On a day when the state selectors were trying to figure out the problems plaguing the Mumbai Ranji Trophy team, a troupe of teenagers alighted at the Chhatrapati Shivaji domestic airport bringing home the Cooch Behar (U-19) trophy after a gap of five years.
And the beaming faces of the coach, the support staff and those who came to receive them showed how much the triumph meant to all of them.
"We have won the trophy after five years. When we started this year’s campaign we were under tremendous pressure," coach Sulakshan Kulkarni told Hindustan Times on Friday.
"But the boys had the hunger to win and that made all the difference."
The Mumbai colts got off to a disastrous start when they lost to defending champions Maharashtra in the opening league match. But they bounced back with a vengeance defeating Punjab and taking an innings lead against Delhi.
"The team needed an outright win against Tamil Nadu in the last league encounter and the way we achieved that gave us the confidence that we can go all the way," Kulkarni added.
Both the team’s met again in the final in Cuttack and this time Mumbai came back from the brink of defeat to beat Tamil Nadu on the basis of first innings lead.
Medium pacer Dhaval Kulkarni turned out to be the hero claiming eight wickets in the first innings.
"They needed 10 runs to take the first innings lead and had four wickets in hand. But we stuck to our plan and earned a seven-run lead," said Dhaval, who claimed all the four scalps.
In fact, Dhaval – 42 wickets from seven matches – along with skipper Ajinkya Rahane (750 runs) and all-rounder Iqbal Abdullah (230 runs and 23 wickets) were the main architects of the team’s triumph.
When asked whether these boys were now ready to take a plunge in the big league, Kulkarni’s reply was an emphatic yes.
"If selected Ajinkya and Dhaval can right away prove that they can perform at the senior level," he said.