Mascarenhas making waves
Dimitri Mascarenhas has just headed off for the Indian Premier League - but his day job as captain of Hampshire is still precious to him.
Mascarenhas inherited the captaincy this season following the unexpected retirement of mentor and master Shane Warne.
For a player who first arrived on trial almost in a different era at Southampton, 12 years ago when the club was still based near the city centre, it has been a long journey.
Identified by current team manager and then veteran batsman Paul Terry as a talent worth punting from his observations in Perth, London-born all-rounder Mascarenhas was a 2nd XI triallist at the same time as soon-to-be West Indies fast bowler Merv Dillon.
A dozen years on, the Aussie twang remains but Mascarenhas has become Hampshire through and through.
He owes an understandable allegiance to the county who nurtured him, eventually helping him to earn England one-day international and Twenty20 recognition and putting him on the IPL radar.
This summer became still more notable for Mascarenhas when he was nominated to fill Warne’s boots, and he is determined to give an exacting new role his best shot.
“It was a very proud moment,” he recalled, after tossing up for Hampshire in their opening LV County Championship match at home to Sussex.
“It’s a great honour to be captain of Hampshire. I never thought I’d ever be captain. But so far it’s going pretty well - no complaints yet.”
Will there be an element of frustration, though, that his big chance at IPL - Mascarenhas left on Sunday and will be away till May 12 - means he will not be around for Hampshire?
Even after defeat against Yorkshire in his second championship match in charge, he prefers the positive spin - and insists his short absence will not be a problem.
“I’ll only be missing one championship game and a couple of one-dayers,” he explains. “I’ll be straight back and getting straight back into it.”
As for his embryonic captaincy style, Mascarenhas is of the consulting school - and he has plenty of brains to pick at the Rose Bowl, with the likes of former captain John Crawley and experienced wicketkeeper Nic Pothas on staff.
“I always take advice; I’m always open to it - whoever it is. But at the end of the day, I have to make the decision,” he insists.
“There’s loads of thoughts going through my head all the time - bowling changes, field placements, whether we need to attack or defend more.
“The lads have been brilliant; I talked it through with five or six of them what we should be doing, and they’re all willing to help.”
What then of the Warne legacy?
Mascarenhas acknowledges Australia’s all-time champion leg-spinner helped form many cricketing opinions in his seven-year association with Hampshire.
He admits ‘What would Warney do?’ does flash through his mind from time to time on the field - but jokes that the answer for his predecessor was usually pretty simple. “He’d probably just have put himself on - it was easy for him,” he recalls.
Mascarenhas’ canny medium-pace is handy at any level but not always a cure-all, so he knows he will have to keep his wits about him if Hampshire are to prove wrong many pundits who seem to have pencilled them in for relegation.
“As a squad - players and management - we haven’t really spoken about it a hell of a lot,” he reports.
“But people have written us off. They’ve obviously seen us as a one-man team, but we don’t see that one bit.
“There are 11 of us going out every day on that field - and as we’ve shown already, we can be right up there with the best of them.”
For Mascarenhas and his team, it is about pride in performance and achievement.
“We’re not trying to prove a point to anyone else; we just want to prove to ourselves that we’re good enough,” he adds.
“Our job is to try to win trophies, and that’s what we will be doing.”
For Mascarenhas, of course, those intentions will just have to wait for a fortnight or so - until he has finished strutting his stuff for Warne’s Rajasthan Royals five thousand miles away.