First, a loss to the Railways side. Next up, a big defeat to the Karnataka side. What has gone wrong with the Mumbai Ranji team? A few months back, you may have thought that the team would appear strong to lift its 42nd Ranji title- right? After all, the vastly-famous unit has made winning such an essential habit. As fans, we’ve grown to admire a consistently performing and truly passionate side that has given a lot to Indian cricket. But you don’t need to be a judge even moderately harsh like some weirdly popular reality TV personality- who often exercises judgment left, right, and center on things they can’t dare to do- to know that the Mumbai Ranji team is struggling.
As a die-hard fan of the Ranji format, to me, this is sad. Imagine what might be the plight of those for whom the cricket team epitomizes all that Mumbai- the city of dreams- stands for?
Mumbai Ranji team, after all, is not just any random unit, a cautious word to those who may be keen to cast them aside; it represents the city of dreams as we know it: MUMBAI”. Common cricket-loving culture including those who’ve been a witness to its juggernaut in the past few decades- if it must be said- lovingly address this team as a “King of Indian Cricket”. After all, Mumbai is the most successful team in the Indian domestic cricket competition.
Make no mistake. For that is very much the truth for a team that has had 6 major players from its ranks currently in the service of the country’s top-most cricket annals: the Indian Men’s national side.
It’s not so hard to remember too, truth be told. When you think of the Mumbai Ranji team, a unit that has against its name, a fantastic tally of 41 Ranji titles- the most by any team in this competition- today you immediately think of the likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Shreyas Iyer, Shardul Thakur, Prithvi Shaw, and last but not the least- Shivam Dube- all of whom are involved with the national side- the ultimate goal for any cricketer.
What hasn’t helped the Mumbai Ranji team one bit is that a series of injuries- that too, to the “golden boy” if one may put it that way – Prithvi Shaw- led the team to the edge of the downfall. Next up, the lack of form of the others despite playing in familiar home conditions.
The berth to the semi-finals, also a coveted stage- obviously- was lost way back. One can only imagine the current side- led by Aditya Tare- wishing that somehow, only if they had a magic wand that would’ve taken them to where the following four are already booked (for the semis): Gujarat, Saurashtra, Karnataka, and Bengal?
But nothing about the downhill of the Mumbai Ranji team can be completely understood without knowing when they’d last won a title, this, it ought to be reminded again, is the unit that’s won most Ranji titles.
Their last title came in 2015-16. There you go. For a side so accustomed to winning, can there be anything more disappointing that dealing with a complete vacuum of wins for a period of nearly half a decade?
Such has been the class of this unit that everyone said the Mumbai Ranji team is often the frontrunner for each season of Ranji Trophy.
Here’s something you’d love to recollect particularly if you’ve followed their game and journey.
From the onset of 1958-59 to 1972-73 Mumbai won 15 consecutive seasons.
Beat that? So in some ways, we could tell while world cricket had the invincible Australian side under “Steven Waugh” during the nineties, somewhere in the past, there was Mumbai: clearly the Ranji team to beat.
Those numbers show Mumbai’s command on the Indian domestic season. At present, Mumbai is the only team that won the Ranji trophy on three consecutive occasions. Under the captaincy of Ajit Wadekar Mumbai, the famous unit won on 4 occasions (1968-69, 69-70, 71-72 & 72-73).
Also important to know that the Mumbai Ranji team have made as many as 14 Irani Cup titles their own, the most by any team in the history of the competition.
What’s more? And this will pinch the fan particularly distraught with the current form.
Mumbai is the first team to play 500 Ranji matches. How big an achievement is that- can you imagine?
At one point, there were no less than 5-6 players from this glorious Mumbai Ranji team that formed a part of the Indian team. Sachin, undoubtedly, among them, was the biggest. And perhaps shall be.
And it’s not that post the Sachin- retirement era, there weren’t others.
Today, the “Hitman of Indian Cricket” Rohit Sharma, and one who was touted to be the next “Wall” Ajinkya Rahane have formed vital parts of the Indian team set-up. Their tales of success are something we’ve all been familiar with from the last 6-7 years.
Moving on, the likes of Shreyas Iyer, Prithvi Shaw, Shardul Thakur are hand-in-glove with a playing eleven from India. Looking at them, you cannot be doubted for feeling that their success may in some way put extra pressure on Mumbai’s current youngsters. In a positive light, who knows, they may lift their game higher.
In the absence of key players, the Mumbai team failed in the domestic competitions as the last title triumph came in the 2015-16 season.
But let’s not forget that the same Mumbai Ranji team that are often described as “Khadoos,” or snobs in the colloquial expression has served India in the form of a factory of batsmen: Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Vijay Merchant, Ashok Mankad, Farokh Engineer, Dilip Sardesai, Ajit Wadekar, Eknath Solkar, Sandip Patil, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sanjay Manjrekar, Vinod Kambli, Wasim Jaffer, Amol Muzumdar, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Prithvi Shaw, and the current buzzword in Indian cricket: Yashasvi Jaiswal.
Then, there are some priceless all-rounders that the Mumbai Ranji team birthed for the country- Bapu Nadkarni, Chandu Borde, Ravi Shastri.
In the current season, it hurts to know that the Mumbai Ranji team are out of the competition as they won only a single contest match and currently find themselves placed at the 12 positions in the elite group.
Most say and aren’t wrong too that the key player absences have hurt the team big time.
Therefore, you’ve got to submit that core of the Mumbai players such as Jay Bisht, Aditya Tare, Suryakumar Yadav, Siddhesh Lad, Shams Mulani, Tushar Deshpande, and Sarfaraz Khan, the latter being in red-hot form as indicated by his sizzling triple century, should take fresh responsibility so that Mumbai Ranji team retains its famous tag; that of being the “King of Indian Cricket.”
One hopes, it remains that way.