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Having been “zero for five” at the beginning of Pravin Amre’s book, coming from the edge

May 14, New Delhi: As Mumbai played Baroda in the second innings of their 2006–07 Ranji Trophy semifinal at Moti Bagh Stadium, a sense of bewilderment started to permeate the team’s locker room. Mumbai led by 91 runs after the first inning, but their second inning started horribly, putting them in a predicament that had never happened before.

IPL 2023: We have to bat better in the powerplay, admits DC assistant coach Pravin Amre

Mumbai’s scoreboard showed 0 for five after Sahil Kukreja, Wasim Jaffer, Hiken Shah, Rohit Sharma, and Amol Muzumdar all made mistakes. After Abhishek Nayar’s collapse, the club was soon down to 17 for six. In his first season as head coach, Pravin Amre, a former batter for Mumbai and India, was left to hunt for heroes who might come up and save the team from this dire situation.

Vinayak Samant answered Amre’s challenge with a score of 66 off 136 balls. He was assisted by Wilkin Mota, who scored 33 off 74 balls, and Nilesh Kulkarni, who scored 17 off 105 balls in a valiant comeback that saw Mumbai reduced to 145. Mumbai defeated Baroda for 173 runs in a 237-run defense, winning by 63 runs to go to the final. They ultimately defeated Bengal to win the Ranji Trophy a record-tying 37 times.

It is thus not surprising that Amre’s book is appropriately named “Zero for Five,” which is a welcome diversion from phrases or cricketing jargon that are often employed as book titles by cricket writers. “There are some games that are crucial to your career as a coach or player. This was one of those games; I remember it from my first Ranji Trophy season coaching Mumbai in 2006–07.

“We had to win every game after that to avoid being relegated; we had a terrible start as the head coach at the time, having lost our first three games.” We returned and defeated Baroda in every game to get to the semi-final at Moti Bagh Stadium. We were down 0 for 5 on a good day, and as a coach, I thought it was the hardest circumstance for me to manage that,” Amre said in an exclusive interview with IANS while Sourav Ganguly, Ricky Ponting, and James Hopes were present at the book launch in the nation’s capital.

In addition to highlighting Mumbai’s never-say-die mentality, Amre, who scored 103 runs off 288 balls in his Test debut against South Africa in Durban in 1992, feels that his book also highlights the Mumbai team’s ability to bounce back, with all the credit going to the players for their excellent handling of the situation. Vinayak Samant and Wilkin Mota’s combination, along with Nilesh Kulkarni’s strong batting, let us get some runs.

“We bowled brilliantly to win the game after that. It was also Rohit Sharma’s first year with the Mumbai Ranji Trophy squad, and we all had a great time being there for the final. Then, with Sourav Ganguly playing as well, we defeated Bengal in the Ranji Trophy final and emerged victorious.

“Even though I have been coaching in the IPL for over 15 years, it took this match against Baroda for me to start believing that I can be a competent coach. Furthermore, it’s important to have the mindset that you can return from anywhere, just like we did when we were at 0 for five,” he said.

Amre and Mumbai had a déjà vu moment during the 2014–15 Ranji Trophy season when they lost to Jammu and Kashmir and then saw Railways take an early lead in the first innings. However, Mumbai’s renowned spirit of perseverance got them to the semifinals, where they were defeated by Karnataka, the ultimate winners.

“Shreyas Iyer made his debut in the 2014–15 season, if Rohit did so in the 2006–07 season. We lost the match against Jammu and Kashmir because of a very poor performance; I recall that the news of it even made its way to Parliament. However, Mumbai Cricket also has a tradition of experienced players stepping in to support the squad.

“I recall phoning Sachin Tendulkar after the J&K game because the team was so depressed. After just one phone call, Sachin arrived for the Mumbai Ranji side, which is what I needed someone to inspire the squad to do. We reached the semifinals that year because of his excellent communication skills with the whole squad.

Amre, who played 11 Tests and 37 ODIs for India, said, “In Mumbai, it’s not just the coaches—even the senior players—like Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, and Sachin—they all are very keen, keep Mumbai cricket close to their hearts, and think about contributing to their success.”

Amre coached Mumbai in domestic cricket before taking over as assistant coach of the Delhi Capitals in the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2016. He has also had some experience as a scout. In addition, he played for the Seattle Orcas in Major League Cricket (MLC) in the United States and the Pune Warriors India and Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

He sees a significant distinction between managing an IPL franchise and managing a local team. “It’s really different; for example, players and nationalities vary in franchise cricket. It was very simple for me to go out and inspire the players as the head coach of Mumbai, but it’s different here because the franchise level requires a lot of effort. Working alongside Sourav and Ricky in the IPL is indeed a blessing.”

The Impact Player rule has been the buzz of the IPL 2024, particularly with batting scores that resemble the tall towers of city skyscrapers. However, Amre views things differently.

“In the end, fans want to see boundaries and sixes coming, so that’s fantastic for cricket. Sourav Ganguly and Ricky Ponting both stressed the value of power hitting and how hitting sixes would be very beneficial. No one anticipated that an IPL game would see more than 500 runs scored in 40 overs.

“Well, it’s excellent; cricket is becoming better, people are engaged, and the best part about the Indian Premier League is that every side is so good that they can defeat anyone. Whatever is best for the IPL, the BCCI technical committee will undoubtedly be present to consider the rule’s future since they will always make such decisions.”

He also endorsed the idea of doing away with the toss for the U23 CK Nayudu Trophy. “Home advantage exists a lot of the time, and the BCCI is advertising all of this in order to get players who can win matches. At times, the toss counts in terms of what the talented players are receiving. They thus intended to carry out that action and see how the players benefited, ultimately elevating the teams.”

Apart from being a scout and selector, Amre has seldom sounded impassioned throughout his long history with cricket, having played the sport both as a player and now as a coach. However, Amre’s soft-spoken voice has a hint of passion when he is questioned about DC captain Rishabh Pant, whom he described as a bright young player for the organization.

“Seeing Rishabh play again at Mullanpur made me really thrilled since it was incredibly difficult for any cricket player to comeback after being out of the game for over eighteen months, not just Rishabh.

“We have to commend Rishabh for his resilience in returning to the game as the winner. He has not only been the Delhi Capitals’ top run scorer this season, but he has also kept wickets. I really hope he has the greatest possible (T20) World Cup.”

Amre concluded by praising the two young hitters that DC has discovered this season, Abishek Porel and Jake-Fraser McGurk. “We must give our scouting staff credit because, to be honest, the two of them have potential, which is really uncommon. They have performed well in this format and have outperformed others in terms of strike rates.”

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