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Dhawal Kulkarni in tears after Ajinkya Rahane’s unexpected gesture in Mumbai vs Vidarbha Ranji Trophy final

Dhawal Kulkarni was in tears after taking the last Vidarbha wicket in Ranji Trophy final. It wouldn’t have been possible but for Mumbai captain Ajinkya Rahane.

After a wicketless first session on Day 5 of the Ranji Trophy final, Mumbai finally found solace post Lunch. In Tanush Kotian and Tushar Deshpande, they found an ideal pair to bulldoze through Vidarbha’s lower-order after stubborn resistance from captain Akshay Wadkar and all-rounder Harsh Dubey. Kotian was challenging both edges of the bat while Deshpande was bouncing out Vidarbha’s tail. In a matter of 28 balls, Mumbai picked up four wickets – two by Kotian and two by Deshpande. It was Kotian who broke the frustrating stand by getting Wadkar for 102. Deshpande then used the short ball to good effect to end Dubey’s (65) resistance.

Mumbai’s Dhawal Kulkarni gets emotional after taking the match-winning wicket in his last match to win the Ranji Trophy final vs Vidarbha(PTI)

It didn’t take long for Kotian and Deshpande to dismiss Aditya Sarwate (3) and Yash Thakur (6). Mumbai were one wicket away from ending an 8-year-long wait for a Ranji Trophy title – a record-extending 42nd one that would be. Kotian and Deshpande were all over the Vidarbha batter’s and had shown no signs of tiring. But Mumbai captain Ajinkya Rahane thought otherwise.

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He threw the ball to Dhawal Kulkarni, the man playing his last first-class match. The veteran right-arm seamer who had taken the first Vidarbha wicket in the final, did not disappoint. He pitched it up, Umesh Yadav swung across the line and the ball rattled into the stumps. Kulkarni stretched his arms, closed his eyes and let it sink in. His teammates were running helter-skelter. Mumbai won the match by 169 runs and with that claimed their 42nd Ranji Trophy title.

Dhawal Kulkarni moved by Ajinkya Rahane’s gesture

Kulkarni, who picked up three wickets with the new ball in the first innings, knew it was the last time he would turn up wearing a Mumbai jersey. He tried his best but could not control his emotions. Tears rolled down his cheeks even as his teammates embraced him.

It was a fitting end for a man, who had been an ardent servant of Mumbai cricket for over a decade and a half. After the match, he said he didn’t expect Rahane to hand over the ball to him, especially when Deshpande was bowling so well.

“It’s a cricketer’s dream to start and finish on a high. This is my 6th final, 5th time we’ve won and this will be dear to me. It was an excellent gesture, I didn’t expect (that Rahane would give him the ball to finish the game), but hats off to Tushar who gave the ball to me despite taking two wickets in an over. I’ve got experience as I’ve played with big stars, they’ve shared plenty of experience with me and I have passed the same to the younger lot,” Kulkarni said after the game.

Overall, Kulkarni had a memorable final as he claimed three wickets in the first innings while giving away just 15 runs in his 11 overs spell. In the second innings, the 35-year-old leaked runs but eventually bagged his first with Umesh losing his wicket to the experienced pacer. He ended his career with 281 wickets in 95 first-class matches. He has also represented India in 12 ODIs and 2 T20Is.

The Mumbai Cricket Association felicitated Kulkarni. His wife and children also joined him on the ground.

Earlier on the final day, Mumbai were left frustrated after Vidarbha skipper Akshay Wadkar and Harsh Dubey fought valiantly to ensure that they didn’t lose a single wicket in the first session while chasing 537.

However, after Wadkar’s (102) dismissal, Vidarbha lost their remaining wickets in a span of five overs following a clinical bowling spell from Mumbai.

Mumbai ended their eight-year wait to get their hands on the Ranji Trophy title with a 169-run win.


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