'My first full season has been a dream come true'
Mumbai's Ranji Trophy triumph, says Bikash Mohapatra, was about consistent individual performances, particularly that of wicketkeeper-batsman Aditya Tare, who impressed in his first full season
Mumbai's 40th Ranji Trophy triumph wasn't about a flawless team performance. The team won just two of its 11 matches, depending largely on the first innings lead to make it to the final stage.
In fact, it was about some consistent individual performances.
While the likes of Abhishek Nayar, Wasim Jaffer, Ajit Agarkar and, for that matter, Sachin Tendulkar performed on expected lines, making crucial contributions, Mumbai also unearthed few gems for the future.
The most impressive among the lot was Aditya Tare.
Playing in his first full season, the 25-year-old made a significant contribution to Mumbai's cause, on a consistent basis at that.
No wonder he was ecstatic on winning the country's premier domestic competition in his very first year.
"It is unbelievable, like a dream-come-true," said Tare, proceeding thereafter to elaborate on his excitement.
"You play your first full season and you become the champion," he continued, adding, "I had only dreamt about it.
"I used to think I should be playing for Mumbai as a wicketkeeper-batsman, should be scoring runs and doing well with the gloves."
Photographs: Bikash Mohapatra/Rediff.com
'I have never doubted myself as a batsman'
Batting was never a concern for the youngster. In fact, he was more confident about that facet of his game.
"To be honest, as a batsman alone, I was good enough to play for Mumbai," explained Tare, adding, "Batting comes naturally to me; as a batsman, I've never doubted myself.
"I am glad that I was able to score runs for the team."
And he did score runs in a heap.
In Mumbai's 11 matches en route to the title, Tare accumulated an impressive 842 runs (@49.52), including two centuries and three fifties.
His aggregate placed him seventh overall in the list of top run scorers in the tournament.
He finished as the second highest scorer for Mumbai, only behind Nayar (966 runs), and ahead of veteran Jaffer (835), who played four fewer matches.
When Jaffer missed the early part of the tournament, having gone on a pilgrimage, Tare was asked to open the innings alongside Kaustubh Pawar. And the young player did not shy away from the responsibility.
"When the team is putting so much trust on you as a batsman you have to go there and score runs," he explained.
'Only one wicket-keeper can judge another'
While his batting was impressive, if there was an area of concern, it pertained to his wicket-keeping.
"The only thing I was worried about was my wicket-keeping," admitted Tare.
"I wanted to improve myself as a keeper to play Ranji Trophy for Mumbai."
To this end, he took the help of two wicket-keepers.
"In the past two seasons I have worked hard with Kiran More, at the Mumbai Indians (MI), and that helped me," explained Tare.
"He told me I should be a wicketkeeper for Mumbai first and then Mumbai Indians.
"Besides, a lot of credit also goes to Sulakshan Kulkarni (the Mumbai coach). He is a specialist wicket-keeper himself and we have been practicing together a lot.
"He has always concentrated on the finer points. And having worked with him I can now safely say that only one wicket-keeper can judge another."
The efforts put in behind the stumps earned the 25-year-old rich dividends.
'I still have to improve a lot'
Besides his exploits with the bat, Tare also finished the season as the most successful wicketkeeper in the tournament, with 41 dismissals -- numbers that helped him equal the tournament record held by Punjab's Uday Kaul.
Having impressed as a wicketkeeper-batsman in his first full season, Tare remains confident about his batting. However, he looks to continue working on his wicketkeeping.
"It is a professional job as you have to work equally hard for both fast bowlers and spinners. I still have a lot of improvement to do.
"It was just my first season. I got to learn more in the coming years," he explained.
If this season is an indication, Tare looks set to play the role of wicketkeeper-batsman for Mumbai for many more years. And, maybe, go even further provided he remains rooted.