HomeSportsCricketMumbai Players Lead the Way, Team Struggle is on

Mumbai Players Lead the Way, Team Struggle is on

Experience is supposed to be the best teacher, in life or sport. In keeping with this line of thinking, old hands who have been there, done that and convey a sense of calmness in tough match situations can be successful cricket captains. Bold younger players getting promoted as team leaders goes against this tactic, but is gaining acceptance in Indian cricket.

Mumbai upgraded Prithvi Shaw, 22, from batsman to skipper for the first time this season for two Ranji games. The task before Shaw is tough, as witnessed in a drawn first round Elite group tie at Ahmedabad, against defending champion Saurashtra (Mumbai needed a wicket to win, but could not pull it off) Seniors Ajinkya Rahane, Dhaval Kulkarni, Aditya Tare played under him.

Kolkata Knight Riders’ action plan for IPL 2022 led to Shreyas Iyer being identified from the marquee players auction pool as potential captaincy target. He replaced Eoin Morgan, England’s battle-hardened skipper, under whom Kolkata fell short of expectations. This season will see heavyweights Sunil Narine, Pat Cummins, Andre Russell, Tim Southee, Rahane, Umesh Yadav playing under the younger, lesser experienced Indian.

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Rahane, Rohit Sharma handled Team India captaincy and showed a mature head on young shoulders when responsibility was put on them. The former’s mettle against Australia in Australia last year was remarkable by any standard, the bunch of players under him earned universal acclaim for winning an overseas series. The latter is rated competent to lead India across three formats, apart from runs from his blade.

Shaw, Iyer, Rahane and Sharma have few aspects in common. These Mumbai players learnt to bat like hard-nosed pros in domestic and international cricket, and understood what coaches expected from them By doing so, they earned respect from teammates and rivals. As a team in first-class cricket, Mumbai is striving to regain lost ground (2015-16 was Mumbai’s last Ranji Trophy win, but as captains the four stand out.

What is special in them to be identified as leaders in different set-ups and formats? Does a new, young captain change the way sides deal with a match situation? These questions were put to Test and World Cup player, Praveen Amre, ex-Mumbai coach and current assistant coach at Delhi Capitals, under whom Sharma, Rahane, Iyer blossomed earlier in first-class cricket, starting from Ranji till they joined India squads.

Referring to younger captains now perceived by team management as capable of taking hard decisions, Amre said: “We should move with the times. Seniors must be respected, at the same time we must identify the bright youngster in the bunch. Responsibility will help emerging talent grow up fast as a person, as a player. Backing a new captain can get the association a leader for next 10 years.”

The India batsman, with a ton on Test debut overseas in 1992 (against SA at Durban), felt that game sense and calmness are qualities which come to the notice of seniors. “Recommending a youngster is done by seniors in the squad. The famous story of Sachin Tendulkar suggesting Dhoni as World Cup T20 captain is an example. Seniors spot potential among juniors, alert (the management) about the bright future in him. Communication with seniors is very important.”

Confidence in one’s abilities improves communication skills with people. The change of guard in Team India is now complete with Rohit Sharma named captain in three formats. The national selectors, national coach seem to be on the same wavelength about bringing out his potential. The stylish stroke-maker rose through the Mumbai ranks in age group cricket and made his Ranji debut in 2006-07 under Amre as coach. “We knew he was talented and over a 10-year period in first-class cricket, he matured.”

He added: “Winning five IPL titles (Mumbai Indians) proved his worth as captain, this experience will have toughened him and improved his self-confidence. Rohit is ambitious and the best person in charge as India’s focus is on winning an ICC title.” Team India is in quest of a world title since 2011 World Cup win under Dhoni. Sharma’s composure is influencing India teammates in white-ball cricket. Test captaincy is a natural promotion.

Amre, a Ranji Trophy winning coach for Mumbai, felt Rahane’s move to prove form in domestic cricket is logical. “Many star cricketers, many internationals. have gone through that phase. When form is low, you need to step back into domestic cricket. Class is permanent and once he recovers form, Rahane is as good as anybody.” The Test player cracked a ton against an extremely competitive Saurashtra.

Going back to captaincy, Rahane’s leadership in the Border-Gavaskar series last year in Australia earned special praise. “He not only delivered as captain, his ton in the second Test against the same attack which shot out us for 36 (Adelaide Test) set an example. Ajinkya Rahane banked on gut feeling, and had his own plans. To be honest, the series win in Australia and Rahane’s role should be written in gold.”

Incidentally, Shaw, Rahane and Iyer were teammates once in IPL for the Delhi Capitals, with Amre in the dugout. India U-19 skipper, Shaw, continues with DC. Rahane, ex-captain of Rajasthan Royals, moved to KKR. “First of all, any leader has to perform. He scored around 400 runs in every IPL season, starting with his debut season in IPL when was named the Emerging Player (2015).”

Amre, earlier with Mumbai Indians, elaborated: “Leading an IPL side is different from other situations… interacting with international players, senior Indians is part of work for a captain. Shreyas being a confident person could adapt, Delhi started qualifying for the knockouts and reached the final. Credit should go to the DC management for backing him. KKR struggled to get an Indian captain since Gautam Gambhir left. Shreyas in charge is a win:win situation.”

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Iyer had led India A and Mumbai before, so is not new to captaincy and is getting opportunities in the India set-up. The promotion for Shaw came at a challenging time for the one-time Ranji champions. Qualifying for the final each season is a priority for Mumbai, with Sharma, Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Shardul Thakur busy on international duty. Amre looked at the brighter side of cricket’s power shift. “The overall development is happening, credit to the National Cricket Academy.”

Amre moved away from home in search of playing opportunities (Bengal, Railways, Goa, Rajasthan, Mumbai in first-class cricket) and can relate to the struggle faced by Mumbai. “Previously, first-class cricket was dominated by five to six states, now the beneficiary is Indian cricket, due to keen competition among many teams. For Mumbai now, performing well against these motivated sides is critical. The captain is supposed to show the way.”

Shaw will get more chances to score, captaincy is learning the hard way. Incidentally, Mumbai captains appear as restrained, allowing the bat to speak, in contrast to the emotional, successful Virat Kohli. Asked to explain the difference, Amre responded: “Every captain has got his own style, we cannot compare. Mumbai captains stick to the thinking that performance on the pitch is important. The motto is to win, Kohli’s or anyone else. Their way of expression is different, the target is the same.”

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