The last time Mumbai played a Ranji Trophy game in Odisha, it was marred by Ajit Agarkar abandoning the team on the first morning of the match at the DRIEMS ground, on the outskirts of Cuttack. Since then, Mumbai has made major changes to its side. The current squad has only four players from the team that played the match in 2011-12. Agarkar is back in the scheme of things, albeit as the chairman of the selection panel.
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However, rather than thinking about that eventful week six years ago, both the teams were focused on the crucial four days ahead at the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology ground in Bhubaneswar.
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Odisha has had a mediocre start to the season — its first match against Tripura was washed out, with just 67 overs of play possible over the four days, while the team had to come from behind to save its next game, against Andhra. This means, Odisha enters the match against Mumbai with two points from as many games.
While Odisha would be hoping against hope to revive its campaign against the domestic powerhouse, Mumbai will be keen on turning the tide after last week's setback against Tamil Nadu.
Having earned four points from the matches against two stronger opponents in Group C, Mumbai couldn't have asked for a better situation to shift gears in the group stage.
For the first time, Aditya Tare will have the luxury of fielding virtually the strongest XI possible. Shreyas Iyer will be missing, with the swashbuckling batsman having joined India's Twenty20 squad. But Ajinkya Rahane's return to Mumbai's change-room after four years will bolster its batting attack.
Besides, with Shardul Thakur's return to the team, Mumbai will have its first-choice new-ball combination of Thakur and Dhawal Kulkarni, for the first time this season. And with the KIIT pitch having a greenish look on the eve of the game, the team management will be tempted to back the duo up with either all-rounder Akash Parkar or left-arm pacer Royston Dias at the cost of Aditya Dhuman's spin.
Irrespective of the combination it fields, anything less than six points at the end of the game will be a major jolt to Mumbai's campaign.
Mumbai: Aditya Tare (capt, wk), Suryakumar Yadav (vice-capt), Akhil Herwadkar, Prithvi Shaw, Jay Bista, Ajinkya Rahane, Siddhesh Lad, Abhishek Nayar, Vijay Gohil, Dhawal Kulkarni, Akash Parkar, Royston Dias, Shardul Thakur, Aditya Dhumal, Sufiyan Shaikh (wk).
Odisha: Govinda Poddar (capt), Basant Mohanty (vice-capt), Sandeep Pattanaik, Natraj Behera, Santanu Mishra, Subhranshu Senapati, Biplab Samantaray, Saurabh Rawat (wk), Dhiraj Singh, Suryakant Pradha, Alok Sahoo, Alok Mangaraj, Deepak Behera, Aravind Singh, Prayash Kumar Singh.