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All eyes on Tendulkar as Mumbai start fav

Sachin Tendulkar will be the centre of attraction as 39-time champions Mumbai take on the bravehearts from Services in the Ranji Trophy semifinal starting at the Palam Airforce ground on Wednesday.

Ajit Agarkar-led side start as overwhelming favourites but one can’t count the institutional side out after their five-wicket victory over UP.

On paper, Services are no match for Mumbai, whose line-up boasts of names like Tendulkar, domestic run-machine Wasim Jaffer, all-rounder Abhishek Nayar apart from two in-form youngsters in Hiken Shah and Kaustubh Pawar.

‘I don’t know about overwhelming but we are favourites. It might sound arrogant but we have played at this level so many times that it has become like this,’ skipper Agarkar told the mediapersons after the team’s training session.

Tendulkar faced a lot of throw downs after a delivery from left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar kept really low in the practice net and then he asked former India manager and SSCB secretary Air Commander Baladitya to increase the height of the sightscreen.

‘Obviously, when you have a player of Sachin’s calibre, it makes a lot of difference. Wasim has been our best batsmen for a few years now and our man for the season has been Abhishek Nayar. It’s also good to find that new boys like Hiken and Kaustubh are doing well,’ the skipper added.

For the Services side, playing a Ranji Trophy semifinal after more than five decades is a big achievement but Wing Commander Deepak Bhaskar, who is also team manager, said that boys are not overawed by the occasion.

‘They (Mumbai) might have a lot of cricketing exposure but our boys are also battle-hardened professionals. They have garnered experience about life from their experiences in the defence. We are not overawed by Tendulkar’s presence. In any case, we are the underdogs,’ Wing Commander Bhaskar said. The Services are likely to miss their regular skipper Shoumik Chatterjee, who batted on one leg to win the quarterfinal against UP.

Services: Soumya Ranjan Swain (capt), Anshul Gupta, Nakul verma, Pratik desai, Rajat palliwal, Yashpal Singh, Sarabjit Singh, Abhishek Sinha, Suraj Yadav, Shadab Nazar, Penta Rao, Shakti Malviya, Mohammed Khaleed, Shoumik Chatterjee, Nishant Singh.

Mumbai: Ajit Agarkar (capt), Kaustubh Pawar, Wasim Jaffer, Hiken Shah, S Tendulkar, Surya Kumar Yadav, Abhishek Nayar, Aditya Tare (wk), Javed Khan, Dhawal Kulkarni, Vishal Dabholkar, Ankeet Chavan, Nikhil Patil Jr, Shardul Thakur, S  Marathe.
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