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Ranji Trophy Final: Ajinkya Rahane’s Mumbai eye 42nd title but Vidarbha pose tough challenge

Ajinkya Rahane-led Mumbai face Vidarbha in the Ranji Trophy final.

Led by an astute captain in Ajinkya Rahane, Mumbai will look to maintain their hegemony on Ranji Trophy with a 42nd title but a gutsy and battle-hardened Vidarbha won’t make it easy for the legacy champions in the much-anticipated final starting tomorrow.

Mumbai Ranji team captain Ajinkya Rahane during training.(PTI)

In Mumbai, coming second best is never an option and nothing short of a title would satisfy the connoisseurs of Mumbai cricket sitting in the Garware pavilion of the Wankhede Stadium. Someone, who engineered India’s greatest overseas series win in Australia three winters back, Rahane’s international career has seen a sharp slump and right now he is not even in national reckoning.

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Sample this. Even a specialist pacer Mohit Avasthi (192) has scored more runs compared to Rahane (134) who has had a dismal average of 13.4 throughout the tournament. However Rahane’s leadership skills have proven to be second to none as the old warhorse used his resources pretty well to take the team to its 48th summit clash.

He couldn’t avail the services of an injured Suryakumar Yadav. Sarfaraz Khan wasn’t available after being picked for India A and subsequently for the Test series. Shreyas Iyer avoided a few games on pretext of injury. Prithvi Shaw (5 games), having recovered from injury only was available towards the business end. Shivam Dube, Shardul Thakur also played half of the games.

But in Mumbai, it is the team that plays and they have known how to win Ranji Trophy even when a Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Dilip Vengsarkar weren’t available and the tradition has continued.

Even though his individual form deserted him, Rahane and his men found their way through all challenges en route to the final this year. They meet their match in two-time champions Vidarbha, who brought their ‘A’ game forward on key moments.

Umesh Yadav, a man with 150 plus Test wickets, with a brand new ball can still ask probing questions to Mumbai’s semi-brittle top-order. The spotlight will be on middle-order batter Shreyas Iyer, who had just lost his BCCI Annual Contracts for giving precedence to cash-rich IPL over domestic cricket. A hundred in Ranji Trophy final would certainly give him a lot of confidence.

Mumbai’s batters have not piled up runs in large numbers like those from their opponents through this season to make the final, but their lower-middle order has stood up to the occasion and delivered in crunch situations.

The likes of wicketkeeper-batter Hardik Tamore (252 runs), who has floated from top to lower order while making significant contributions in the last two knockout games, combined with the brilliance of Tanush Kotian (481), Shams Mulani (290) and Tushar Deshpande (168) have all delivered whenever the chips have been down. Dube and Thakur have hit important hundreds in knock-out games.

India U-19 star Musheer Khan has given a fine exhibition of himself proving to be the gel that holds the batting line-up together, Mumbai present a strong challenge for the Vidarbha side. The hosts have pushed through barriers each time in the knockout stage, with Mumbai delivering a stunning late blow to oust Baroda in the quarterfinal riding on centuries from Kotian and Deshpande at Nos 10 and 11 for a historic show.

Also, in the semifinal, there was another incredible late fightback from Mumbai when Tamil Nadu reduced them to 106 for seven with Thakur striking his maiden ton across formats to lead the way.

If Mumbai have found multiple heroes from Nos 1 to 11 to sail through, the two-time winners Vidarbha, whose twin title wins came not too long ago in 2017-18 and 2018-19, have managed to put on consistent performances across departments to make their way into the summit class of India’s premier domestic tournament.

With Karun Nair (616 runs at 41.06) leading the way, Dhruv Shorey (549 runs at 36.6), Akshay Wadkar (530 runs at 37.85), Atharva Taide (529 runs at 44.08) and Yash Rathod (456 runs at 57) have spruced up Vidarbha’s batting to shine bright this season.

If Aditya Sarwate (40 wickets) and Aditya Thakare (33) have been at the forefront of Vidarbha’s bowling attack, India pacer Yadav also has found his rhythm to keep striking with crucial blows for his side.

Vidarbha have earned the reputation of being clinical in big games, thrashing the multiple-time champions Karnataka with a huge 127 runs in the quarterfinal but it was their win over Madhya Pradesh that stood out for the manner in which the two-time winners fought back.

Having being bowled out for a mere 170 runs and conceding a big lead of 82 runs in the first innings could have taken the wind out of their sails, Vidarbha fought back to beat Madhya Pradesh by 62 runs to make the final.


Mumbai: Ajinkya Rahane (c), Prithvi Shaw, Bhupen Lalwani, Amogh Bhatkal, Shreyas Iyer, Musheer Khan, Hardik Tamore (wk), Prasad Pawar (wk), Tanush Kotian, Shams Mulani, Atharva Ankolekar, Shardul Thakur, Tushar Deshpande, Mohit Avasthi, Royston Dias, Dhawal Kulkarni.

Vidarbha: Akshay Wadkar (c&wk), Atharva Taide, Dhruv Shorey, Karun Nair, Yash Rathod, Mohit Kale, Harsh Dubey, Lalit Yadav, Aditya Sarwate (vc), Yash Thakur, Aditya Thakare, Darshan Nalkande, Siddhesh Wath (wk), Akshay Wakhare, Aman Mokhande, Umesh Yadav, Danish Malewar, Mandar Mahale.

Time: 9:30am IST.


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