Mumbai: There are not many seam bowlers around in India who could bowl all six deliveries at one spot if asked to do so and Dhawal Kulkarni, the Mumbai medium pacer, fits well in that category. The 24-year-old proved to be the wrecker-in-chief on day one of their Ranji Trophy final against Saurashtra, picking up 4 for 24 and paving the way for his side to claim their record 40th title.
The right armer used whatever the Wankhede wicket had to offer, bowling up to the batsmen and allowing the ball to do its tricks. "The pitch was helpful for the seam bowlers and we extracted it fully," Kulkarni said after the day’s play. "I was confident after getting a five-for in the last game [against Services]. I would have felt great had I got another five wickets, but that is part and parcel of the game."
Kulkarni provided Mumbai the perfect start, picking up two wickets with just 12 runs on the board. He first had Sagar Jogiyani caught by Wasim Jaffer in the slips in his very first over, and then got the wicket of Rahul Dave who fended off a bouncer awkwardly, giving Ankit Chavan a simple catch in the gully.
He troubled Sheldon Jackson, who scored a century for Saurashtra in their semi-final game against Punjab, throughout his short stay at the wicket before getting him caught by wicketkeeper Aditya Tare. He finished the visitors' innings by inducing an edge from No. 11 Siddharth Trivedi, which was held neatly by Tare again.
Before this match, Kulkarni has 21 wickets in nine matches this season and according to him he bowled well throughout but was a little unlucky. I bowled well throughout the season without much luck. But it's good that things have changed at the right time. The game against MP [which is the only outright victory Mumbai managed this season] was very important to us. It gave us the belief that we could still turn the things around."
Saurashtra skipper Jaydev Shah said toss played a vital role as there was plenty of assistance for the pace bowlers. "Toss played a key role. We would have bowled first as well had we won the toss. Knowing the nature of the wicket, we dropped Vishal Joshi [the offspinner who got nine wickets in the semi-final] and played an extra medium pacer in Saurya Sanandiya."
But despite such a shabby show by the batsmen, Shah said they still have a chance to come back into the match. "It's difficult to score runs as the pitch is still offering a lot to the seamers. Even their [Mumbai] openers found it hard to negotiate in the last few overs. We are hopeful that we will do well tomorrow."
Shah surprised everyone when he didn't come out to bat at his usual No. 4, but the tourists' captain said he was unwell and so came in at No. 6. "I was down with fever and that's the reason I couldn't bat at my usual place."
He also said his side missed the services of their two main players, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja but they could hardly do anything about it. "We missed Cheteshwar and Jadeja but that's how it goes. They are needed by the national side and it was out of our control."