Mumbai: Ajit Agarkar, the captain of the Mumbai side that won the Ranji Trophy title for the record 40th time on Monday, termed the victory as one of the biggest accomplishments of his career.
"Winning Ranji Trophy is not easy and as the years have gone by it has become even tougher because the other teams have also improved very much. So I’m very proud of the achievement," Agarkar said after Mumbai registered a massive victory (an innings and 125 runs) over Saurashtra in the final.
Agarkar said having not been in the final for the last couple of years had given his players extra motivation to perform. "Having not been in the final for a couple of years, all the players were very keen to do well this season. We didn't have a smooth sailing during the league stage, but when the knock-out stage began, everyone brought out their ace game.
The Mumbai skipper also praised the innings played by Wasim Jaffer, saying whatever he would say about the player wouldn't be enough. "His [Jaffer] innings was exceptional. He keeps doing it for us. To play an innings of that kind on this pitch under pressure is very special. That's why he has got the amount of runs in domestic cricket." Jaffer made a brilliant 132 in the Mumbai's innings that helped them in posting 355.
Dhawal Kulkarni, the Mumbai medium pacer, too played a crucial role, having the match figures of 9 for 56, including a five-for in the second innings that broke the back of Saurashtra batting and Agarkar said Kulkarni had been a consistent performer and he showed that again this season. "Dhawal has been our stand out performer for the past four or five seasons now. He bowled exceptionally well and probably could have ended up with eight wickets if the luck a bit more on his side," Agarkar said.
He also acknowledged Sachin Tendulkar's contribution to the side, saying he joined the side at the right time and made very useful contributions. "Sachin had come in and played a crucial role."
Agarkar himself bowled well, getting 5 for 48 in the match. "You just don't need to be in the team as captain, but also need to contribute as a player. So I am extremely pleased with my own performance," he added.
He said he was surprised by the way Saurashtra batted in the second innings but also concluded that his team bowled in the right areas. "Little bit surprised [the way Saurashtra batsmen played in their second essay] but we got the ball in the right areas first up. We were lucky enough to get the edges. Once we have them three or four down, they don't have the depth in the batting that we have."