Ranji Trophy: Opening woes for Maharashtra ahead of must-win tie

With young opener Murtaza Trunkwala in its wings, either Swapnil Gugale or Harshad Khadiwale may have to warm bench against Railways owing to poor form.

From left: Ankit Bawne and Swapnil Gugale stitched a 594-run stand for the third wicket against Delhi at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai last season.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Swapnil Gugale and Harshad Khadiwale have been two of Maharashtra's consistent openers over the last few years. However, the fact that both the batsmen were asked to bat together at the fag end of Maharashtra's training at the MCA stadium at Gahunje on Wednesday may have hinted that only one of them may feature in the team's must-win Ranji Trophy Group A tie against Railways on Thursday.

Gugale, after his marathon knock of 351 against Delhi on a Wankhede Stadium pitch that resembled a highway at the start of the last season, has had a mediocre run since then. The tide hasn't changed even at the start of the season as Gugale, having been replaced as captain, has scored just 47 runs in four innings. Khadiwale, after losing place in the latter half of the last season, could make little contribution on his return last week, scoring 10 and 19 against Karnataka.

Read: Ranji Trophy: Bengal, Vidarbha to lock horns sans stars

No wonder that the Maharashtra selectors have brought in young opener Murtaza Trunkwala to keep both the openers on toes. Besides Trunkwala, left-arm pacer Mukesh Choudhary may also feature in the XI come Thursday. With Kedar Jadhav continuing to be sidelined due to a right wrist injury, it will be interesting to see if the changes help Maharashtra turn the tide after being mauled by an on-song Karnataka.

Previews:

Karnataka vs Delhi

Bengal vs Vidarbha

Tripura vs Andhra

Mumbai vs Baroda

Odisha vs Tamil Nadu

Mahesh Rawat's Railways, on the other hand, will be hoping to turn what has been a topsy-turvy campaign into a consistent finish. Having won two and lost two, Railways are the closest to the table-topper duo of Karnataka (16) and Delhi (13) with 13 points. If it can snatch its third outright win, Railways can hope to put Karnataka under pressure in the last league round.

Squads

Maharashtra: Ankeet Bawne (c), Harshad Khadiwale, Swapnil Gugale, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Naushad Shaikh, Rahul Tripathi, Chirag Khurana, Murtaza Trunkwala, Prayag Bhati, Rohit Motwani (wk), Satyajeet Bachhav, Samad Fallah, Pradeep Dadhe, Mukesh Choudhary, Nikit Dhumal.

Railways: Mahesh Rawat (capt/wk), Shivakant Shukla, Saurabh Wakaskar, Mrunal Deodhar, Arindam Ghosh, Manish Rao, Avinash Yadav, Vidyadhar Kamath, Anupreet Singh, Amit Mishra, Ashish Yadav, Pratham Singh, Manjeet Chaudhary, Nitin Bhille, Karan Thakur.

  Dugout videos