Cricket in India remains a game where two sides play and Mumbai always win, but whew did Karnataka run them close at a packed Gangothri Glades ground here.
At the end of three-and-a-half days, the difference between the sides was a measly six runs, but it was enough for Mumbai to clinch their 39th Ranji Trophy title. Their nearest — if one can use the word in this context —competitors are Delhi (seven titles) and Karnataka (six).
Propelled by a calculated assault on the Mumbai bowlers by Manish Pandey (144), Karnataka fought all the way down to No. 9 S. Aravind, but fell just short. One could see what it meant to the Mumbai team when Ajit Agarkar jumped to take Aravind’s return catch. Agarkar ran around with his arms held aloft and his teammates were pumped. There were some unsavoury finger-wagging and pelvis-thrusting towards the members’ gallery alongside the players’ area. It showed the pressure on visitors.
“Sometimes you have to excuse the players because emotions run high after the team wins such an important match,” captain Wasim Jaffer said. Agarkar finished with five wickets in the innings. The match was finally decided by the way he and Dhawal Kulkarni used the second new ball, taken as soon as it was available. Karnataka were six down needing 47 with Stuart Binny and Sunil Joshi batting.
In the next 8.4 overs, Mumbai prised out the four wickets. The crowd fell silent before breaking into applause, sad that Karnataka lost but happy to have seen a great match.
For most of the morning, though, it did not seem the result would be so close because Pandey was batting like a dream, feeding on the energy created by the “Mysore wave”. From the start, Pandey and Ganesh Satish looked to be positive against a 42-over old ball. Pandey was the aggressor and apart from the hooks, pulls and on-drives, he played some shots that were believable.
It was not until Iqbal Abdulla, in a cameo role with the ball, found Pandey’s edge and lone slip Jaffer took the catch that Mumbai could breathe easy.
A poor decision that saw off Amit Verma, some lower-order fightback and one final push with the new ball later, Mumbai were champions.
The turnout at Mysore provided further proof that the future of domestic cricket lies in venues away from metros.