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'Rohit changed the game'

Last updated on: November 06, 2008 19:48 IST

What happened about a year ago was painful.

Mumbai, the defending Ranji Trophy champions, failed to reach the knock-out stage. Just two wins in seven matches meant the holders failed to hold on to their title. They finished third in the group to eventual champions Delhi and surprise package Saurashtra.

Rohit runs amok

This season, it was time to try and make amends. For that it was imperative to begin on a winning note. And that is precisely what Mumbai did at the Brabourne Satdium on Thursday. They thrashed Rajasthan by 237 runs to secure full points and start their campaign on the right track.

"It was a good start for us. Everything looks good so far," said captain Wasim Jaffer.

The hosts were always in control of the match but the captain was quick to point out the difference in the end.

"The only thing I discussed with the team (before the start of the final day) was that we gave away 50-60 runs for the last wicket in the first innings and we had to ensure that it wasn't repeated," reasoned Jaffer.

Jaffer had insisted on taking five regular bowlers - at the expense of Abhishek Nair - and his decision was vindicated.

"I always preferred five bowlers because whenever we have had five bowlers we have forced an outright win. In fact, last year we struggled to get outright wins because of that," he reasoned.

But Sairaj Bahutule and Ajit Agarkar weren't exactly impressive with the ball?

"Sai (Bahutule) didn't get to bowl a lot," reasoned Jaffer. "And Ajit (Agarakar) is also coming back after an operation and he also didn't get to play enough games (even the Times Shield got cancelled).

"The good thing was Ramesh (Powar), Usman (Malvi) and Dhaval (Kulkarni) got the wickets."

He was also all praise for young gun Rohit Sharma, who scored 62 and 128 respectively.

"Rohit almost changed the game with that hundred in just one session. Because of him we could declare in time," said Jaffer, before adding, "He will be missed for sure."

Sharma has been picked for national duty against England and Mumbai will find it difficult to replace him.

"Abhishek (Nair) will probably replace Rohit but we are yet to decide on that. But he is also a quality player," said Jaffer.

The win was the hosts' third straight outright result against Rajasthan in the last three years and by a huge margin at that -- the margin last year was just two runs -- and it provided a perfect start.

But there lies a rocky road ahead. Mumbai play their next three matches away and all inside the next three two weeks. But Jaffer is realistic about his team's chances.

"Getting outright wins in Delhi and Rajkot (against Saurashtra) will be difficult but there is hope in Surat (against Gujarat)," he said, before adding, as an afterthought, "Playing in Mumbai obviously helps."

Photograph: Bikash Mohapatra

Bikash Mohapatra