Ranji Trophy: Mumbai, TN face off in semis

Two teams that specialise on collective performances - Tamil Nadu and Mumbai - are set to face each other in the Ranji Trophy semifinal in Rajkot. Tamil Nadu will have to write a new chapter in its history as it has never defeated Mumbai away from home.

Dinesh Karthik (right) has a chat with Suryakumar Yadav (left) at training on Saturday.   -  R. V. Moorthy

Prithvi Shaw (right) is set to be Mumbai's seventh opener to be tried out this season.   -  R. V. Moorthy

Despite ensuring success in the Ranji Trophy this season, neither Tamil Nadu (TN) nor Mumbai possess individuals who have dominated stats tallies.

No TN batsman features in the top-10 run-getters’ list in the ongoing Ranji Trophy season, with Kaushik Gandhi placed 11th. For Mumbai, the season’s top-run getter, Shreyas Iyer, is distant 44th in the list. The situation doesn’t change much in the wicket-takers’ list. K. Vignesh of TN is placed ninth, while Vijay Gohil occupies a lowly joint 46th position despite being Mumbai’s top wicket-taker.

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Notwithstanding this lack of sustained brilliance by an individual, the fact that matters for both teams is they will face each other in the semifinal from Sunday at the Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium on the outskirts of the laidback Kathiawari city.

Their success is rather indicative of collective performance, a must for brilliance in a team sport. No wonder, then, that Mumbai has remained unbeaten in the tournament so far, while TN has not lost a match ever since it lost the tournament-opener - to Mumbai - in Lahli almost three months ago.

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Team work is not the lone common factor in the performance of both teams. They have been plagued with similar problems as well. The opening combination, for instance, has been a big cause of concern for the teams.

As a result, Prithvi Shaw, the teenaged prodigy, is set to mark his first-class debut on Saturday, to be the seventh Mumbai batsman to be tried out as an opener this season.

TN, too, has struggled at the top, having used five different opening combinations so far in the season. It will be interesting to see if the TN think-tank persists with Gandhi as a makeshift opener or gives another go to L. Suryaprakash, who hasn’t yet set the stage on fire.

TN’s pace advantage

The big difference between the teams has been the consistency of TN’s pace unit. The pace triumvirate of T. Vignesh (37 wickets at 19.83), Aswin Crist (34 at 25.70) and T. Natarajan (23 at 29.95) have snared 94 wickets between them. On the other hand, with leading pacer Dhawal Kulkarni missing a majority of the season due to a knee injury, Shardul Thakur, Tushar Deshpande and Balwinder Singh Sandhu have failed to run through sides consistently.

In fact, had it not been for Abhishek Nayar’s vital contributions with the bat and the ball, Mumbai would have struggled to first sail through to the knockouts and then make it to the last four.

Despite the numbers being stacked against it, Aditya Tare’s boys will have history riding in its favour. Can Abhinav Mukund’s troops turn a new leaf in cricket annals and script TN’s first victory over the domestic giant away from home? We will know the answer by January 5.

The teams (from):

Tamil Nadu: Abhinav Mukund (capt), Vijay Shankar (vice-capt), B. Aparajith, B. Indrajith, M. Kaushik Gandhi, Dinesh Karthik (wk), N. Jagadeesan (wk), Aswin Crist, K. Vignesh, T. Natarajan, R. Aushik Srinivas, Rahil Shah, Malolan Rangarajan, L. Suryaprakash, Ganga Sridhar Raju, M. Mohammed, L. Vignesh.

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

Umpires: Virender Sharma and Abhijit Deshmukh

Match referee: Sunil Chaturvedi.