Ranji Trophy: Kulkarni blow for Mumbai

Dhawal Kulkarni’s unavailability because of viral fever will mean Mumbai will most likely continue to stick to the same combination that did remarkably well in the first leg.

ADITYA TARE CHANDRAKANT PANDIT RANJI TROPHY

The only point to ponder for captain Aditya Tare and coach Chandrakant Pandit ahead of the game will be about Akhil Herwadkar’s partner at the top of the batting order.   -  PTI

When they dispersed from Raipur ten days ago for an extended break after a rewarding first leg which fetched Mumbai 12 points from three games, the players had plenty to look forward to.

As much as they were anticipating Diwali celebrations at home as they were waiting for the arrival of Dhawal Kulkarni, the pace spearhead, to return to the Mumbai camp after being with India’s one-day squad for the five-match series against the New Zealand.

The revitalised bunch, however, was dealt a blow as Kulkarni was ruled out of the defending champion’s Group A clash against Railways. Kulkarni, the star of the epic Ranji final against Karnataka six years ago at the Gangotri Glades stadium, the venue for the final, has failed to recover from a bout of viral fever in time. The Mumbai team management and selectors were hoping for his availability just in time for the match. However, since he hasn’t yet regained match fitness, left-arm pacer Royston Dias was asked to re-join the squad as the back-up pacer.

Kulkarni’s unavailability will mean Mumbai will most likely continue to stick to the same combination that did remarkably well in the first leg.

The pace triumvirate of Shardul Thakur, Balwinder Singh Sandhu and Tushar Deshpande has been remarkably supported by all-rounder Abhishek Nayar and rookie left-arm spinner Vijay Gohil. The only point to ponder for captain Aditya Tare and coach Chandrakant Pandit ahead of the game will be about Akhil Herwadkar’s partner at the top of the batting order.

Youngster Jay Bista couldn’t sparkle in the first two games and was replaced with Kaustubh Pawar for the last game against Madhya Pradesh at Raipur. However, with Pawar looking fidgety in both the innings in Raipur, it would be interesting to see if he is given another opportunity to impress or the team management prefers to let aggressive Bista have a go at the Railways bowlers.

Railways, on the other hand, has problems aplenty on its platter. J.P. Yadav’s wards started the season on an impressive note, earning the innings lead against Punjab. Since then, however, their campaign has derailed, with the team suffering losses against Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Bengal before coming into the game.

Captain Karn Sharma will be hoping for the rejigged batting line-up — with the omission of Mrunal Devdhar and V. Cheluvuraj — to put on runs on the board to let the bowlers come into play.

Squad:

Mumbai Aditya Tare (capt & wk), Akhil Herwadkar, Jay Bista, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Siddhesh Lad, Abhishek Nayar, Shardul Thakur, Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Tushar Deshpande, Vijay Gohil, Kaustubh Pawar, Sufiyan Sheikh (wk), Vishal Dabholkar, Royston Dias.

Railways: Karn Sharma (capt), Saurabh Wakaskar, Shivakant Shukla, Arindam Ghosh, Mahesh Rawat (wk), Anureet Singh, Amit Mishra, Deepak Bansal, Karan Thakur, Faiz Ahmed, Ashish Singh, Ashish Sehrawat, Nitin Bhille, Avinash Yadav, Ashish Yadav.

Umpires: A. Nand Kishore and K.N. Ananthapadmanabhan.

Match referee: Chinmay Sharma.