Mumbai may have registered only one outright win, as opposed to Saurashtra’s three, going into the Ranji Trophy final, but their coach Sulakshan Kulkarni felt that their performance in the league stage will have no effect when the two teams lock horns at the Wankhede on Saturday.
“It’s a totally different ball game. The pressure attached to it has no comparison to a league or any other match,” Kulkarni told DNA on Tuesday, a day after returning from, what he described, a “painful” tour to the cold climes of New Delhi.
He said Mumbai have peaked at the right time unlike other teams. “Look at Punjab. They won four games outright initially and then their graph went downward.
“Mumbai know when to peak and we have done that with some consistent performances in the knockouts,” Kulkarni added.
Having Sachin Tendulkar in the team has provided that extra boost, and Kulkarni felt the master has inspired the squad with his sincerity and commitment.
“He constantly talks to the bowlers and guides them. Even when there was no play during the semifinal (against Services), Tendulkar asked Dhawal Kulkarni to keep bowling outswingers in the nets. Kulkarni did just that in the match and was back among the wickets,” he said.
Talking of the last match, he added that Dhawal and Shardul Thakur’s form with the ball and Ajit Agarkar’s brilliant batting ensured that Mumbai didn’t have to rely on the ‘toss of coin’ to enter the final.
Kulkarni also felt that Mumbai’s catching, which was poor in the league stages, has improved considerably over the last couple of matches. He hopes Mumbai will not display butter fingers in the crunch game. Confident of a positive result in the final, Kulkarni added that his team will not take Saurashtra lightly. “We have played them in the league stage, so they are known commodities. But we have the home advantage. And Sachin’s presence makes it all the more special for us.”