Ranji Trophy: Mumbai takes on Uttar Pradesh with knockout berth at stake

Despite starting the season with six points in Baroda and returning from Chennai with three points, its the two losses at home that have hounded Mumbai.

Mumbai wicketkeeper-batsman Aditya Tare in action.   -  FILE PHOTO/ SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

With the kind of Ranji Trophy season Mumbai has had so far, time is running out for the domestic giant to keep its hopes of regaining the coveted title alive. The Group B game against Uttar Pradesh, starting at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday, is perhaps the last opportunity for Mumbai to set its home record straight and keep itself in the hunt for a knockout spot.

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Despite starting the season with six points in Baroda and returning from Chennai last week with three points against a formidable opposition, its the two losses at home that have hounded Mumbai so far. While Railways derailed its campaign at Wankhede last month, Karnataka virtually crumpled the 41-times champion with another convincing win at the Bandra-Kurla Complex facility the following week.

As a result, with just nine points from four games, Mumbai still finds itself in the lower half of the joint tally of 18 teams in Groups A and B, five of whom will qualify for the quarterfinals. But more than thinking about the qualification, stand-in skipper Aditya Tare, who starred with a century against Tamil Nadu, said the team is banking on building a character in the younger lot.

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“Now that we have our backs to the wall, the only way is up. We have nothing to lose and that’s why I want the team to be fearless. It’s important to build the culture of playing the brand of cricket Mumbai is renowned for,” Tare said on Saturday.

Tare admits Mumbai’s season suffered major setbacks in its first two games at home. “It was unfortunate. Both the matches could have gone our way but unfortunately, we couldn’t perform to our potential,” he said.

While Mumbai, which handed two debuts last week, has been turned into an inexperienced bunch in the middle of the tournament, a young Uttar Pradesh has fared reasonably well so far. Saurabh Kumar’s unit has collected 13 points in five games, thus keeping its hopes of a knockout berth alive. It would be interesting to see how the battle of young outfits pans out on a sporting strip.

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