The unheralded Yash Dubey and Shubham Sharma made India’s domestic cricket’s biggest stage their own with well-crafted centuries, pulling the carpet from under the feet of Mumbai heavyweights as Madhya Pradesh took a giant leap to their first Ranji Trophy title in Bengaluru on Friday. Mumbai’s first innings score of 374 looked pretty good on the second day, but Dubey (133, 336 balls) and Sharma (116, 215 balls) added 222 runs for the second wicket to take MP to a solid 368 for 3 at the end of day three.
Madhya Pradesh now needs just seven runs to take a decisive lead in the first innings and unless they collapse in the fourth innings, the title is theirs.
MP had lost to Karnataka when they last competed in a Ranji Trophy final in the 1998-99 season.
The duo took the sting out of the Mumbai attack with a pair of ‘khadoos’ (stubborn) coming straight from Chandrakant Pandit’s coaching playbook as 245 runs were scored all day but more effectively they executed Mumbai attack with their solid game plan.
Rajat Patidar, one of the heroes of RCB’s campaign in the IPL, then used his newfound confidence to score an unbeaten 67 with 13 limits.
MP would certainly like to extend their innings as much as possible so that Mumbai has no chance of making a comeback in the game.
The Chinnaswamy Stadium track showed no signs of wear and tear and the bright sun only helped the MP batters settle easily against an attack in Mumbai that was commonplace on a certain level.
The biggest disappointment was their left arm spinner Shams Mulani (1/117 in 40 overs), who threw too many loose deliveries.
Veteran Dhawal Kulkarni (21-3-51-0) and seasoned Tushar Deshpande (24-8-73-1) also underperformed, consistently giving the batters row length in the morning session.
Rather than summoning maiden overs and slowly building up the pressure, they allowed Dubey and Sharma within the first half hour to easily hit multiple cover drives to get their attention.
Kulkarni, the only man in this setup with experience in winning a Ranji trophy, threw too many deliveries outside the off-stump being left alone.
The only time he looked menacing was when Dubey took his eyes off a short ball and was knocked down.
When Mulani entered, Sharma lifted him for a six, leaving his skipper Prithvi Shaw frustrated.
Mulani threw too many long balls and sometimes full throws to make the batters’ lives much easier.
While Dubey hit 14 boundaries and Sharma had 15 hits and a maximum to his name, what stood out about their partnership was their running between the wickets.
That Dubey (613 runs) and Sharma (578 runs) were star performers for MP this season was evident in their communications on the pitch, where they would tap the ball halfway or halfway to steal those quick singles.
People remember boundaries, but Dubey and Sharma together had 76 singles in their partnership of over a hundred.
Saving that Arman Jaffer missed a regular catch from Sharma at short notice, Mumbai barely created any chances, although Mohit Avasthi (20-5-53-1) could be credited for bowling one channel.
Some of their calls were outrageous and once Shaw was seen gesturing to umpire Virender Sharma why he couldn’t hear a nick when replays showed there was clearly none.
Indeed, after scoring his hundred, Dubey repeated the ‘Sidhu Moosewala’ party (thigh thump and index finger pointed to the sky), but it was more about getting a point for Sarfaraz Khan, who was sledding the duo . By the time Sharma was caught behind Avasthi and gave Dubey Mulani something to cheer on after another 72-run third wicket score, some Mumbai players were on their hunts.
Patidar smashed them for fun and the writing is clear on the wall.
Madhya Pradesh of Mumbaikar Pandit walks away with this one unless a miracle happened in the past two days.