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Mumbai will have the upper hand in the knock-outs: Shardul Thakur

Clubbed in Elite Group B, Mumbai are comfortably sitting on top of the table with four outright wins on 30 points.

Mumbai’s wait for the Ranji Trophy title has stretched to six seasons now, having last won in the year 2015-16 (was not held for one season due to pandemic). Given the way the Ajinkya Rahane-led team has performed in the league stage, once again it has raised expectations of adding to their collection of 41 titles.

India’s Shardul Thakur in action (REUTERS)

Clubbed in Elite Group B, Mumbai are comfortably sitting on top of the table with four outright wins on 30 points and are already through to the knock-out stage. Based on their form, they start favourites in their seventh and final league game against Assam to be played at the MCA-Sharad Pawar Cricket Academy, BKC from Friday.

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However, the knock-out stage is a different challenge. Can Mumbai take their momentum into the big games and go all the way?

“It’s too early to stay, we have three hurdles to cross before reaching the final and winning the title,” said pace bowling all-rounder Shardul Thakur, who’s return from injury in the last two league games has bolstered the side ahead of the important games.

“Mumbai is always known for winning knock-out games, that’s the standard the team has set over many years, so we will have that upper-hand in terms of playing knock-out games. It will help us. At the end of the day, you have to play good cricket, and at the same time, it’s a good opportunity for the players to perform in the knockouts. If you perform in the knockouts, it’s a different experience. I have gone through that, and now, it’s time for Mohit (Awasthi), Tushar (Deshpande), Shams (Mulani) and newcomers to show their talent,” said Thakur.

Mumbai’s good run in the tournament has been based mainly on the good showing by the bowlers. The batting, though, has to fully fire. Captain and the most experienced player, Ajinkya Rahane, has been below-par. However, he scored an unbeaten half-century in the last game against Chhattisgarh and the team will bank on his large experience in the crunch games now.

Thakur said the batters will need to lift their game. “The team looks very balanced. Probably we are lacking in top-order scoring the runs, but with Prithvi Shaw coming back and the way he and Bhupen Lalwani showed promise, I think we have a good opening pair now. We need No.3. 4 and 5 to score runs as well. The lower-order has scored runs with Shivam (Dube), Shams (Mulani) scoring runs. I got a 30-plus score in the last game, Tanush Kotian has also got a few handy knocks. The bowlers have also chipped in at times.”

The India all-rounder who was nursing an ankle injury after the South Africa tour and returned to action last week, is quite impressed with Mumbai’s bowling attack, making a special mention of Mohit Awasthi.

“Overall, it’s a good bowling attack and what matters is experience. When it comes to bowling you also need bowlers who are in form. Because it’s important to take 20 wickets to win a game. Now, we are heading towards the last league match and will be entering the knockouts soon. Over there, it will be five-day games… and in a five-day game the result is always possible. It is not only about the first innings but also the second innings. So, it good to have bowlers in form in Mohit and Shams (Mulani). So we have two bowlers who have been top notch.”


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