For over a dozen years,Ramesh Powar was an integral and portly presence in an all-conquering Mumbai team that dominated domestic cricket in India. The 35-year-old off-spinner’s decision to shift base to Rajasthan for the upcoming Ranji Trophy season is set to leave a gaping hole in the mutiple-time champions’ bowling resources. But in an interview with Sportsline,Powar insists on having no regrets about moving away from Mumbai and in fact reveals to have felt disillusioned in the same dressing-room that he made his home for 13 long seasons. EXCERPTS:
How tough was it for you to bid adieu to Mumbai?
It wasn’t tough. In fact,I had made up my mind last season itself about turning into a professional player and seek options elsewhere. I met Hrishi (Hrishikesh Kanitkar) during one of the Times Shield matches in April and he asked me whether I would be interested in a move to Rajasthan. It was only last week that I finally signed a two-year contract with them.
What triggered the move though? Did you lose your motivation to continue with Mumbai?
You can call it lack of motivation. I wasn’t enjoying playing for Mumbai anymore. Things weren’t great off the field either. On the field though is where it hurt. In the past,I would often bowl 15 overs on the trot during a Ranji match. But last season,I was often taken off after two overs. The Mumbai dressing-room didn’t feel the same anymore. There was nobody there who was pushing me or challenging me to perform better. My preparation was the same,but everything around me just felt different.
But your peers like Wasim Jaffer and Ajit Agarkar continue to remain part of the team setup.
They were the only ones still around. I shared a very formal relationship with Wasim while Ajit is a very good friend. But it’s a team game after all. If you see the average age of the present Mumbai team,it’s around 22-24 while our lot is 34 and above. It’s hard to keep pace with the youngsters these days,in the sense,with the way they think. The vibes in the dressing-room are way different now. There had come a stage,where I felt like a liability in the side. I think things change for a cricketer once he enters his mid-thirties. One bad season,and people start doubting your credibility.
How tough was it for you to bond with these youngsters?
Today’s youngsters are different,you know how they are. It’s hard to communicate with them and the age-gap often leads to a communication gap. It becomes really tough but I don’t want to go into much detail.
What was your best phase with the Mumbai team?
I think the time Praveen Amre was coach,was the best period for the Mumbai team,and my favourite too. He would always set challenges for us and give us all specific roles to play. He was always great at encouraging us. Once he came and told me,’Ramesh,a five-wicket haul is due’. These are small things but have a huge impact. He not only built a team but built the players too. It was under him that Mumbai saw the rise of young stars like Abhishek Nayar,Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane.
What will you miss the most about being a Mumbai cricketer?
Except the dressing room,I won’t miss anything to be honest. The past two years with the Mumbai team were largely unremarkable if not forgetabble. If anything we missed the Amre-style of coaching. He pampered us and got the best from us. The Mumbai team was completely different over the last two years. With Sulu (Sulkashan Kulkarni) things aren’t the same.
You lost 15 kg over the past four months. Any particular reason behind your decision to shed some kilos?
The loss of weight has nothing to do with going to Rajasthan. I suffered from a back problem last season,which made me miss two months of cricket. Age is catching up with me,and I just thought it was time to lose weight. Some might say that I could have considered doing it a few years back. But during my international career,I believed that if I lost my weight,I might lose my skill. As far as my fielding is concerned,I never was bad on the field.
Your departure does leave a big hole in Mumbai’s bowling attack.
I don’t think so. I only played a few games last year. There will be someone who will take up the responsibility. It will take time but there are few good young spinners coming up the ranks.
You have been part of many Ranji wins with Mumbai won. Is there a favourite?
I think the one,which we won by beating Karnataka in 2010 was the best. I have played many finals that ended in one-sided fashion but in that particular match,the winner was decided on the last day. We need such matches to keep the interest of domestic cricket alive.