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Coming back with typical panache

The state Ranji team's phoenix-like rise from the ashes is because of that 'Mumbai Attitude', reports Akshay Sawai.

india Updated: Feb 01, 2007 12:14 IST

Mumbai's Khadoos Attitude (MKA) is famous in Indian domestic cricket. But the last few years, with the team struggling to live up to its name, it rang hollow. Everyone spoke about it, but it didn’t show in the team’s performance. MKA became a romantic notion that had little contemporary relevance.

Season 2006-07 has changed that. After failing to win a point in their first three Ranji matches, Mumbai are in the final.

On Tuesday, three days before the title clash begins at the Wankhede Stadium against Bengal, Nilesh Kulkarni said that this year’s performance was an actualisation of the Mumbai Attitude.

“What is the Mumbai Attitude? It is never saying die, bouncing back from adversity,” the longlimbed, 6’4” left-arm spinner and ex-captain said. “That is what we did this year. We had a mostly young team. Only a few of us are seniors. But the youngsters — Hiken Shah, Abhishek Nair, Sahil Kukreja — to name a few, grabbed the opportunity.”

So did the older lot. Captain Amol Muzumdar, 33, is the top scorer for Mumbai this season. Kulkarni, who turns 34 on April 3, is their top wicket-taker. He even proved stubborn with the bat against Baroda in the semifinal.

Fielding at gully, his specialised position, he has been in seat-of-the-pants form. Kulkarni took two exciting catches against Maharashtra in Nashik. Even at net practice on Tuesday, he took a blinder.

“As seniors, it’s our duty to pass on whatever little we know to the juniors,” Kulkarni said. “You can do that better with action more than words. I have been working hard on fielding the last five or six years. Whether you are a bowler or a batsman, fielding is crucial. One good catch can change the atmosphere in the ground and perk the team up.”

Like Muzumdar, Kulkarni will be playing his seventh Ranji Trophy final. He remembers all the six that he’s been part of with fondness.

“The first was in 1993-94, when we beat Bengal,” he said. “Ravi Shastri was the captain. I was on the fringes then. The next year, we had Sachin Tendulkar, Vinod Kambli and Sanjay Manjrekar. That was a season of dominance."

"We would win most of our matches in two-and-a-half-days. In Gwalior (1996-97), it was a day-night match, which proved to be a different ballgame. Then on we became parts of the senior guard and played a different role.”

Asked if it was easier for him now that he was not the captain, Kulkarni said, “well, I still have the bowling responsibility. Even when I was the captain, I was a bowler first.”

He said his philosophy was to adapt his bowling to the type of pitch. “If I’m getting bounce, I try to exploit that,” he said.

“If I’m getting turn, I concentrate on turn. If the pitch produces skidding deliveries, I bowl more arm-balls.” In the end, Kulkarni said it was important to concentrate on the present and not be a parasite of the past, living on yesteryear glory.

“We are 36 times champions, which is great for history,” he said. “But we have to win now.”

akshay.sawai@hindustantimes.com