Ranji Trophy: Can Mumbai break free today?

40-time Ranji champs have struggled to put up big scores in the first innings this season and that’s something they need to set right in the quarters vs Maharashtra today

With too many concerns regarding their batting line-up, Mumbai do not find themselves in a comfortable position going into the quarter-final against arch-rivals Maharashtra at the Wankhede Stadium today.

Vinit Indulkar
Vinit Indulkar (in white) and Wasim Jaffer during Mumbai’s nets session at the Wankhede yesterday. Pic/Suresh KK

This will be the first derby clash since the 2006-07 Ranji season which Mumbai won by four wickets. As far as records go, Mumbai hold a considerable edge over Maharashtra, winning 16 times and losing just twice in 61 matches while drawing 43 games. 

One of the major issues for the defending champions is their first innings batting. There is no doubt that the team depends heavily on senior batsman Wasim Jaffer to provide momentum. Whenever the former India opener has faltered, there has been a veritable collapse as witnessed on a number of occasions this season.

Not too good
In the eight league games, Mumbai’s highest score in the first innings was 501-9 declared against Odisha which was way behind Maharashtra’s 635 against Goa. Mumbai’s second best score in the first essay was 324 (against Delhi) while Maharashtra hit 616-9 declared (against Hyderabad). 

In their last league match against Gujarat where they barely managed to qualify for the knockouts, Mumbai could only put up 154, batting first. Their lowest first innings total this season was 136 (against Haryana in the Ranji Trophy opener at Lahli).

Skipper Zaheer Khan, who returned to the side after the South Africa tour, said it was important to look at the positives. “It happens (batting unit not doing well). The good thing is that we have qualified (and) that is what is most important. Guys have performed at the right time.

The last game was very crucial for us… we had to win that game and especially when you know that Gujarat needed only one point (to qualify), and we managed to qualify it is a big achievement on the team’s part. 

“I always look at the positives. Now it is the knockout stage, so every game counts. Sometimes when you have matches like these and you are not supposed to qualify but you do, then you know that the morale is especially high,” Zaheer told reporters on the eve of the derby clash. 

Another astonishing fact is that no Mumbai batsman features in the Top 20 of the run-scoring charts this Ranji season. Compare it with their opponents, Maharashtra, who have advanced to the knockouts from the Group C: Harshad Khadiwale (930 runs) and Kedar Jadhav (863 runs) are involved in a close fight for the top two positions. 

“Every team which has qualified for the knockout has done well. For a team to qualify the bowlers have to take wickets and batsmen have to get runs. They obviously have performance in their side. We are just focusing on our strength we are happy to be in the knockout stage and we are just taking it one game at a time,” Zaheer said.

“What has happened has happened and every day is a new day. That is how you have to approach the game. That is why it is so beautiful. You don’t know what is in store for you,” the senior pacer signed off.  

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