With 281 wickets in 95 first-class games, pace bowler Dhawal Kulkarni has served Mumbai cricket well. After 17 seasons, having made his debut in 2008, Mumbai’s ongoing Ranji Trophy campaign will be his last. Part of four Ranji Trophy-winning teams, he has played his part in the current team’s run to the final whenever needed.

Dhawal Kulkarni has played his part in the Mumbai team’s run to the Ranji Trophy final
Dhawal Kulkarni has played his part in the Mumbai team’s run to the Ranji Trophy final

On the eve of the final against Vidarbha at the Wankhede Stadium, he was emotional as well as excited to be back at his home ground, bowling a sharp spell in the nets on a fresh, green surface.

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Dhawal, who played in 12 ODIs and two T20Is, also took 200 plus wickets in List A matches and 150 plus wickets in T20s.

Ahead of his final game for Mumbai, he took out time to speak to Hindustan Times. Excerpts:

What’s the feeling like going into your final game for Mumbai?

It’s been a good career, seen a lot of highs and lows in my career, but at the same time it is important to understand what your body needs. There are a lot of young guys in our team, whatever experience that I have got in these many years, I tried to help them in whatever way possible. This is the last game of my first-class career, it’s an emotional feeling.

How do you look back at your career, are you satisfied? Any regrets?

It has been a fantastic career, have played all the formats for these 17 years, it’s a tough job for a fast bowler in India who’s playing domestic cricket. Being in and out of the India team, you have to come back and play all the formats and you have to grind. My fitness has been the key for sustaining for so long. There are no regrets, whatever I have achieved, I am happy about it. One thing I couldn’t achieve was the Test cap which I always dreamt of, and that was not written in my destiny. Whatever was written in my destiny I achieved it and got it by the God’s grace.

What is the most memorable moment of your career?

When I started playing cricket the only dream was to play for my country, when I received my ODI cap that was one of the memorable moments of my career. Then winning Ranji Trophy for Mumbai four times, performing in those finals, helping my team win the Ranji Trophy, those were the highs in my career.

Talking about the lows, there were a lot of injuries but I somehow overcame those injuries, took them as a challenge, always wanted to do better whenever I stepped on the field.

You have played so many years of IPL, it became a challenge for cricketers to balance between IPL and domestic cricket, how do look at the challenge?

There are a lot of challenges in that. IPL is a completely different format, (with the) intensity that is required to play. But at the same time domestic cricket, I feel it is a lot tougher than what IPL would be, because here the pitches are different, you have to get used to the pitches, then the away and home four-day matches, it takes a heavy toll on your body. You have to get used to it.

Obviously, IPL has become a platform to play for the country. This year the BCCI has asked the guys to play domestic cricket, which is a big positive. Because players come to watch international players play in the domestic teams, even the guys who are there in their domestic teams, they look up to their international players and learn a lot.

It should continue like that, domestic cricket should be the priority, even when I started, when Ajit Agarkar or Zaheer Khan used to play I used to look up to them, how they go about their routines, what are their processes, their skill work, the intensity that they bring in the ground. Once an international cricketer comes on the ground, the intensity of the team is totally different and that is what you learn by looking at them. It will help domestic teams get better and with domestic teams getting better it is going to give a big positive to the Indian team.

For fast bowlers, how is to manage the workload of IPL and first-class cricket?

Injuries are going to happen. It is important to focus on the off-season training, that helps you sustain for the entire season. It has always helped me. If you are doing four fitness well, your career will prolong by four to five years, that’s my experience.

Looking forward to being part of the final…

It is a big game. We have worked really hard and special thanks to the MCA that they helped us in going to Alur for the off-season camp , from there we played Buchi Babu Cricket Tournament (Chennai). That preparation has helped us this season. The team is doing well, everyone has gelled, showing unity on the ground and the “khadoos” Mumbai attitude is back.

What are your post-retirement plans?

I haven’t given it a thought but surely, I want to give back to cricket, it has given me so much that I whatever knowledge I have gained, I want to pass it on. So, coaching will be one thing and then maybe I will play shorter format leagues outside the country for a couple of years if there are chances.


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