With Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane unlikely to play in quarter-finals, 40-time Ranji champions will face uphill task against in-form side at Wankhede
Given their bright start to this season’s Ranji Trophy: they beat Haryana, Punjab and Vidarbha and shared the spoils with Delhi in their first four games, little did one expect Mumbai to find themselves in a must-win situation against Gujarat in their last league game. But that’s how things evolved for the defending champions after ordinary performances against Jharkhand, Odisha and Karnataka. There was mighty relief all around when the 40-time champions put up a gritty display over four days and overcame Gujarat by 27 runs in a low-scoring match in Valsad yesterday.
Ajinkya Rahane (left) and Rohit Sharma during Mumbai’s practice session last year
And as luck of the draw would have it, they are up against Maharashtra in the quarter-finals to be played at the Wankhede Stadium between January 8-12.
On the other hand, Maharashtra have had a far more convincing ride en route to the last eight: they won four of their games outright and unlike Mumbai, they seem to be getting better with every passing game: they have won three of their final four games and taken the first innings lead in the other. So even though Mumbai enjoy the favourites tag for this clash -- purely on reputation and history -- it would be extremely interesting to witness how the game unfolds.
Given their recent struggles, Mumbai are in for another round that will test their resilience. But they would certainly be better placed in the sense that they can call upon a few players who went missing after the initial rounds.
Veteran paceman Zaheer Khan who led the side impressively before embarking on the tour to South Africa is likely to be available for the clash -- he will let the MCA know about his availability today — and his presence will certainly make a vast difference. Another paceman, Dhawal Kulkarni, who has been out with an injury after the Haryana clash, too should be available. Meanwhile, according to sources, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane would not be available as they are scheduled to leave for New Zealand on January 11 after the BCCI awards. Maharashtra have plenty of depth in their batting to leave Mumbai worried.
Opener Harshad Khadiwale has amassed 930 runs from 14 innings and struck three centuries and four half-centuries. Kedar Jadhav too has been in outstanding form, hitting 863 runs in 12 innings with four centuries. Youngster Vijay Zol, who is being looked upon as an India prospect, may not have set the tournament ablaze, but he has been pretty consistent, collecting 410 runs in 10 innings. In the bowling department, left-arm spinner Akshay Darekar tops the charts with 30 wickets.
These figures look far more pretty when looked along-side Mumbai, for whom wicketkeeper Aditya Tare, stays the highet run-getter this season with 570 runs despite failures in the last couple of games. Wasim Jaffer and Hiken Shah are the other notable contributors with 538 and 428 respectively. On the bowling front, Vishal Dabholkar has been consistent and claimed 38 wickets while rookie pacemen Javed Khan and Shardul Thakur have been impressive, taking 22 and 21 wickets respectively.