Shams Mulani, the spinner who accounted for half the Baroda line-up as Mumbai closed in on a big first-innings lead, had never wanted to become a bowler. His father Zakir, a mechanical engineer who loved the game, wanted his son to become a batsman and he too had internalised that dream.
When he was nine, Shams was sent to Matunga Gymkhana for coaching as Zakir had started all the planning about his future. Not only where he would get batting coaching but the hours of the day were chalked out: coaching, school, tuition and cricket talk.
It started off as planned when Shams was picked as a batsman in Shivaji Park Gymkhana’s selection trials before a problem emerged.
The Gymkhana had too many batsmen but there was a lack of enough bowlers at the nets. Who would bowl to all those batsmen? And when would his chance with the bat come?
So one day, just for fun, Shams decided to roll his arm over. He didn’t know it then but his ‘fun’ stints impressed legendary Mumbai spinner Padmakar Shivalkar. “He told me to take bowling seriously,” Shams says. “My other coaches also felt that I should not give up spin bowling; that it would help my career in future.”
The coaches were indeed right; it was his spin bowling that got him into Mumbai age-group tournaments and later, into the Mumbai senior team.
Shams, whose name means Sun, sparkled for Mumbai against Baroda, scoring 89 runs and then picking up a five-for. First, it was Shams the batsman who came to Mumbai’s rescue. He had a hundred-run partnership for the eight wicket with Shardul Thakur on the first day to help Mumbai recover from a middle-order collapse. Then, he added 77 for the last two wickets as Mumbai reached 431.
Thakur struck the first blow with the ball as Ajinkya Rahane pouched a stunning catch, inches off the ground, to remove Aditya Waghmode. But Baroda fought back through the other opener Kedar Devdhar and Vishnu Solanki before Shams got into the act, with a little bit of help from wicketkeeper Aditya Tare. Solanki had attempted the sweep, missed, and Tare waited for a few seconds after gathering the ball and as soon as Solanki’s feet lifted in an effort to balance himself, the bails were whipped off.
Shams didn’t look back after that. He prised out Deepak Hooda with one that turned in sharply from the rough. Hooda thrust his pad as a defence but the ball spun behind him to hit the stumps. Then Krunal Pandya fell, his defensive prod leading to a catch at short leg.
Yusuf Pathan, who likes to sweep spinners, tried it but was too early into the shot and the ball lobbed off the bottom edge to short midwicket. And soon, Shams had his fifth wicket with Viraj Bhosale stumped.
Not that Shams’s spinning skills has ensured a smooth ride for him in Mumbai cricket. A few years ago, he was told that the spin cupboard was already full with three left-arm spinners in the squad. He got a few stray chances but would get only a few overs.
“I had told myself that the next time I get a chance I will do well. It didn’t happen that year but in the following years I became the main spinner and gradually progressed in Mumbai cricket,” Shams says.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic though. Devdhar fashioned a valuable unbeaten 154 to take Baroda through to 301 for 9. He was at his best against Thakur, reeling out five spanking square cuts to the boundary. Such was his timing and touch that he slammed four boundaries in one over from Thakur. However, with wickets falling at regular intervals, Devdhar had to be cautious. Now, Baroda need a minor miracle from the last wicket if they are to stretch Mumbai.
Brief scores: Mumbai first innings 401 all out (Shams Mulani 89, Shardul Thakur 64, Yusuf Pathan 3-26) lead Baroda 301 for nine in 69 overs (Kedar 154 not out, Vishnu Solanki 48, Shams Mulani 5-99) by 130 runs at the end of Day 2.
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