In winter, Delhi get a blanket of solace

For Delhi, this was a victory that came against the odds. Mumbai came to the national capital as the favourites. With Prithvi Shaw, Sarfaraz Khan, Ajinkya Rahane and Arman Jaffer, they had a stronger batting unit than the hosts. The bowling led by domestic bulwarks Tushar Deshpande and Shams Mulani have more experience than Delhi’s third string. Worse, captain Yash Dhull fell unwell before the game.

But vice-captain Himmat Singh, who was dropped a couple of games ago, stepped in and led a team that had endured a tumultuous season and were out of the quarterfinal contention, to an eight-wicket win against Mumbai. It was Delhi’s first outright win over Mumbai since the 1979-80 Ranji Trophy final.

“Thoda Delhi waale khush ho jaaye (Let Delhi people enjoy a bit),” says Rahane, laughing. But on a serious note, he says: “We knew it was going to be on the slower side because it’s a dry wicket. We weren’t surprised by it. Sometimes, you need to get used to the conditions quickly. Delhi outplayed us completely. You can’t give excuses. It’s all about how you prepare yourself and challenge yourself.”

Sealed with a six

Resuming at 168/9 on the final day, Mumbai’s Tanush Kotian (50 not out) scored a half-century before off-spinner Hrithik Shokeen took the last wicket with Mumbai managing to score 170 in their second innings. Requiring just 95 runs, Delhi strolled home in 15.3 overs, with Vaibhav Sharma putting on 36 and Hrithik Shokeen remaining unbeaten on the same score after they added 69 runs for the second wicket. With Sharma getting out in the 16th over, former skipper Nitish Rana walked into the middle and struck the first ball he faced for a six to wrap up Delhi’s win. The loss has jeopardised Mumbai’s chance to qualify for the quarterfinals as they will have to beat Maharashtra outrightly.

Despite the defeat, captain Rahane said he is enjoying his first full season in a while. ”I am really enjoying it, and I am really happy with the way the team is playing. Leading Mumbai is an honour and I am really enjoying this challenge. My aim is to do well for Mumbai and keep scoring runs for Mumbai and keep winning matches.”

Multihued challenge

On the challenges of playing on different surfaces in the Ranji Trophy, Rahane said: “It’s a challenge. You have to adapt to it. In Mumbai, we have red soil wickets, which are completely different. In Delhi, wickets are generally slower and lower. Different parts of the country have different types of wickets.”

The key, he noted, is to adapt quickly. “We’ve been playing cricket in so many parts of the country, so it is necessary to adapt to different conditions. It is all about adapting, your attitude and focus, what you want to do and how badly you want to do for the team,” he said.

Rahane admitted that Divij Mehra’s opening spell on Day 3 turned out to be a turning point of the match. “Divij bowled really well in that first session. He remained stuck to his lines and didn’t give us any loose balls. We had to craft in; actually my plan was to stay on the wicket as long as possible rather than thinking about the outcome,” he said.

“In Ranji Trophy, you get a session where a team can lose 5-6 wickets. So, as I said, adapting to the conditions very quickly is important. It can happen with any team but it is important how you bounce back.”

Mehra’s scalps included Prithvi Shaw, Musheer Khan, Armaan Jaffer, first innings centurion Sarfaraz Khan, and Mohit Avasthi as he paved the way for Delhi’s maiden win of the season. Mumbai’s top-order struggled against Mehra’s seam bowling but Rahane says it’s a great “learning curve” for the young batsmen. “As a top order batter, you have to respect the conditions; if the ball is moving, seeming or keeping low, adapting to that wicket and what kind of shots you play in this kind of wicket is important. Everyone knows their game plans individually so, I’ll say it again that it is a great learning for everyone, not only individually but for the team and all of us,” he said.

“I am a firm believer of the team moving forward rather than an individual thing. As a team we are doing great. And everyday we learn small – small things. And from this game, there are a lot more things to learn,” he added.

Brief Scores: Mumbai: 293 & 170 in 60.5 overs (Ajinkya Rahane 51, Tanush Kotian 50 not out; Divij Mehra 5/30) lost to Delhi 369 and 97 for 2 in 15.3 overs (Vaibhav Sharma 36, Hrithik Shokeen 36; Mohit Avasthi 1/24) by eight wickets.

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