Ranji Trophy: Mumbai to face Karnataka in mouth-watering quarter-final
With a late surge to their Ranji Trophy campaign, last year's finalist Mumbai face eight-time champions Karnataka in the quarter-finals at Jamtha today
So far, it has been a dream season for eight-time Ranji Trophy champions Karnataka. On the other hand, their quarter-final opponents today - 41-time domestic champs - Mumbai, somehow managed to enter the knockout stage after emerging victorious in a must-win encounter against minnows Tripura in their last league game.
Mumbai skipper Aditya Tare with Prithvi Shaw (right) at a training session
It will be a battle of sheer grit and firepower when both teams clash at the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) Stadium in Jamtha, here today. "This tournament is such that you have to peak at the right time. Winning the championship is about how you finish and not how you start. Even though we started slowly, we are no less than any opposition in the country," Mumbai skipper Aditya Tare said on the eve of the match yesterday.
On paper, it is Mumbai that dominates the head-to-head record, winning 10 out of the 24 matches played between the two sides. Karnataka have won only two, while the other 12 matches ended in draws. Mumbai will be without the services of Shreyas Iyer, who will be on national duty for the ODI series against Sri Lanka. But despite his absence, the Tare-led outfit looks strong in the batting department with young opening pair of Prithvi Shaw and Jay Bista in good form. Shaw has already hit three hundreds and two fifties this season, while Bista scored a ton in his last game. Mumbai's Mr Dependable, Siddhesh Lad has not disappointed either. Skipper Tare also seems to be more confident in front of the wickets. However, a concern for Mumbai would be vice-captain Suryakumar Yadav, who is awaiting a big knock this season.
In the bowling department, Mumbai will highly depend on pacers Dhawal Kulkarni and Akash Parkar with the injured Shardul Thakur out of the side. Coach Sameer Dighe may bring in left-arm spinner Vijay Gohil, who lost his place to Karsh Kothari in the last two games, to strengthen the spin attack. Talking about a weakened pace battery, Tare said: "We have no choice but to play with whoever we have in the squad. We have got good young bowlers who can make a difference in a big game."
K'taka's batting prowess
Meanwhile, Karnataka boast of a very strong batting line-up. Mayank Agarwal, this season's leading run-scorer with 1064 runs, including a triple century, has been in red hot form. Ravikumar Samarth and Karun Nair too have been in good touch. In the absence of KL Rahul and Manish Pandey, both who are on national duty, Karnataka's batting will depend on openers Agarwal and Samarth for a good start.
In bowling department, pacer Abhimanyu Mithun and skipper Vinay Kumar have got tremendous support from off-spinner K Gowtham, who has 27 wickets this season. Gowtham and leg-spinner Shreyas Gopal will lead the spin charge. Kumar is confident his side will put up a good show in all departments of the game today. "Most of our players are in good form be it in the batting, bowling and fielding departments. Yes, it's been a dream season for us. Everybody is performing, not just one or two
individuals," Kumar said.