Ranji Trophy 2018-19: Struggling Mumbai up against Vidarbha

Vidarbha, the defending champion, is sitting pretty in third position in the combined table of top two groups with 21 points from six games.

Vidarbha coach Chandrakant Pandit (centre) with Mumbai captain, Siddhesh Lad, coach Vinayak Samant in Nagpur on Saturday.   -  Sudarshan S.

Vidarbha Cricket Association at Jamtha has a designated practice area where both teams usually bat simultaneously ahead of a Ranji Trophy fixture. Moments after Chandrakant Pandit entered the nets facility on a chilly Saturday morning, Shreyas Iyer - the Mumbai run-machine - muttered: “ab dono team tight ho gaya (time to mean business for both the teams)”.

Towards the end of the net session, Pandit had a long chat with Aditya Tare, the most experienced Mumbai cricketer, while some of the younger Mumbai players hopped over to the Vidarbha camp and exchanged pleasantries with Wasim Jaffer, the grand old man of domestic cricket.

READ: Milestone match for Wasim Jaffer

Pandit’s current stint at Vidarbha was preceded by his second stretch with Mumbai, with the team winning its 41st title in 2015-16 and making its 46th final the following season with Pandit and Tare combination at the helm. Jaffer, on the other hand, having won eight titles with Mumbai, including as captain in 2008-09, emerged as a Mumbai stalwart before making way for youngsters by switching to Vidarbha in 2015-16.

Pandit and Jaffer’s presence is set to only further intensify proceedings at Jamtha during the critical Ranji Trophy Elite Group A tie over the next four days. After all, either Mumbai is going to be knocked out of the tournament or Vidarbha will book its berth in the quarter-final at the end of the game.

The equation is simple: Vidarbha, the defending champion, is sitting pretty in third position in the combined table of top two groups with 21 points from six games. With the local team most ideally needing an outright win in its last home game, it hasn’t come as a surprise that the strip at Jamtha is set to be a turner.

Mumbai, on the other hand, have to beat the defending champion and take home at least six points to keep its campaign alive. With a meagre 11 points from six matches, it may be languishing in the 14th position but if it can miraculously register two wins in its last games, it can emerge as a contender for the top-five slots to feature in the knockouts from the two two groups.

Mumbai received the much-needed boost of Shardul Thakur and Tushar Deshpande, the two express fast bowlers, recovering from hamstring injuries just in time for the match. Right through the season, the inexperienced Mumbai bowling attack has struggled to pick 20 wickets, which has resulted in the team having failed to register a win so far.

Captain Siddhesh Lad will hope for Thakur, who joined the team on Friday afternoon, and Deshpande to wreak havoc in the Vidarbha line-up buck the trend and give Mumbai a glimmer of hope at the start of the New Year.

The teams (from)

Vidarbha: Faiz Fazal (Capt.), Ganesh Satish, Wasim Jaffer, Aditya Sarvate, Siddhesh Wath (w.k.), Atharva Taide, Akshay Wakhare, Akshay Wadkar (w.k.), Apoorv Wankhade, R. Sanjay, Akshay Karnewar, Akshay Kolhar, Rajneesh Gurbani, Aditya Thakare, Pawan Parnate (w.k.), Suniket Bingewar.

Mumbai: Siddhesh Lad (Capt.), Jay Bista, Vikrant Auti, Shreyas Iyer, Shubham Ranjane, Aditya Tare (w.k.), Shivam Dube, Shardul Thakur, Tanush Kotian,Tushar Deshpande, Royston Dias, Eknath Kerkar, Karsh Kothari, Dhrumil Matkar, Minad Manjrekar.