Millennium Post

Mighty Mumbai eye their 41st Ranji title against Saurashtra

A young but mighty Mumbai have history and form firmly on their side when they chase their 41st Ranji Trophy title by locking horns with Saurashtra, who are taking a rare shot at domestic cricket’s biggest prize, in the summit showdown beginning here on Wednesday.

While Mumbai will be appearing in their 45th final of the top domestic tournament, it is only the second time that Saurashtra are in the title clash.

Incidentally, it was Mumbai who put paid to Saurashtra’s hopes of a maiden triumph by wrapping the final in three days in 2012-13. That was the only time Saurashtra came close to the title. Mumbai won that match by an innings and 125 runs for their 40th trophy.

Three seasons later, the scene remains more or less the same and it will take a huge effort from Saurashtra to upset a side which has almost won more titles than the rest of India combined.

For the record, since 1990-91, Mumbai haven’t lost any of the 10 finals they have played.

Mumbai have at least five of those who played in the earlier final in the squad -- Aditya Tare, Abhishek Nayar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Shardul Thakur and Vishal Dabholkar.

The Saurashtra side, coached by the then opener Shitanshu Kotak, is likely to have at least seven from last time’s playing XI -- Sagar Jogiyani, Arpit Vasavada, Sheldon Jackson, Jaydev Shah, Kamlesh Makvana, Jaydev Unadkat and Dharmendra Jadeja in the squad.

While Sheldon Jackson (525 runs) is the highest scorer for Saurashtra this season, their batting has been strengthened by the solid Cheteshwar Pujara, who compiled a century in the 10-wicket semi-final win over Assam.

While the experienced Jaydev Shah and Sagar Jogiyani (474) can pose problems for Mumbai, the Saurashtra lower-order too has been among the runs in the ongoing season and can put up a stiff resistance.

As far as the Mumbai batting is concerned, they have the belligerent Shreyas Iyer and Suryakumar Yadav in their ranks, with Akhil Herwadkar lending solidity to the line-up. Skipper Aditya Tare will also be a confident man having struck a century in the last game.

Leading run-getters -- Iyer (1204 runs) and Herwadkar (879 runs) -- weren’t even part of the squad in 2012-13 while Yadav, who has held the lower-order together this time around, had a forgetful season then.

It is a formidable lineup that could be tested by the experienced Jaydev Unadkat (36 wickets) and off-spinner Kamlesh Makvana (33 wickets) along with left-arm spinner Dharmendra (27 wickets). Left-armer Hardik Rathod, who has had a decent outing against Assam, is another option for Saurashtra.

For Mumbai, Shardul Thakur (33 wickets) has emerged as the leading wicket-taker for the last two seasons. Then there is the experienced Dhawal Kulkarni, who has also led the attack in different conditions, along with the consistent Vishal Dabholkar and Balwinder Sandhu, who had a five-wicket haul in the semifinal against Madhya Pradesh. 
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