AFTER 23 years, Madhya Pradesh have managed to reach the finals of Ranji Trophy as they defeated Bengal by 174 runs. They will now meet the 41-time Ranji Trophy winners Mumbai, who beat Uttar Pradesh. MP’s last appearance in the final of the premier domestic tournament came in the 1998-99 season. Incidentally, the MP’s current coach Chandrakant Pandit was captaining the MP team back then. Pandit’s CV will have another memorable achievement if he manages to take yet another unfancied team to a title.
MP’s win came on the back of a five-wicket haul by the left-arm spinner Kumar Kartikeya who restricted Bengal to 175 runs.
Chasing 350 for a spot in the final, Bengal resumed their day at 96 for 4 with the overnight batsmen Abhimanyu Easwaran and Anustup Majumdar. However MP’s bowling attack didn’t give them any chance, in particular Kartikeya who finished with an eight-wicket-match haul. Apart from Kartikeya, Gaurav Yadav and Saransh Jain finished with three and two wickets respectively. The team managed to wrap up the last day’s play in mere 28.2 overs.
Meanwhile, Mumbai defeated Uttar Pradesh by virtue of first-innings lead. The last day was a mere formality as Mumbai resumed on 449 for 4 and continued to bat on. The overnight batsmen Sarfaraz Khan and Shams Mulani went on to score an unbeaten 59 and 51 runs respectively and Mumbai finally declared their innings on 533 for 4.
Pandit vs Muzumdar
Even before the team moves out to Bengaluru’s Chinnaswamy Stadium for the final, the debate about Pandit vs Muzumdar has begun. A former Mumbai player and coach, Pandit has coached the Mumbai team to Ranji Trophy triumph. Muzumdar has played under Pandit’s tenure as coach in the past.
“Why Amol, think about what would be going through the minds of any Mumbaikar. Amol is an experienced player, he was with me, I have spent time with him. He knows my mind; and I know his. Putting both of us together, it’s a Mumbai mind, so let’s see what happens. Nobody is going to decide who is best, who is not the best,” Pandit said after the semi-finals. “I’m happy that these boys are entering the final after 20 odd years.”
Muzumdar too doesn’t want to get trapped in the debates about coaches.
“It’s a match, the final match. We are just focussing on the process. It starts in the dressing room and it ends on the ground. That is what we are following and we are not focussing on what is happening outside,” Muzumdar said.
“There is some massive talent out there and I’m happy with the way they have responded to situations. I always believed that as a coach you need to understand their mentality. Every player wants space. When I was a player, I wanted space and as a coach, I believe in giving that space. I do not interfere in their life post 6pm.”
Mumbai’s last appearance in Ranji Trophy final came in 2017 where they lost to Gujarat. It’s a new team and apart from Dhawal Kulkarni and Prithvi Shaw, no one has played any Ranji Trophy final before.