While embracing neutral venues for the 83rd edition of the Ranji Trophy, when the itinerary was being planned, the BCCI made a conscious effort of not letting any team play more than one game at a venue. However, an exception had been made for Mumbai and the defending champion outfit will thus enjoy a thin edge over Uttar Pradesh in a Ranji Trophy Group A tie at the Srikantadatta Narasimha Raja Wadeyar Ground on Sunday.
Having drubbed Railways at the same ground last week, Aditya Tare’s boys will certainly know a little bit more about the ground conditions when they face old foes UP, who have been boosted with the addition of Bhuvneshwar Kumar to its fold. The match was originally scheduled to be played at Belgaum, but a logistical reshuffle by the Karnataka State Cricket Association, the host body, resulted in Mumbai having to play back-to-back games in the popular tourist destination.
The 41-times champion team certainly had no problem with it. After all, it allowed the squad to be based in one city for a fortnight, a rarity in what has otherwise been Bharat Darshan for all the participating teams this season. Not only has it kept the flock fresh, but even allowed the squad to get away for a couple of team activities between the games – a visit to a bird sanctuary at Srirangapatna followed by a tiger safari at the Kabini backwaters.
Bhuvneshwar, who will make his captaincy debut on Sunday, conceded that Mumbai will enjoy “slight advantage” of knowing the conditions. “There won’t be that slight little awkwardness for the first few overs whenever they walk on to the wicket. That’s the advantage only they will enjoy but otherwise there won’t be any advantage. It’s going to be a new game altogether,” Bhuvneshwar said.
However, even with the advantage, Mumbai batsmen will have their task cut out against a potent bowling attack. Akhil Herwadkar has been on song all through the season, while Suryakumar Yadav and Shreyas Iyer have been fresh with decent knocks last week. They will have to deal with a quality attack including pacers Bhuvneshwar, Ankit Rajpoot, Imtiyaz Ahmad and the chinaman Kuldeep Yadav.
A largely inexperienced UP batting line-up, on the other hand, has failed to fire this season. In the 10 batting essays over five games, only twice has a UP batsman notched a hundred. That has been instrumental in UP finding itself with just four points from games, in the seventh place in a group of nine.
Mumbai will be hoping to continue to pile on the pressure on the UP batsmen. While the pace triumvirate of Shardul Thakur, Tushar Deshpande and Balwinder Singh Sandhu will be hoping to run through the UP batting, left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar will have to come good in his first outing of the season.
Mumbai: Aditya Tare (capt.), Akhil Herwadkar, Kaustubh Pawar, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Siddhesh Lad, Abhishek Nayar, Shardul Thakur, Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Tushar Deshpande, Vishal Dabholkar, Jay Bista, Sufiyan Sheikh, Royston Dias and Aditya Dhumal.
Uttar Pradesh: Bhuvneshwar Kumar (capt.), Prashant Gupta, Shivam Chaudhari, Umang Sharma, Shubham Chaubey, Rinku Singh, Eklawya Dwiwedi, Kuldeep Yadav, Saurabh Kumar, Imtiyaz Ahmad, Ankit Rajpoot, Israr, Samarth Singh, Tanmay Shrivastava, Deependra Pandey, Upendra Yadav and Shubham Mavi.
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