It would go down as probably one of the quickest singles Aditya Tare has ever have taken in his career. A push towards mid-off, a fleeting glance at non-striker Shivam Dubey, followed by a frenetic dash. One couldn’t find fault with Tare’s desperation as that single brought up his century, his eighth in first-class cricket. True to his nature, there wasn’t any over-the- top celebration. Just a look towards the heavens, and an acknowledgment of the applause from the Mumbai dressing room. Moments later, amidst lengthening shadows at the Karnail Singh Stadium, both teams shook hands to end proceedings on the final day. The Ranji opener between Mumbai and Railways promised a lot before meandering to a tepid draw.
But Tare will take confidence from this knock, considering the lean phase he had to endure over the last two seasons. As a batsman, he would keep getting starts, but conversion was a problem. After being relieved of the captaincy, Tare now looks far more relaxed. The 31-year-old’s ton was the highlight in an otherwise dour final day. Mumbai were 161 runs ahead and for a fleeting moment on Sunday morning, harboured hopes of an outright win.
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However, the early dismissal of opener Akhil Herwadkar planted a seed of doubt in their minds. What sullied Mumbai’s plans further was the docile track. Railways fast bowlers bent their backs, to little effect. Even their spinners failed to get much purchase.
In such a scenario, the visitors looked to bat out the entire day, happy to earn a first-innings lead of 104 runs and three points. Mumbai coach Vinayak Samant put things in perspective: “We were looking for an outright win. But we thought we will see the first hour of play and then decide. However, we lost a wicket in the second over, and then changed our plans. Secondly, there was hardly anything in this pitch for the bowlers. That’s why we decided to bat out the day,” he explained.
Samant did heap praise on the former Mumbai captain. “He is an experienced player now, and we need his experience. I know he is coming off a couple of lean seasons, but I told him that he should be the second highest run-getter for the team,” Samant added.
Much before Tare’s exploits, the sparse crowd was treated to some delectable stroke-play from Siddhesh Lad. Mumbai’s evergreen ‘crisis manager’ had missed out on his century in the first innings, but looked certain of getting there on Sunday afternoon. On a benign pitch and up against a toothless bowling attack, Lad looked like he could do no wrong. The Railways spinners aimed to frustrate him by adopting a negative line, and bowling on his leg-stump. After playing a few quite overs, he decided to employ the reverse sweep. In one particular over, he played three of them on the trot. But that shot would ultimately bring his downfall. Lad would depart for 76, taking his match tally to 175 runs.
Despite leaving without a win, Samant’s team has a lot of positives to talk about. Like the lion-hearted performance of Tushar Deshpande, who bowled with pace and got the batsmen to hop on a placid track. Not surprisingly, his 6/70 earned him the Player-of-the-Match award. There were others who dazzled, like the tall and sinewy all-rounder Dubey.
Coach Sawant hails him as a great potential and expects more than 1,000 runs from him in this Ranji season. Mumbai, who have been on the move since their Vijay Hazare Trophy triumph last month, will now earn some much-needed rest, as they are scheduled to play their next game against Karnataka at Belagavi from November 20.
Brief Scores: Mumbai 411 and 321/5 (Tare 100*, Lad 76, Shivam Dubey 69 not out) drew against Railways 307. (Mumbai 3, Railways 1)