Ranji Trophy: Mumbai faces underdogs Hyderabad in quarterfinals

Hyderabad captain S. Badrinath knows that his boys are in with a chance to put inexperienced Mumbai under pressure in the quarterfinal starting at the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh Stadium from Friday.

Mumbai coach Chandrakant Pandit (left) has a word of advice for openers Kevin Almeida (centre) and Praful Waghela.

Mumbai coach Chandrakant Pandit (left) with openers Kevin Almeida (centre) and Praful Waghela.   -  Special arrangement

Ever since the Group C teams have started featuring in the Ranji Trophy knockouts, more often than not – whenever Mumbai plays the quarterfinal, the match is widely billed as the battle between the favourites and the underdogs. While the Ranji giant feels the real test of the tournament has just begun, its opponents tend to be still revelling in the fact of having made the cut to the knockouts and ensuring a promotion to the upper tiers for the next season.

While Hyderabad captain had no qualms in admitting it, somewhere at the bottom of his heart, S. Badrinath knows for sure that his boys are in with a chance to put Mumbai under pressure in the quarterfinal, starting at the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh Stadium from Friday.

Seldom has Mumbai featured in Ranji knockouts with a bunch of players as inexperienced as the ones that trained hard on Thursday in what was their only training session at the stadium. While Eknath Kerkar remains the only member of the squad yet to earn a Ranji cap, seven others – Praful Waghela, Kevin Almeida, Vijay Gohil, Akshay Girap, Royston Dias, Sufiyan Shaikh and Tushar Deshpande – have a combined tally of 23 matches.

Still, Mumbai captain Aditya Tare is confident even the inexperienced lot – egged on by the master Sachin Tendulkar’s pep-talk during the team’s last training session in Mumbai before departure – will soak in the pressure. “We have been carrying that tag for so many years. Even the boys who have come in here are used to the tag of being the favourites or title-contenders,” Tare said. “That story doesn’t change. It’s going to always be with us. We are used to it now. Our focus is to play good cricket, positive cricket and the brand of cricket we have displayed for the past two-three seasons.”

Besides the reputation, Mumbai will also have to negotiate the Hyderabad pace triumvirate of M. Ravi Kiran, C.V. Milind and Mohammed Siraj. The troika has tallied 92 wickets in the group stage and would be vital for Hyderabad making its first knockout appearance in five years. If the pacers can put Mumbai under the mat early on, then only the underdogs can start thinking about upstaging the favourites.

The teams (from):

Mumbai: Aditya Tare (capt.), Praful Waghela, Kevin Almeida, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Siddhesh Lad, Abhishek Nayar,, Shardul Thakur, Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Tushar Deshpande, Royston Dias, Sufiyan Shaikh (wk), Vijay Gohil, Akshay Girap and Eknath Kerkar.

Hyderabad: S. Badrinath (capt.), P. Akshath Reddy, Tanmay Agarwal, B. Sandeep, B. Anirudh, , K. Sumanth (wk), J. Anshul, Himalaya Agarwal, Mehdi Hasan, Akash Bhandari, Vishal Sharma, M. Ravi Kiran, C.V. Milind, Mohammed Siraj, Mohammad Mudassir and Habeeb Ahmed.