Mumbai recalls local stars to resolve opening woes

When Praful Waghela and Kevin Almeida will walk out to open the innings during the quarterfinal against Hyderabad at the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh Cricket Stadium, it will be the fifth opening combination of the season for Mumbai.

Kevin Almeida (centre) and Praful Waghela with Mumbai coach Chandrakant Pandit on the eve of the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal.   -  Special arrangement

"Well begun is half done". But Mumbai has been finding it difficult to translate the proverb into its Ranji Trophy team’s batting performance. For the third season in a row, the team has struggled to find a settled opening combination. It has culminated in the selectors, in consultation with the team leadership group, deciding to recall two openers who have been scoring heavily in local cricket for the Ranji Trophy knockouts.

When Praful Waghela and Kevin Almeida will walk out to open the innings during the >quarterfinal against Hyderabad at the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh Cricket Stadium, it will be the fifth opening combination of the season.

Considering that the half-dozen opening combos Mumbai has used in the previous two seasons, that’s not really surprising. However, what came as a slight surprise was the preference of the selectors when they decided to look beyond Kaustubh Pawar and Jay Bista. With Akhil Herwadkar, who has established himself at the top of the order, still being sidelined due to an injury, Mumbai decided to refrain from using Shreyas Iyer as a makeshift opener, like it did in the last league game against Punjab.



Batsman

Inns

Runs

Avg

Best

50s

100s

Akhil Herwadkar

10

447

49.66

153

1

2

Kaustubh Pawar

10

180

18.00

78

1

0

Jay Bista

7

106

15.14

49

0

0

Shreyas Iyer

2

123

61.50

123

0

1



Instead, the selectors recalled the left-handed duo of Waghela and Almeida. The last of Waghela’s four Ranji appearances was in the quarterfinal against Madhya Pradesh five seasons ago, while Almeida’s only cap came during the demoralising defeat against Jammu & Kashmir in the 2014-15 season-opener.

Since then, both the batsmen have been scoring heavily on the local circuit. The clincher was the duo’s big hundreds – Almeida’s unbeaten 301 for MIG Cricket Club while Waghela’s unbeaten 143 for Payyade Sports Club – in the Purshottam Shield.

"I just want them to go and express themselves; play as if it’s their own team and play as freely as if it’s just a club game," said captain Aditya Tare.

If Waghela and Almeida can give Mumbai a decent start, they will sure take more than half off the team think-tank’s concerns away.