The last time Delhi had won a Ranji Trophy match against Mumbai, Indira Gandhi had just taken over as Prime Minister for her final term, India were still over three years away from winning their first-ever World Cup, under Kapil Dev, and ex-India captain Bishan Singh Bedi, who is now 76 and relaxing away from public life following a bypass surgery two years ago, was the Delhi skipper.
This is how far back in history one had to look to find a Delhi victory over arch-rivals from the west before the eight-wicket triumph of Himmat Singh’s young men over India batsman Ajinkya Rahane’s star-studded outfit at the Ferozeshah Kotla grounds on Friday.
The fact wasn’t lost on Rahane as he ambled up to the waiting media. After a few questions of the match, performance and where things went wrong, popped the question about losing to Delhi after 43 years. In fact, this and the one in 1980 (mentioned above) are the only two losses Mumbai have endured against Delhi in the 88-year history of the country’s premier domestic tournament.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for Rahane, who has been trying to make a comeback to the Indian team. He was the toast of the nation only two years ago when he led India to a 2-1 Test series win in Australia lifting them from the infamous 36 all out debacle at Adelaide under Virat Kohli’s captaincy. His century at Melbourne as captain was what had turned around that series for India.
Here he was on Friday, having failed to marshall the team with the bat on Thursday, and being that rare skipper to surrender Mumbai’s dominance to Delhi. Sunil Gavaskar was the captain in that 1980 loss but back then Delhi was studded with India stars like Chetan Chauhan, Mohinder Amarnath (who hit 191), Surinder Amarnath, Madan Lal, Surinder Khanna besides Bishan Bedi (who took eight wickets). Kirti Azad, who scored 102, was on the verge of making India debut, so was Arun Lal. Importantly, it was the final.
But this Delhi team was languishing in the seventh and penultimate place in their group, were out of the competition even before this game, had greenhorns in their bowling attack after internationals Ishant Sharma and Navdeep Saini, were injured along with the experienced Simarjeet Singh. The batting had flopped through the season and regular captain Yash Dhull was out injured for this game. Only Dhruv Shorey was scoring and carrying the batting and has been atop the list of top run-getters.
“This question had to come. I was waiting for it. Delhiites have become happy. [I am] Really happy for them,” Rahane responded with a smile to a question from Patriot on whether this loss after 43 years is disappointing.
“See, anyone can beat anyone. What happened in history is past. Every individual wants his state to win. I thought Delhi played very well. They had intent in bowling and batting. In cricket, intent is what matters. If you show intent, results usually fall your way and Delhi did that in this game,” he said.
Thanks to pacer Pranshu Vijayran’s four for 66, which included the prized wicket of Rahane, Delhi had restricted Mumbai to just 293 in the first innings on Day One. Only Sarfaraz Khan’s 125 managed to take Mumbai that far as Delhi bowled a decent length and line. Mumbai were 110/5 but Sarfaraz and Shams Mulani added 144 for the sixth wicket. However, loose shots from both of them saw Mumbai lose track as the tail was wiped out quickly.
“We knew Mumbai are used to playing on red soil and are good at cut and pull. So, we pitched the ball up, inviting them to drive. That is how, we got wickets,” Vijayran had said after the first day’s play.
Delhi too struggled on Day 2 early on, being reduced to 88 for four but a 195-run partnership between skipper Himmat Singh (85) and Vaibhav Rawal (114) – staging a comeback this season after four years — saw them close in on Mumbai total. Delhi ended the innings at 369, with a crucial 76-run lead early on third day.
“Scoring runs is always satisfactory but scoring them under pressure is doubly joyous. If it helps in winning, nothing better,” said Himmat, who took over from the injured Dhull for this game.
If Mumbai had hopes of resurgence, those were dashed as 20-year-old pacer Divij Mehra, playing only in his second first-class match, ran through the Mumbai top-order, picking four of the first five wickets as Mumbai were reduced to 37 for five. Mehra had the distinction of getting Prithvi Shaw, eyeing an India comeback, out leg-before in both the innings.
“I just bowled a tight line and length,” Mehra had said after Day 3’s play.
Rahane scored a fighting 51 but it was a graft on a wicket where the ball was keeping low and coming on slowly and he fell to Vijayran.
Delhi knocked off the 95-run target losing just two wickets on the fourth morning.
“I get a certain level of comfort [while] leading the team because I had been leading Delhi’s various age-group teams before. Maybe leading a side is pressure for some, but not for others. But I don’t think too much about it. I just feel I have to play normally,” said Himmat after the game on Friday.
“It is correct [that I am leading an inexperienced side]. But there was no pressure on me. I have captained before. The roles for bowlers were clear. Everyone was clear about what line and what length to bowl,” he added before saying that the result has come a bit late.
“We got this result late. If we had got a couple results our way earlier, we would have been knocking on the doors of qualification.”
Delhi now have 11 points from six matches and have moved to sixth position from seventh and are ahead of Assam on net run rate.
Mumbai, on the other hand, have slipped to third (23 points) and need an outright result in the last match against Maharashtra to enter the quarter-finals.
“Wins and losses happen. Things like these happen. We have to learn quickly. The next game is crucial for us. We need to give our best in the must-win game. It hurts but there are lots of learning from this match,” said Rahane.
“Credit to Delhi. They adapted to the conditions really well. They bowled extremely well on this wicket. They knew what areas to bowl on this wicket. I thought, overall they played great cricket. We were in a tough situation in the first innings. Got that partnership [between Sarfaraz and Mulani] but again, those two wickets, [were] loose wickets. We could have easily got 350 [in first innings] on this wicket. But as I said they bowled really well and kept pressure throughout on the batting unit.”
Delhi now travel to Hyderabad for their next game from January 24 while Mumbai host Maharashtra at Bradbourne Stadium.