Paras Mhambrey, the tall lanky medium pacer from Mumbai played 2 Tests and 3 One Day Internationals for India. The highlight of his career came when Mumbai won the Ranji Trophy in 2002 under his captaincy. His coaching stints with Maharashtra helped them win the Plate Championship in 2003. Cricketfundas.com’s Ashwat Ramani caught up with Paras Mhambrey on the 26th of November for this Exclusive Interview. Special Thanks to Vikram Kumar for compiling this interview.
Paras, first of all I would like to congratulate you as a coach for promoting the Maharashtra team from the Plate Level to the Elite Level. How do you feel about that?
I think it is a good achievement overall for the team. I think this team always had good quality players. This team has a lot of talent, which I feel could do better if given the right opportunity and guidance. I thank the players for their support. It’s not only a coach’s job; it’s a team effort and a combined effort and if I wouldn’t have got the encouragement and the support of the players, I don’t think I would have been able to do it. It’s a team game and the team put in a lot of effort and that’s why we were successful last year.
How difficult or how easy is it to transform yourself from a player to a coach within months of retirement as in your case?
I think it wasn’t a sudden transformation. Basically, I’ve been involved in coaching since I was playing. During the last five or six years, I have been playing and I was involved in coaching with Mr. Frank Tyson. I have done Level – 1, Level – 2 Coaching Courses at the NCA (National Cricket Association). It was not a straight away transformation; it was a gradual one and it wasn’t very difficult.
Going back to your early days, how did you start playing cricket? Who was your coach?
I started playing cricket with just the liking towards it. There was no formal coaching initially. I started off playing cricket with the tennis ball and then got a liking for the season ball cricket. That’s how it all started. I joined the nets, never played school tournaments, then came Inter-College and from there the Under-17 and Under-19. I went to Achrekar sir, that’s where he gave me opportunity for the school and for the college. From there Mr. Frank Tyson himself was there in the royal coaching academy in Bombay. During that time Mafatlal Industries had a scheme for the fast bowlers and I was a part of it.
Your Test debut came in the year 1996 against England at Edgbaston. What was going through your mind during that time and how was it to have Graham Thorpe as your first International scalp?
It’s a great honour when you represent your country. It’s not very easy out there and there are a lot of expectations from the people, from yourself. It’s an honour to represent our country and I feel proud to have done that. It was a nice feeling to get my first test wicket and that too to get a quality batsman like Thorpe out.
You weren’t selected in the Indian Test team ever after that England tour. Do you think you weren’t given enough chances to prove your mettle?
I feel I should have been given some more opportunities, when I see all the youngsters getting so many opportunities. I feel if I could have got more, I was capable of doing much better. But, that’s over and I really can’t think about it.
Do you think, if you had an extra yard of pace or two, you could have continued for some more time in International Cricket?
I don’t think an extra yard or a certain aspect would have done something but you need a certain skill. It may be swinging the ball or seaming the ball or bowling fast. A certain specific skill is always an individual identity. I was never a genuine fast bowler. I was just a swing bowler. I have still done well at the first class level with swinging the ball.
You didn’t lose your heart and gave your 100% for Mumbai and eventually won the Ranji Trophy in 2002. How did it feel during that time?
It’s one of the dream come true when you lift the championship especially for a team like Bombay, which has a history of great cricketers and knowing that only few of the great cricketers have been in my situation earlier to be able to lift the trophy, it’s an amazing feeling. It’s sort of a dream come true. I had once dreamt that I could win the Ranji Trophy and to fulfill that dream was a great feeling.
Why did you opt to retire immediately after winning the Ranji Trophy?
I had my own goals to achieve. One of the main goals for me was to win the Ranji Trophy for Bombay and I had done that. As a cricketer you have to see where you are proceeding and always analyze your performances and your career about where you want to move on. Having played for India and having won the Ranji Trophy, I felt I had achieved my goals. And, with all the other young guys coming in, the opportunities were getting lesser. I was very confident that I would have played for Bombay for the next two or three seasons, but it is very unfair for a youngster who is waiting because that is the key important year for him to come into the side when he is 19 or 20 years old. If a youngster gets two or three years of experience, then the youngster will serve the state far more than I will. I thought that I must give another youngster a chance and just move on. You got to move on some time and that was the time for me to move on.
Talking about Maharashtra Cricket, how much was the impact of the Abhijit Kale scandal last year?
I think that never affected the players and the proof is that we have done well and won the Plate Championship. There are certain things that you definitely miss. As a senior cricketer, Abhijit Kale served well for Maharashtra but the other players also contributed and took the added responsibility. I would say we never missed him as much as people talk.
So how important is Abhijit Kale’s re-inclusion into the Maharashtra side as his ban gets over on the 15th of December?
He is good and he has been off cricket for a long time. According to me, one thing he should focus on is getting back into shape because playing First Class Cricket is not that easy and especially after such a major incident, all eyes will be on him. So for him, he has to do doubly well to prove for his inclusion in the side.
Having seen youngsters like Dheeraj Jadhav being drafted into the Indian Squad, who else can we expect from Maharashtra in the near future?
I think it would be very unfair to say India right now because whichever youngster comes in has to do well at the domestic level. For me somebody like Anupam Sanclecha who picked up five wickets in this match against Hyderabad is a find. He has a lot of talent and potential and more importantly he has put that talent and potential into performance out here. The other guy is Kunal Marathe and he got a hundred on debut last year. These are the players who should do well.
How do you compare the standards of the plate division with the elite division?
According to me, it’s just the frame of mind. The game is still twenty two yards. Talking about other changes, you definitely play against better sides so it’s a degree tougher than the plate. Even now if we play well and do perform, I don’t feel that we will do that badly.
What’s your agenda for Ranji Trophy 2004-05? Do you think Maharashtra can win it?
We are a very capable side and we are a combination of seniors and youngsters. We are in a developing stage with a lot of youngsters. We are not an experienced side when compared to the others but we are still quite capable. We are planning to take it game by game, because playing from plate and coming to the elite level, there are a lot of expectations from the association and from the players itself. We want to be very realistic and take game by game and see how it goes. Instead of setting unrealistic goals which you can’t achieve, we have decided to set some realistic goals and manage.
What tips would you like to give to young budding fast bowlers?
I think you should be hard working, and be true to yourself. You should be realistic because eventually you got to go there and do it.