Agarwal, Shaw set for battle within a battle

Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw have been the stories of the Ranji Trophy season so far.

Karnataka's Mayank Agarwal in action.   -  Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw have been the stories of the season so far. While the Karnataka opener Agarwal has finally come of age in white flannels after being tagged as a Twenty20 specialist for the last seven years, his teenage Mumbai counterpart has made virtually everyone involved in Indian cricket take notice of his impressive run. No wonder then that the outcome of the Ranji Trophy quarter-final between the two teams could well hinge on how the two openers fare at the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium, Jamtha from Thursday.

Agarwal, after struggling to find a permanent place in Karnataka’s Ranji line-up ever since he featured in Twenty20s in 2010, has had a breakthrough season. Not only has he scored five hundreds in 10 innings, including a mammoth triple, the fact that majority of his hundreds have big knocks reflects in his tally of 1,064 runs so far. The dashing batsman is already eyeing V.V.S. Laxman's record tally of 1,415 runs in a Ranji season.

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Shaw's numbers may not be as gargantuan as Agarwal's. In fact, his tally of 521 runs does not even place him anywhere close to even top-10 run-getters of the season, let alone the numero uno position that Agarwal enjoys. But the impact of his three hundreds – scored in varied conditions against quality bowling attacks coupled with the fact that he is just 18 – has elevated him to be the prime stakeholder in carrying the Mumbai batsmen's gharana forward. No wonder then that the India Under-19 captain has been asked to ply his trade in a big match like the Ranji quarter-final rather than attending the preparatory camp in Bengaluru ahead of the next month's Under-19 World Cup.

While Karnataka captain R. Vinay Kumar preferred to focus on the team achievements rather than singling Agarwal out, Mumbai captain Aditya Tare had heaps of praise on Shaw. “At the moment he is in great touch. He bats really well and he has a great game on both sides of the wicket. Loves scoring runs basically and he is not afraid of anyone,” Tare said.

“He has got great attitude towards batting and he has got great future ahead of him. He scored tons of runs in junior cricket and I was not surprised the way he started his Ranji career, by scoring a century against Tamil Nadu in the semifinal last year. I am not surprised the way he is playing currently.”

Home game for umpires

The Ranji Trophy knock-outs may be staged at neutral venues but for the umpires' triumvirate of Abhijit Deshmukh, Nitin Pandit and Ulhas Gandhe, it will be a rare feat of officiating a game together on their home turf. The troika from Vidarbha will officiate together for the first time, with Gandhe being the television umpire for the game to be televised.

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