Skipper Ajit Agarkar on Monday attributed Mumbai’s innings and 125-run victory over Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy final to combined team effort and said lifting the title for a record 40th time makes it even more special.
“Everyone has chipped in at different times in the season. We’ve had eight or nine guys who have had exceptional seasons and that’s why we’re here today,” said Agarkar, who combined forces with young pace mate Dhawal Kulkarni to knock the daylights out of Saurashtra in their second innings at the Wankhede Stadium here.
“Dhawal is one of the guys who has done well. He’s been our stand-out performer for four or five seasons now. (Wicket keeper Aditya) Tare has had a great season, as has Hiken (Shah). Sachin (Tendulkar) has played a crucial role, (while) Jaffer has done well as has Ankeet (Chavan).
“I am very happy and very proud. I have won it before, but to win it as a captain makes the win even more special. It’s very special,” he added.
Saurashtra, trailing the home team by 207 runs in the first innings, were shot out for a pathetic 82 in less than three hours and 36.3 overs, 41 minutes after tea. Mumbai, thus, clinched their 40th national title in 44 appearances in the summit contest and their first after two blank seasons.
Agarkar said the hosts were motivated to give their all this time after having missed out on a final berth for a couple of years.
“Having not been in the final for a couple of years, all the guys were very keen to do well. Winning the Ranji Trophy is not easy and as the years have gone by, it has become tougher because other teams have improved so much,” remarked Agarkar, who grabbed four for 15 in a fiery exhibition of seam and swing bowling on a bouncy and pacy track to complement Kulkarni’s equally superb figures of five for 32 (match haul of 9 for 56).
Agarkar said the key to their victory was when Mumbai bundled out Saurashtra for a meagre score in their first innings after asking the visitors to bat first on winning the toss on a wicket with a bit of moisture on Day one.
“Getting them out for 148 was where we really won the game. There was a bit of moisture and with that in mind we put them in. It’s not often that we put sides in first in these matches. We also took all our catches. That has been a bit of a problem all season but today we held onto everything,” he said.
The Mumbai skipper was full of praise for his opener and former captain Wasim Jaffer, who laid the platform for Mumbai’s fitting first innings reply with an innings of 132, the only century in the low-scoring game.
“He’s exceptional. I’ve said it many times before. I keep saying it after every game and he keeps doing the job for us year after year. To play an innings of that kind on a pitch like this under pressure tells you why he has got the amount of runs he has and the record he has,” said the former India paceman.
Asked whether he was surprised by Saurashtra’s meek surrender, Agarkar said his team had used the familiar conditions to their advantage to romp home victorious.
“They’ve had a good season, that’s’ why they were in the final. But we had conditions in our favour, conditions that we know well. I’m just happy we played well. I was a little bit surprised today. We got the ball in the right areas and were lucky enough to get the edges. Once we had them three or four down we knew they didn’t have the kind of batting depth that we do,” he said.
He also praised the pitch that offered help to pacers even on Day three today.
“That’s what we always try and do here. The aim is always to make a sporting track at the Wankhede but it doesn’t always work out. You want the bowlers to be challenged and the batsmen too. It’s always nice to get wickets. You don’t want to just be in the team as a captain, you want to perform,” he said about his own performance.