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Ranji Trophy final: Musheer Khan, Mumbai’s youngest marvel, does the star turn again

The younger put on a 168-run stand with Shreyas Iyer to help Mumbai post a mammoth 538-run target for Vidarbha

If there’s one life lesson Musheer Khan should learn from his elder brother Sarfaraz, it’s about the essence of timing in sport. For three successive first-class seasons Sarfaraz scored Bradmanesque runs but did not get an India cap. When a vacancy opened up, he scored 161 against England Lions with the Chief selector watching and was drafted mid-series to play Test cricket against England.

Musheer Khan scored 136 runs in the second innings of Ranji Trophy final.

It matters that you score. It matters equally that you score when you are being watched. That’s the message Musheer’s elder sibling had given him ahead of the big match against Vidarbha. Musheer took the advice with all seriousness to become the youngest Mumbai batter – aged 19 years 14 days – to score a hundred in a Ranji Trophy final, watched on by India’s five wise men as well as the great Sachin Tendulkar.

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“I didn’t know that Sachin Sir had come. When I got past 60, I saw Sachin Sir on the screen. Tab motivation mila ki thoda sa unko dikhana hai aaj batting karke (That’s when I got the motivation to show him that I can bat),” he told reporters.

By the time Musheer’s patience-personified innings 136 (326b, 10×4) – he spent nearly 8 hours at the crease – ended late on Day 3 of the final on Tuesday, he had all but steered the 41-time winners towards another triumph.

Musheer didn’t do it on his own. Shreyas Iyer, in the eye of the storm after losing his India contract, played to his strengths slamming a quickfire 95 (111b), dominating their 168-run 4th wicket stand. Vidarbha were left to chase down a mammoth 538. In response, they are 10/0.

Also Read | Musheer Khan breaks Sachin Tendulkar’s Ranji Trophy record in front of Master Blaster with century in final for Mumbai

With Mumbai 260 in front after Day 2, legends Tendulkar and Vengsarkar may have come to watch, in anticipation of a Ajinkya Rahane hundred. But Vidarbha’s impressive young left-arm spinner Harsh Dubey (5-144) took the Mumbai captain’s edge on 73 with a sharp delivery turning away.

Even as Vidarbha pacers unsuccessfully tried to bounce Iyer out, Musheer was unhurried at his end. After battling through early jitters on the previous day, Musheer was middling everything on Tuesday, as he grew into his innings. With time only working to his team’s advantage, Musheer was happy to act on another advice from Sarfaraz. “In my mind, I wanted to bat the entire day,” he said.

Not just this final, Musheer has been prolific throughout the knockout rounds. An unbeaten double hundred against Baroda in the quarter-final, a fifty against Tamil Nadu in the semis and now this ton. This after coming from a month of white-ball cricket for India U19 at the ODI World Cup in South Africa.

The switch cannot be an easy one. But working extra time is a habit Musheer’s coach and father Naushad has cultivated in him from a young age. “Last year when Musheer made his debut, Sarfaraz told the dressing room, what the others do, this guy can do much better,” said Musheer’s Mumbai teammate Shams Mulani. “Obviously, coming from the family, they’re always prepared for any situation because they practice a lot.”

A lot of Musheer’s street-smarts come from countless hours of playing in Mumbai’s maidans. He’s never shy of stealing a tactical advantage against the bowler, like his conscious effort to advance down the track, time and again to the fast bowlers. “Sometimes the fast bowlers want to nip the ball away. Main nahi chata ki bowler tappa pakad ke daale. I want to force him to change his length,” he explained.

Isn’t there a risk involved? “Risk to sab cheez main hai. Defense main bhi bat-pad out ho sakte hai. (There’s risk even in defence. You can be out bat pad),” he said. “I have a lot of confidence in my game and have worked a lot on stepping out against fast bowlers. I am also prepared for the bouncer. When I move ahead it’s not to hit out. I would not attack unless I get a half volley.”

Musheer’s father Naushad Khan often explains the element of adventure in his training manual. ‘Ya to taali, varna gaali’. For now, there’s only taali (applause) all round for the youngest from the Khan household.


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