Shams Mulani had been told over the years that he was not a red ball bowler, but at the same time, he was consistently rejected by IPL franchises. All this while, he had been performing consistently, but nothing that particularly caught the eye.
But all that changed in the 2021-22 Ranji Trophy season when the Mumbai all-rounder took 45 wickets and scored 754 runshelping Mumbai reach the final. Then he turned up for Mumbai U-25s, snared seven wickets and helped his team win the Col CK Nayudu Trophy. In the 2022-23 season-opening Duleep Trophy, Mulani took 11 wickets, scored 167 runs in three matches, and helped West Zone lift the title. In the ongoing Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, he has taken 16 wickets in nine games and, along with pacer Tushar Deshpande (17 scalps), has played a pivotal role in Mumbai reaching the summit clash.
“It’s quite funny. First, I was told that my bowling is not fit for the red ball. Mind you, I was Mumbai’s highest wicket-taker (26 wickets) in the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy season. But at the same time, I was giving IPL trials for five-six years, but was never picked in the auctions (Mulani was a Covid-19 replacement for Axar Patel in IPL 2021’s first half). After my remarkable last season, I am getting compliments that I am a terrific red ball bowler,” Mulani told The Indian Express from Kolkata.
“I was part of the Mumbai U-16 team, was captain of the U-19 squad when we won the Cooch Behar Trophy in 2015-16. I have trained under the likes of Padmakar Shivalkar, Pravin Amre and Sandesh Kawle at Shivaji Park. My entire career I have bowled with the red ball, and then I was given a tag. Earlier, it used to upset me, but now I just focus on my cricket,” he added.
But Mulani doesn’t want to be seen as a one-season wonder.
“As a player, my target was to succeed in all the domestic tournaments. I want to do well across formats,” he said.
“You want to get better with every season. I don’t want anyone to point fingers at me and say that he didn’t perform after one season,” he added.
Before the start of the season, Mulani was part of the Mumbai Indians contingent – which also included the likes of Dewald Brevis, Tilak Varma, Kumar Kartikeya, Anmolpreet Singh and Ramandeep Singh – for their UK tour.
“Although I am not part of Mumbai Indians, the franchise gave me a contract for two months. It was a good overall experience. Bowling in different conditions, different wickets, different balls, it was helpful,” he said.
A proper all-rounder
Mulani has given a glimpse of what he is capable of, scoring five fifties in last season’s Ranji Trophy.
“My role is that of an all-rounder. Not a bowling or batting all-rounder, I consider myself a proper all-rounder. I bat down the order for Mumbai because we have so many good batters. But I make sure that whenever I get a chance, I do my best,” he said.
“A first-class century is missing from my stats. I came agonisingly close in the Duleep Trophy (97 against North-East Zone). I would like to get one this season,” he added.
CSK stint has bolstered my confidence: Deshpande
Be it with the new ball or in the death overs, Tushar Deshpande has been exceptional for Mumbai. The medium pacer has bagged 17 wickets in nine matches at an impressive economy rate of 6.52.
Deshpande says his stint with Chennai Super Kings in the IPL and being Mumbai’s bowling spearhead has bolstered his confidence.
“This season I am leading the attack, it has given me confidence. The leadership role has propelled me to excel,” he said.
“The IPL stint was also beneficial. My biggest takeaway from MS Dhoni was that a bowler must always focus on the next ball, regardless of whether he has taken a wicket or gone for runs. The change of mindset has helped me improve.”