there from the team because of its past history. The team is in transition phase but it is jelling very well. I appreciate the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) to allow us two tours for preparation and Hyderabad is one of them. We are hoping for the best now. We have certain plans and goals with the team. I’m sure they will respond to that nicely,” he said.
Pandit, who played in five Tests and 36 ODIs in the 80s and 90s, admitted that Mumbai is no more the dominating team it used to be. “One has to accept cricket has developed all over the country. One state can not dominate the game any more. Of course Mumbai has won Ranji Trophy 40 times in the past. But if you look at other states, there are many promising cricketers coming up and playing for the country. The attitude and approach has changed for good. The infrastructure and facilities have vastly improved in most of the states. There is bound to be improvement in the game,” he shared.
Pandit added that in the past, young players were groomed by senior players. “But now because of hectic international schedule, sometimes the senior players are not available. We had Wasim Jaffer, Amol Muzumdar, Sairaj Bahatule, Ajit Agarkar, who have now retired or moved to other states. The youngsters will miss their guidance. Local cricket, too, misses the presence of international players.’’ The former wicketkeeper-batsman pointed out that being in the Mumbai team is a challenge in itslef. “I think with my experience, I can help the team in achieving their goals. We are looking at the process rather than the results,” he added.
Mumbai, according to Pandit, is pinning hopes on young players like Shreyas Iyer and Surya Yadav. “They are doing well. But it is the team that matters. Abhishek Nayar is an experienced player. These players will be good and it will be a different look for team after three years.”
Pandit felt that Iyer is a player who can bat in any format of the game. “He has the ability to play a long innings. Mumbai has the tradition of producing of these type of players,” he added.
As for the new season, Pandit opined, “There is no point talking about history. We have to play good cricket and take the game forward.” He added that preparation in the city is important for them.
Talking about Hyderabad team he rued that the team has lost its glory. “It has always had great cricketers and youngsters should get motivated by these cricketers,” he said.