Shams Mulani, Tanush Kotian help Mumbai trounce Hyderabad in Ranji Trophy

“I’m always looking to pick up wickets. That’s my role in the team,” says Shams Mulani. The left-arm spinner not just talks but also puts his money where his mouth is.

On Thursday, the 25-year-old finished with match figures of 11 for 176, his fourth 10-wicket match haul in 21 first-class matches—and in tandem with Tanush Kotian bundled out Hyderabad in under three days to guide Mumbai to a comprehensive innings and 217 runs win in their Elite Group B Ranji Trophy match at the Sharad Pawar Academy ground at BKC. More importantly, Mumbai gained a bonus point for the innings victory and now have 13 from two matches.

Resuming Day Three at 173 for six responding to Mumbai’s mammoth 651 for six declared, Hyderabad were skittled for just 214 with Mulani (7/94), who had taken a five-for on Day Two, and Kotian (2/60) taking two wickets each.

Following on, Hyderabad got off to a good start in the second innings with skipper Tanmay Agarwal (39, 44b) and Akshat Reddy (23, 48b) batting aggressively to put on 66 for the first wicket. But their challenge was short-lived as Mulani (4/82) and Kotian (5/82) weaved their magic again to bundle out the visitors for 220 runs.

Mulani, who made his Ranji debut in 2018, has emerged as Mumbai’s most bankable bowler over the last two seasons. He was their top wicket-taker in 2019-20 with 26 scalps from eight matches. Last season, he came into his own and topped the list of most wickets with 45 scalps in six matches. Just into two matches this season, he already has 14.

Consistency is the key aspect that pushes a player into the national reckoning, but for the moment, that is not on Mulani’s mind. “Mumbai selectors have told me that you keep doing your work and it (India ‘A’ berth) is not very far from you. So, I just want to continue with my good work and don’t want anyone to say that, ‘He isn’t picking wickets, he just did that last year’. (At the moment) I can’t say that I’m going to play for India ‘A’ or go ahead. (Right now) I will just follow my process and do what needs to be done,” said Mulani.

For someone who was mainly considered a white-ball bowler, Mulani has done well to emerge as one of the top spinners in the domestic red-ball format. To reach that stage, he has spent hours polishing his skills in the nets so that he is not found wanting when the team really needs him. So, what aspects of his game has he worked on to put himself in that bracket?

“How to pick up wickets on different tracks. Different tracks require different kind of bowling. I’m trying to read the game better. It has come with experience,” he said.

“It’s about being patient. Not (be desperate) to pick up wickets because when you do that you tend to give away lot of runs. So, I think of just varying my pace and putting it in the right area so that it makes it difficult for the batter,” he added.

The five-wicket haul in the first innings was Mulani’s first in Mumbai and he was happy that it came in front of his family. He is also enjoying his growing partnership with off-spinner Kotian. Both have started to hunt in pairs and it’s a boon for Mumbai to have found a duo of spinners taking them to victory after a long time.

“There is a nice camaraderie between us. We know each other’s bowling well. If I need to tell him something, I can because I know what he does, what he is thinking. We have been playing in all formats over the last couple of seasons, which helps a lot,” said Mulani.

Brief scores: Mumbai 651/6d beat Hyderabad 214 in 65.1 overs (S Mulani 7/94) & (f/o) 220 in 67.2 overs (R Buddhi 65; T Kotian 5/82, S Mulani 4/82) by an innings and 217 runs