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Ranji Trophy: Musheer Khan’s gritty 128 helps Mumbai recover

The 41-times Ranji champs were tottering at 90/4 before the younger Khan showed what he is all about

In coach Naushad Khan’s match simulation training, there is an exercise where his two sons, Sarfaraz and Musheer, have to take a single every second ball, as if playing the second session of a game with the team under pressure.

Mumbai: Mumbai batter Musheer Khan celebrates his century during a Ranji Trophy match between Mumbai and Baroda(PTI)

It was exactly in preparation for the kind of situation his younger son, Musheer, found himself in on the opening day of Mumbai’s quarter-final game against Baroda.

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The tough training left the young batter in good stead against the guile of veteran left-arm spin bowler Bhargav Bhatt, who had the home team under the pump after he claimed the big scalps of internationals Prithvi Shaw and Ajinkya Rahane, and the in-form opener Bhupen Lalwani. From the other end, Ninad Rathva, added to the home side’s woes by winning a leg-before wicket verdict against Shams Mulani for the fourth wicket at 99.

But Musheer was equal to every challenge that Bhatt & Co threw at him on Friday, as he underlined his potential to become the next batter to watch out from Mumbai with his maiden first-class hundred while playing only his fourth Ranji game. Coming in to bat at No 3, he hit a flawless invaluable 128 not out to help the home team recover from the poor start to finish the opening day on 248/5.

At the game being played at the MCA Sharad Pawar Cricket Academy ground (Bandra Kurla Complex), a fair number of former Mumbai cricketers were in attendance. More than anything they would be pleased to see a batter who played with the famous “khadoos” attitude that the Mumbai batters have been renowned for. During his more than five-hour vigil at the crease, he showed maturity beyond his age of 18 years to hold the innings together.

The Jr Khan has a good range of shots — square cut, drives along the ground, inside-out lofted hits, going straight down the ground and the sweep shots. There is another side of his game where he gets the spinner by tapping them to various areas around the pitch to find the gaps. When he wants to play risk-free cricket, he adopts this approach.

Mumbai needed it in their first innings against Baroda. After captain Vishnu Solanki kept two fielders for his sweep shot, the Mumbai youngster started tapping the ball into the gaps. The approach saw him score 76 of his runs in singles. For the boundaries, he waited for the rank loose balls. He hit a total of 10 fours, four of them coming after he reached the three-figure mark. “Rather than going for the shots it was important to work with singles and doubles and look to bat for the 90 overs of the day. I try to spend time on the wicket, it was tougher in the beginning,” said Musheer.

Musheer found an able ally in keeper-batter Hardik Tamore, who batted stoically to help add 106 runs in their unfinished sixth wicket partnership. The No 7 batter has grinded his way to 30 not out off 163 balls.

Resuming at 117/4 after lunch, Mumbai lost their fifth wicket in Suryansh Shedge. But Musheer and Tamore buckled down. It was slow progress though with 71 runs added in 32 overs in the second session. The hosts took tea at 181/7 with Musheer on 84 off 151 balls, and Tamore on 15 off 90 balls.

“I keep working with my father and our main training is always focussed on red ball cricket,” said Musheer. “After returning from the World Cup, I had a few sessions with him and trained for Ranji, so I was prepared.”

A beaming Naushad made it just in time to celebrate his son’s hundred as February’s glad tidings continued to flow for the Khan household, after elder son Sarfaraz’s impressive Test debut.

“It was very special for both of us (father) given it is my first Ranji century,” said Musheer, who had blown a kiss to his father who was watching from behind the coconut trees in a corner of the ground to hide from the crowd.

“It feels good (both the brothers have done well) but at the same time we both have to continue doing our work,” said Musheer.

He has taken after his brother Sarfaraz who has a penchant for big hundreds, and loves to stay on the wicket.

“I enjoyed watching (him) Sarfaraz bat in the Test match. He is doing well and it will be better if he remains there (with the Indian team). We may be having similar batting styles but he bats better than me,” said Musheer.

At the recent Under-19 World Cup, he was India’s second highest run-getter, hitting two centuries. The experience of playing in tough conditions has helped, he said. “There was a lot of swing and bounce in South Africa and I got good experience of it. But it felt slightly easier batting here in Mumbai. I do not look at the bowler, I just look at the ball and play accordingly. I look to play straight and I know if I do that, it would be difficult to get me out since I have confidence on my defence.”


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