“Lost the match at 9'o clock on Day 1,” Tamil Nadu coach questions captain Sai Kishore's bat first call in Ranji semi-final vs Mumbai

Tamil Nadu suffered an innings and 70-run defeat in the Ranji Trophy semi-final against Mumbai.

R Sai Kishore | XTamil Nadu coach Sulakshan Kulkarni on Monday (March 4) didn’t filter his words as he said that skipper R Sai Kishore's decision to bat first on a seaming wicket cost the team in the Ranji Trophy 2023-24 semi-final against Mumbai.

Sai Kishore’s decision backfired in the very first session of the semi-final itself as Mumbai reduced Tamil Nadu to 42/5 at the MCA-BKC ground.

Tamil Nadu could never recover as they were bundled out for paltry totals of 146 and 162 in the two innings, resulting in Mumbai winning the match by an innings and 70 runs and qualifying to the Ranji Trophy final for the record-extending 48th time.

"The moment I saw the wicket I exactly knew what we were going to get," Kulkarni told reporters after the match.

"When I saw that they had played on a different pitch in the quarterfinal and what wicket they gave, (that) moment I realised that this is a seaming-friendly wicket and it was going to be a very tough match, we would have to play really well to win this game.

"I always speak straightforward — we lost the match at 9'o clock on Day One. Everything was set, we won the toss, as a coach, as a Mumbaikar, I know the conditions well. We should have bowled but the captain had some different instinct.

"Ultimately he is the boss. I can give my feedback and inputs (as to) what kind of wickets and Mumbai's mindset also. (From) 106/7, I knew before the match that this (Mumbai's fightback) may happen," he added.

When Mumbai were reeling at 106/7 in their first innings, all-rounder Shardul Thakur produced a counter-attacking century to bail his team out of trouble. Thakur’s 109 off 104 balls helped Mumbai take a significant lead of 232 runs over Tamil Nadu.

The Tamil Nadu coach heaped praise on Mumbai’s lower-order, hailing it as the best in India.

"They are the best (Nos) 9, 10 (and) in India. I told this in the dressing room that their batting starts after (No) 6. I can take the horse to the water, the horse has to drink,” Kulkarni said.

"We were mentally prepared that whoever wins the toss would bowl first. We knew that we would bowl first. The moment they (TV broadcast) said we would bat first, whatever you say, it goes in the batsmen's minds. That first half an hour (before play) got in the batsmen's minds,” he said.

"When you get into the first over, third ball, your international player gets out and you see the situation… in the first hour we lost the game and the plot. It was very difficult to come back even though they were 107 for seven (106/7)."

Kulkarni also acknowledged that ‘instinctive' decision by Tamil Nadu skipper Sai Kishore has worked both ways.

"Again, the instinctive decision, that inner voice, has played a big role. If you can say (it in) the positive way, the inner voice has helped also in reaching the semifinal,” he said.

"In the previous match against Saurashtra, he went at No 3 and scored 65. That was again the inner voice, which has played (out) the positive way. Every captain has a different mindset, then I would say ‘why not, I won't blame the captain'.

"Other captains in the last 7-8 years must have tried but they did not reach the semifinal. I looked at it from a positive way,” he added.

Sulakshan Kulkarni feels left-arm spinner Kishore has the ability to take 200 wickets in Test cricket if given an opportunity.

"I have seen many left-arm spinners in last many years. As far as a left-arm spinner is concerned, he is a high quality bowler because he has all requisites to be a successful international player,” Kulkarni said.

"He has height, overspin, arm ball, and bounce like Jaddu (Ravindra Jadeja). If you play on these kinds of wickets, the way India is playing currently, I think he can certainly take 200 wickets."

Meanwhile, Kulkarni backed Ajinkya Rahane to lead Mumbai to their record 42nd Ranji title by winning the final, starting on March 10.

"I am a big fan of Ajinkya Rahane. He has made a big difference to this team though he has not performed as a batter. But as leader he gelled with the team. He is like my student from U-15 days, he was a successful captain of India," he said.

"He captained the team when things were not going in favour for India. He has handled the team in a way that they will now win the trophy under Ajinkya Rahane."

(With PTI Inputs)


By Salman Anjum - 05 Mar, 2024

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