Vijay Hazare Trophy: Mumbai, Andhra vie for shot at top spot

For Andhra, the Vijay Hazare series has finally validated what has been a strong season with very little returns.

Andhra skipper G. Hanuma Vihari has identified the change in attitude and approach saying the team is now playing to win and not just to compete hard.   -  M. VEDHAN

With qualification worries off the table, the two sides in Group C Andhra and Mumbai head into the final game on Wednesday with an eye on the top spot in the Vijay Hazare trophy.

Andhra remains unbeaten after five games and Mumbai’s four wins mean it has a chance to draw level with 20 points; the net run rate then deciding the topper.

After a sedate season - by Mumbai’s high standards - the domestic giant would want to finish the league stage on a high. This is a tournament Mumbai has not won in more than a decade and a top finish could help take the momentum.

But Wednesday’s match will be played at the Murugappa Cricket Ground - a venue where Mumbai lost to Rajasthan while Andhra outclassed both Tamil Nadu and Gujarat in its last two games.

For Andhra, the tournament has finally validated what has been a strong season with very little returns.

Andhra's Mumbai hoodoo

The two teams were drawn in the same group in the Ranji Trophy in which Mumbai came out on top taking a first innings lead. It was the only game in which Andhra lost the lead but fewer outright wins compared to Mumbai and Madhya Pradesh meant the team did not qualify.

In the South Zone inter-state T20, Andhra was tied on 16 points with Karnataka and Tamil Nadu but lost out on the net run rate.

Andhra coach Sanath Kumar knows the importance of big results and said, “The boys are playing good cricket. But recognition will come only when they play the knockouts and reach finals. Otherwise, nobody will remember. That luck factor was not our way previously.”

In this tournament so far, Andhra has used a few under-23 players as well and Kumar said the team is focussed on picking different players for different formats and it is something that has worked well.

But importantly, skipper G. Hanuma Vihari has identified the change in attitude and approach saying the team is now playing to win and not just to compete hard.

“If we are just trying to compete, you are not sure if you are putting your 100 per cent effort. When you know your teammates’ strength and you play together you try to win, rather than just competing and getting close. We now know that we can win against any team.”

Vihari also pointed out that good results here will help the team send players to the India A and Board President sides and the experience can prove valuable in the long term.

“Players from Karnataka and Mumbai, they play for India and A sides and they have the exposure and experience. If we keep winning matches here and get to the next level, then our boys will also get that experience of playing in India A squad. That will help rub off on the other boys too. Once you win as a team then you get more players at the higher level.”