Almost running parallel to Indian cricket, Mumbai too is undergoing a massive transition phase. With Wasim Jaffer confirming his move to Vidarbha this season, the giants of Indian domestic cricket are left fielding a side of promising youngsters. The likes of Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Dhawal Kulkarni have been touring on national duty for long. Aditya Tare, shuffling between training sessions, manages to squeeze out some time to have a chat with India.com about the upcoming Ranji Trophy 2015-16 season, victorious Buchi Babu Invitation Tournament campaign, Sachin Tendulkar’s advice and more. Here is an excerpt from the exclusive interview: Also Read - IPL 2021 Mumbai Indians vs Kolkata Knight Riders Match Preview: Playing 11s, Pitch And Weather Report
Q: Mumbai won the Buchi Babu tournament last month. Despite a shaky performance last year, is the side in a more positive space ahead of the upcoming Ranji Trophy season? Also Read - Rohit bats for Conservation of Rhinos
A: It (Buchi Babu Trophy) was good preparation. The team got six games to play before the season. We need to regroup and analyse . Even though we had our full batting strength, barring Shreyas, we had good six-seven batsmen who had played last season. We had a few bowlers to see how they are in the competition. We had also taken a few youngsters as well in order to groom them and get them in the senior team atmosphere. We gelled well together and that reflected well on the field with the results. Also Read - AB de Villiers Versatility Unnerves Opposition: Kohli
Q: With a lot of senior players retiring or moving to other teams, has your role changed within the side? Even at the age of 27, you are one of the senior players in the side.
A: Not really. I don’t think anything has changed. I have played with just one intention always. I’ve always wanted Mumbai to do well. So be it as a captain or a player, my intentions are to help Mumbai win matches, win tournaments. As a captain you have to lead by example. You need to set examples for others to follow. When you speak with authority, you need to have your words backed by actions. I want to do well for the team and want Mumbai to win.
Q: You have been the captain even in junior cricket.
A: Austin (Coutinho) sir had made me a captain of the junior (RCF) team when I was 14-15, and players were from the Under-19 team. That’s where I really started enjoying leading teams. He actually groomed me right from the start and I wasn’t inhibited by captainship. He gave me a lot of confidence not only as a player, but also as a captain.
Q: Do you think Khadoos cricket still has value?
A: Khadoos cricket is something which is imbibed in Mumbai cricket. All the former players who have played for Mumbai and done well, had this attitude in them. If you ask anyone who knows Mumbai cricket well, what is it that one thing that you associate with them, it is the attitude of theirs, the khadoos approach that they never give away their wickets. That is one attribute that makes a Mumbai cricketer stand out. And that is what we have learnt from our coaches and teachers growing up.
Now of course with times changing, cricket has undergone a transformation with Twenty20 coming up. With that of course you will see a lot of flamboyant cricketers, who will take a few risks. But it is good to have a mix of both.
Q: There was a boot camp for Mumbai cricketers ahead of the start of the net sessions. How was the experience?
A: It’s always good to have those legends who have played for Mumbai and done well to spend time with us. Rohit Sharma came with us to the boot camp. It was very well organised by Abhishek Nayar. He took the initiative. It allowed us to bond well as a team. All the other players got to know each other very well. It was good exposure, not just from the point of view of cricket, but also at a personal level.
Q: Sachin Tendulkar and Amol Muzumdar had come to inaugurate the training session for this season’s Ranji Trophy. Any words of advice from them?
A: If you ask any Mumbai player who their favourite cricketer is, the unanimous answer would be Sachin Tendulkar. It was great help that the master came and spoke to us. He came up to each batsman and personally told whatever he felt about their batting, technique and approach. It is only going to help us when such legends come and talk to us. It will help Mumbai cricket.
Q: There was a football match as well in the boot camp. How competitive was it?
A: There are lots of good football players in the side. Most of them play well. Shreyas (Iyer) plays well and many others pretend to play well.
Q: You were a good football player yourself. Was it ever difficult to make a choice between football and cricket for you?
A: It was not too difficult for me. Even now if there is a live football game, I would watch a football game over a cricket match. It is that kind of love and passion for football (that I have). I started playing football in school. But I couldn’t see a future for myself in football. I just thought I was a better cricketer than a footballer.
Q: Did the celebration against Rajasthan Royals (in IPL 2013) come from your love for football?
A: (Laughs) Ya, maybe. It was quite instinctive. It was like scoring a golden goal.
Q: You lost a good period of your cricket life in the early 20s due to injury. Did any negative thoughts cross your mind at that time?
A: I could’ve played much earlier than I should have. I played my first full season when I was 25. But I don’t regret anything. Everything is planned well. You have to earn your place in the team no matter how talented you are. I wasn’t even ready as a wicketkeeper. I was ready as a batsman for First-Class cricket. I was lucky to have Kiran More when I was in Mumbai Indians to help me with my keeping. Since then, I improved my keeping skills and get into the team as a keeper.
Q: For a captain, does wicketkeeping serve as an advantage or a disadvantage?
A: As a wicketkeeper, you are so involved in the game. A wicketkeeper is the only guy who is involved in very ball of the match. He gets to see what the ball is doing – swinging, seaming. He gets to see what the batsman is trying to do. It’s a great help. You also watch the ball so long, it helps you in your batting. It helps you analyse the game well.
Q: With so many coaches around, in domestic cricket, club cricket, IPL, whom do you listen to? How do you filter every advice that you get?
A: It all depends on that individual player. The player knows his game the best. The player knows what helps him and what doesn’t. It helps the player when everyone is trying to help you and giving you advice. It is a goldmine. You try out things that you feel will work. In case it doesn’t, you can try the other advice. At the end of the day, all coaches come with good intention of helping the player. So you just have to believe in them.
Q: Do you still go back to Austin Coutinho, your junior cricket coach?
A: Every now and then I go back to Austin sir. Everytime I’m down, I go to him. He knows my game the best, because he has seen me since I was a kid. He knows me as a person and what triggers me. He gives me a good positive impact. Whenever I’m down, there are only a few people I can go up to and speak. He is surely one of them. He knows how to get the best out of me and how to make me feel good about myself.