Amol Muzumdar said sorry for the smell of beer in which he and Pravin Amre were soaked. Amre said it was “the victory perfume.”
They needn’t have worried. On Monday, the Mumbai captain (Muzumdar) and coach (Amre) would have smelt like roses even if they had been dunked in rotten garlic. After all, they had guided the team to its 37th Ranji Trophy title. Mumbai beat a spirited Bengal in the final at the Wankhede Stadium. Mumbai won by 132 runs and a day to spare.
But don’t go by the margin. It was a tense Day Four for Mumbai. Chasing 472 for victory, Bengal were in the hunt at 270 for three with the resurgent Sourav Ganguly (90) and the gung-ho but restless Manoj Tiwary (94) coasting along on a wicket getting friendly by the minute. But Tiwary, 21, gifted Mumbai allrounder Abhishek Nayar a soft dismissal, slashing to Rohit Sharma at point, to end their 117-run fourth wicket partnership and trigger a collapse.
After Tiwary’s departure, Bengal lost six wickets in 17 balls for the addition of just five runs. From 334 for four, they crashed to 339 all out to lose their second consecutive Ranji final.
In the Mumbai dressing room, beer flowed like the Nile. Outside, a garland of firecrackers went off like a loud motorcycle. The crowds chanted “Ganapati Bappa Morya” as cricket board president Sharad Pawar transferred the humongous Ranji Trophy into the hands of Muzumdar.
Administrators have made a proposal to award Rs 1 crore to Ranji Trophy winners each year. “The prize money decision will be taken in some time,” Prof Ratnakar Shetty, the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) treasurer, said. “Till then the MCA has decided to give Rs 1 lakh to each of the 19 Mumbai players.”
The excitement among the players and the public was warranted. Mumbai had failed to win a point in their first three games. Then they won five matches in a row. Outright.
“It was a sluggish beginning to the season, but we believed in ourselves,” said Muzumdar, who bettered Ashok Mankad’s mark to become Mumbai’s highest scorer this season.
“Credit must go to the lord,” said Amre, whose mobile phone caller tune is a Ganesh hymn. “The bowlers did a great job too, especially Zaheer and Ajit. Also, we backed our players, many of whom are youngsters, and didn’t make too many changes.”
Except for the final, when the Big Four returned to the team.
How much difference did their presence make? Ganguly had a succinct answer. “Sachin and Wasim both scored centuries in the first innings. Zaheer took nine wickets in the match.”
Among the youngsters, the captain and the coach had praise for batsman Rohit Sharma and Nayar, both of whom showed commitment on Monday. Not only did the two combine to send back the frisky Tiwary but they also fielded with heart, throwing themselves on the ground.
Muzumdar dropped a sitter in the slips when Tiwary snicked Nayar when on 80. That was a difficult time for Mumbai. Asked what he and the team were thinking then, Muzumdar said, “It’s never a good feeling to drop a catch in the slips. Sourav’s a great player and he and Manoj were doing well for Bengal at that point. But we knew it was a question of one breakthrough.”
Amre won’t forget Monday. This was the first time he was coaching a state side and ended up winning not a few matches but the whole kitchen kaboodle.
“I got my Mumbai cap 20 years ago, but I never won the Ranji Trophy as a player,” he said. “Glad I could do it as a coach.”