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Undoubtedly, smaller teams have shown remarkable improvement, challenging the traditional dominance of domestic powerhouses on the cricket field. However, amidst this shifting landscape, Mumbai remained a stalwart, consistently asserting its supremacy. As evidenced by its 41st Ranji Trophy triumph in 2015-16, Mumbai has historically boasted an impressive success rate, clinching the inter-state First-Class cricket championship title more than half the time.

Ranji Trophy: Mumbai clinches record-extending 42nd title, beats Vidarbha by 169 runs in final

Yet, a period of drought ensued, deviating from Mumbai’s illustrious standards. This dry spell persisted, marking one of the longest title hiatuses in Mumbai’s esteemed Ranji Trophy history. At the commencement of the recent domestic season, Mumbai’s eight-year wait was its second-longest title drought, trailing only the nine-year gap experienced between 1984–85 and 1993–94.

However, on March 14, the prolonged wait came to an end as Ajinkya Rahane lifted the Ranji Trophy for the first time as captain, achieving a mission he embarked on three months prior. While Rahane assumed leadership only at the onset of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, the domestic 50-over tournament, head coach Omkar Salvi had been mapping out the roadmap since his appointment in June of the previous year.

Throughout the three knockout matches, Mumbai found itself in precarious situations at various junctures, yet it was rescued by different individuals, showcasing the true character and essence of the Lion’s crest that adorns a Mumbai cricketer’s whites with pride. Here are several key factors that played a pivotal role in guiding Mumbai back to its glory days.

B for bowlers, C for Championship

The cricketing adage holds true for the Mumbai team’s performance in the 2023–24 season: “Batters win games, and bowlers win championships.” Throughout the league stage, it was the bowling unit, spearheaded by the unassuming Mohit Avasthi, that not only secured Mumbai’s qualification for the knockouts but also propelled it to the top of the league standings.

Out of a possible 140 wickets in the league stage, Mumbai claimed an impressive 128, laying the groundwork for its triumph in five out of seven matches. This stellar performance compensated for Mumbai’s relatively shaky batting lineup, both on paper and on the field, in recent times.

Although Mumbai registered only four centuries during the league stage, the bowlers’ consistency and dominance enabled the team to accumulate bonus points at ease, ultimately securing the top position in the league standings. This achievement was crucial, as finishing with the highest points meant Mumbai would host all its knockout matches.

Mumbai’s invincible ethos culminates in 42nd Ranji Trophy title

Out of a possible 140 wickets in the league stage, Mumbai claimed an impressive 128, laying the groundwork for its triumph in five out of seven matches. 
| Photo Credit:
EMMANUAL YOGINI | The Hindu

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Out of a possible 140 wickets in the league stage, Mumbai claimed an impressive 128, laying the groundwork for its triumph in five out of seven matches. 
| Photo Credit:
EMMANUAL YOGINI | The Hindu

Furthermore, credit must be attributed to Dhawal Kulkarni, the veteran whose career culminated in a fairy-tale ending. Despite featuring in only three games, Kulkarni remained actively involved throughout the season, shouldering the responsibility of nurturing a younger pace attack. This was particularly significant, with Shardul and Tushar Deshpande occupied with national and India A duties for a significant portion of the league stage, with Kulkarni providing guidance and support from the sidelines.

T for team effort

Despite the absence of any Mumbai batsman among the top 10 run-scorers, opener Bhupen Lalwani’s 588 runs placed him 15th in the Elite Group. Similarly, Mohit and Shams Mulani, with 35 wickets each, found themselves jointly placed 11th among the wicket-takers.

However, despite these individual statistics, Mumbai stood proudly at the summit of both the league and knockout stages. This achievement underscores the deeply ingrained culture fostered by Rahane and Salvi.

The ethos of “Team first” resonated throughout the season. Players like Avasthi and Shivam Dube in the league stage, and Shardul Thakur and Musheer Khan in the knockouts — alongside consistent contributors like Tanush Kotian and Shams Mulani — consistently came to the team’s rescue.

Furthermore, the inclusion of Rahane, Salvi, Kulkarni, and Mulani in the core planning group proved pivotal.

A for allrounders

The secret to Mumbai’s remarkable success in the Ranji Trophy knockouts lies in its batting depth and ability to post substantial totals. Throughout the tournament’s history, Mumbai’s formidable batting lineup has often haunted its opponents.

This time was no different, as Mumbai showcased its batting prowess, bolstered by a cadre of all-rounders. Despite the absence of Dube, its top all-rounder, who had made significant contributions in the league stages, Mumbai’s batting remained formidable. Players like Shardul, Kotian, Mulani, and the emerging talent of Musheer Khan demonstrated their mettle.

Musheer Khan hit his maiden First-Class double-century and was one of the architects in Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy win.

Musheer Khan hit his maiden First-Class double-century and was one of the architects in Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy win.
| Photo Credit:
EMMANUAL YOGINI | The Hindu

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Musheer Khan hit his maiden First-Class double-century and was one of the architects in Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy win.
| Photo Credit:
EMMANUAL YOGINI | The Hindu

In the quarterfinal against Baroda, Mumbai found itself in a precarious position at 142 for five. However, Musheer’s double century propelled it to a total of 384 in the first innings. Remarkably, in the second innings, Kotian and Tushar Deshpande rewrote records by scoring centuries while batting at No. 10 and 11, respectively.

The semifinals showcased Mumbai’s batting depth once again. Chasing Tamil Nadu’s modest total of 146, Mumbai stumbled at 106 for seven. Yet, Shardul and Kotian’s resilient partnership added 272 runs, setting up an emphatic innings win.

In the final against Vidarbha, Mumbai faced a similar challenge, but Shardul’s aggressive batting salvaged the innings, doubling their total to 224. Mulani and Kotian then contributed with both bat and ball, building on Musheer’s impressive hundred in the second innings.

Mumbai’s wealth of genuine all-rounders proved invaluable.

L for leader

Throughout the tournament, Rahane’s struggles with the bat became a major talking point.

Despite these challenges, Rahane’s resilience shone through, culminating in a classy innings of 73 in the final, his best of the season. However, his overall tally of 214 runs in 13 innings, at an average of 17.83, was far from impressive. For someone with 85 Test caps, such a dip in form could have warranted a break or even led to a loss of interest.

Yet, Rahane displayed exceptional character by separating the responsibilities of captaincy from his batting woes. His determination to lead his team to victory, securing his fourth title as a player, served as a driving force, showcasing his unwavering commitment to the team’s success.

Rahane never allowed his personal frustrations to affect his interactions with other players. Instead, his teammates acknowledged his active involvement as a motivating factor that spurred them on to achieve glory.

Rahane never allowed his personal frustrations to affect his interactions with other players. Instead, his teammates acknowledged his active involvement as a motivating factor that spurred them on to achieve glory.
| Photo Credit:
EMMANUAL YOGINI | The Hindu

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Rahane never allowed his personal frustrations to affect his interactions with other players. Instead, his teammates acknowledged his active involvement as a motivating factor that spurred them on to achieve glory.
| Photo Credit:
EMMANUAL YOGINI | The Hindu

“The moment I got out, I switched into the role of being the captain,” Rahane told Sportstar as a matter of fact. “There are times when you don’t score; you just have to take it in your stride and not let it affect your role as captain, and more importantly, not pass it on to the team.”

Rahane never allowed his personal frustrations to affect his interactions with other players. Instead, his teammates acknowledged his active involvement as a motivating factor that spurred them on to achieve glory.



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