The last time Uttar Pradesh made it to the Ranji Trophy semifinal, captain Karan Sharma, now four months shy of turning 24, was not even a teenager. None of its existing squad members were even in contention to break into its senior squad. If that makes you wonder whether its semifinal against Mumbai is going to be a lopsided clash in favour of the 41-time champion, think again.
Mumbai is in form and has a rich legacy of success in the domestic competition. But its squad lacks the experience of a high-pressure match. Only two if its existing squad members - captain Prithvi Shaw and veteran pacer Dhawal Kulkarni - have featured in a Ranji Trophy semifinal.
As a result, based on the yardstick of the current form and the big-match experience, it will definitely be a clash of equals at the Just Cricket Academy (JCA). And both the units heaved a sigh of relief after looking at the 22-yard strip at the venue on Monday.
Contrary to the belter that the adjoining strip turned out to be during Bengal’s run-feast versus Jharkhand in the last week’s quarterfinal, the centre-wicket at JCA has a decent amount of grass cover, which will make in-form pace units of both the sides elated.
In fact, Uttar Pradesh will be tempted to draft Mohsin Khan into the side. The left-arm seamer, who was one of the finds of the IPL, has been added to the squad ahead of the semifinal. It will be interesting to see if he is preferred over Shivam Mavi, who bowled just two overs in Karnataka’s second innings in the quarterfinal.
Irrespective of its composition, the duel between UP pace attack and Mumbai’s in-form batting unit may seal the fate of the game.
Each of Mumbai’s top seven batters scored a fifty during its record win against Uttarakhand last week. Even though Hardik Tamore will replace Aditya Tare as the wicketkeeper-batter for the semifinal, the batting line-up appears to be intimidating.
Sarfaraz Khan, who hit an unbeaten 301 the last time these two teams faced each other, has plundered more than 700 runs in just five innings this season and will be eager to make it big against his former team. Shaw is due for a big knock, with just two fifties in the season so far.