Ranji final: Even battle on the cards

Mumbai, champion on 40 occasions, has had a smooth sailing en route to the final after the early hiccup against Andhra. Saurashtra, on the other hand, has been sizzling right through the season.

Saurashtra team practices ahead of its Ranji Trophy final against Mumbai.   -  Prashant Nakwe

If history is a yardstick, the Ranji Trophy final is nothing but a David versus Goliath battle. On the basis of form, however, Mumbai’s summit clash against Saurashtra, to be played at the Maharashtra Cricket Association’s stadium here from Thursday will be an even battle.

Mumbai, champion on 40 occasions, has had a smooth sailing en route to the final after the early hiccup against Andhra. Saurashtra, on the other hand, has been sizzling right through the season.

The team led by Jaydev Shah has registered seven outright victories in 10 outings so far this season. And the fact that four of them, including the quarterfinal and semifinal, were away from home has underlined Saurashtra's ability to succeed in varied conditions.

Still, the Saurashtra boys will have to carry the baggage of the humiliating loss against domestic stalwart Mumbai in the 2012-13 final. Mumbai ran over Saurashtra in less than three days in that match. But Saurashtra coach Sitanshu Kotak shrugged off the 2012-13 loss. “A lot of people asked me about what happened in the final in 2012-13, but we shouldn’t forget that the last time we played them in the final, Sachin Tendulkar was playing along with Ajit Agarkar and Wasim Jaffer,” Kotak told reporters on Wednesday.

“They definitely have good players in the side but those three, I don’t think you can match. (This time) We have a good side, they have also got a very good side. I think it will be an even contest.”

Mumbai will take heart from the fact that it is unbeaten in the tournament so far. While it has earned three hard-fought wins on the last day's play in the league stage, Saurashtra has seen just two of its matches entering Day Four in the tournament. That could turn out to be a crucial factor, especially if the match goes down to the wire.

But playing on a green top in Pune, it would take a humongous effort from either batting units to take the game to the distance. In that regard, Mumbai has a massive advantage over its opponents. Four of its batsmen – Shreyas Iyer (1,204), Akhil Herwadkar (879), Suryakumar Yadav (740) and Siddhesh Lad (603) – have tallied more than 600 runs, a mark that no Saurashtra batsman has reached so far.

However, if Cheteshwar Pujara plays his trademark innings, the tons of runs of Mumbai batsmen may go down the drain.

The teams:

Mumbai: Aditya Tare (Captain), Abhishek Nayar, Akhil Herwadkar Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Siddhesh Lad, Nikhil Patil, Dhawal Kulkarni, Vishal Dabholkar, Iqbal Abdullah, Shardul Thakur, Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Badre Alam, Bhavin Thakkar, Sufiyan Shaikh.

Saurashtra: Jaydev Shah (Captain), Sheldon Jackson, Avi Barot, Cheteshwar Pujara, Chirag Jani, Jaydev Unadkat, Preark Mankad, Kamlesh Makwana, Dharmendra Jadeja, Vandit Jivrajani, Arpit Vasavada, Deepak Punia, Hardik Rathod, Mohsin Dodia, Sagar Jogiyani.