It was supposed to be the biggest day in the careers of the Saurashtra players, but it turned out to be a forgettable one.
An incisive opening spell by Dhaval Kulkarni aided by the visitor's inept batting helped hosts Mumbai seize control of the Ranji Trophy final on Day One at
the Wankhede Stadium. After bundling out the visitors for 148, Mumbai were 19 for no loss at stumps.
It was a case of the occasion getting the better of Saurashtra. Playing their first Ranji final, the Jaydev Shah-led outfit was up against a team that has won the premier domestic title 39 times.
If that was not enough to intimidate Saurashtra, they were taking on the domestic giants in one of the most famous international arenas, the Wankhede Stadium, with national selectors in attendance. Saurashtra players are simply not used to this kind of scrutiny or atmosphere.
With all these factors, it was difficult for Saurashtra not to get overawed, and their worst fears came true when Agarkar put them in to bat.
In these circumstances, handling the first session is crucial. But, by the end of it, Saurashtra lay in tatters, losing their top-five batsmen for 51 runs.
It was an inept batting show on a wicket, which had something for the pacers. Groomed on flat wickets, the Saurashtra batsmen reacted like rabbits caught in the headlights when faced with pacers on a lively track.
Kulkarni made the most of the early moisture in the wicket, striking a good length to reap the rewards. The batsmen's failing against pace had cricketing logic, but what was perplexing was that of the first five wickets, Saurashtra gifted two to a spinner.
Playing in his first season, left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar had two of the biggest scalps in the Saurashtra line-up - veteran Sitanshu Kotak and skipper Jaydev Shah.
Reduced To A Farce
The 2012-13 Ranji final is under threat of being reduced to a farce and the Indian cricket board should own some responsibility for it.
With minor adjustments, the BCCI could have ensured that both teams played at full strength.
The unavailability of Cheteshwar Pujara has made the contest a mismatch, as Saurashtra did nothing to prove that they are better than a two-man team.
In the absence of their two stalwarts - Pujara and Jadeja - it turned out to be cakewalk for the Mumbai bowlers.
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