The advent of Indian Premier League (IPL) has had a direct and progressive impact on Indian cricket. While it brings pasia vasool entertainment for the fans, the influence of the most popular T20 league in the world has helped India to reach the summit of the world cricket scale.
The national team has only become more confident and aggressive in their approach, raising the standards of its game. The league has also helped India unearth new talents and in helping the financial benefits to trickle down. IPL showed us all that there are methods other than the traditional routes to harness cricketing talents and develop the game.
T20 Mumbai aims to do the same at a local level in the city. Mumbai, the domestic giant of Indian cricket, got their own T20 league in 2018 with six teams participating, the competition has now become an eight-team affair.
Former Mumbai Ranji captain Dhawal Kulkarni, who was picked by latest entrant Aakash Tigers Mumbai Western Suburbs in the auction, feels the platform will help Mumbai discover future superstars. Kulkarni had missed the inaugural season of T20 Mumbai due to a knee injury.
"It's a fantastic platform for youngsters and guys who play club cricket. They get a lot of limelight. Games are televised and that's what they need. Mumbai Cricket Association has done a wonderful job because we were waiting for it and it finally came into existence last season. Unfortunately, I missed the last season, but I am looking forward to this one," said Kulkarni, who has also played 12 ODIs and two T20Is for India.
"All the sides in T20 Mumbai League have players who have played for Mumbai, so the youngsters get to share the dressing room with senior players and learn from them. It allows the youngsters to learn about Mumbai's cricket culture and that is also important. The senior players are also always looking to help the upcoming players."
Kulkarni has been a regular feature in Mumbai's Ranji side for years and apart from having international experience he has also consistently done well in the IPL. T20 Mumbai is an opportunity for Kulkarni to share his wealth of knowledge with the youngsters.
"The most important thing for youngsters is their approach to the game. We have a good mix of youth and experience. Some of the youngsters play for Mumbai under-23, so it's quite exciting for me as well to share my experiences with them and help them improve their bowling to take their game a level up. It's more about the mental aspect, skill-set is there but it's important to give them confidence. And my role as a captain and a senior player is to be with them, guide them, give them confidence."
The 30-year-old, who was riding the high waves of cricket during the 2014-16 period with international appearances have struggled with form and injuries lately. Knee injury also hampered his Ranji campaign last season as he went on to endure a less than impressive time for Rajasthan Royals in IPL.
The pacer, however, is not someone who will shy away from a challenge. Kulkarni is less bothered about the outcome of his actions and more focused on fulfilling his passion.
"It has always been a challenge for me, ever since I made my debut for Mumbai and I always look forward to the challenge. That's what I am all about. I always stay positive. Team India selection is in the hands of the selectors, for me, it's another challenge and that's what brings out the best in me."
"For me, the game is my passion and that's why I play it. Every day when I go back home after a game or a day of training, I want to be satisfied. And if I am not satisfied that means I am not putting in enough effort. So that motive keeps me inspired, the desire of winning matches for my team and that's what has kept me going."
Meanwhile, the owners of the newest T20 Mumbai franchise are looking forward to contributing towards the development of cricket in the city, with an eye on the trophy.
"T20 Mumbai League's aim is to develop local talent in the city and we are committed to it. Apart from the tournament, we as a franchise also look forward to picking up talents from the grassroots and help them develop. People from this platform have gone onto play in IPL and you never know, maybe they will also play for India one day," said Dr Hemang Gupta, co-owner of Aakash Tigers. "For us, sky is the limit and we see our self as favourites and aim to win the trophy."