Mumbai will be favourites when they face Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy final which begins at the MCA Stadium in Pune on Wednesday.
Mumbai, the 40-time champions, have had a stellar Ranji season, staying undefeated in 10 matches, and most of their batsmen have come good.
All focus will be centered on 21-year-old Shreyas Iyer, who is on course to break VVS Laxman’s record for most runs in a Ranji season (1,415). Opener Akhil Herwadkar (879) too has played some big knocks, including 192 against Gujarat and 145 against Railways.
Suryakumar Yadav (740), Siddhesh Lad (603) and skipper Aditya Tare (550) too have played vital knocks.
“At the beginning itself, Shreyas and Akhil just put the opposition on the back foot. They have batted well on all wickets be it green, turning or flat tracks,” Tare gushed on the eve of the final.
Saurashtra will miss Ravindra Jadeja, who is away for the Asia Cup. Jadeja is their top bowler this season, scalping 38 wickets in four matches.
Tare though warned against complacency. “Barring three-four players, no one has won the Ranji Trophy. So I don’t think we have the right to carry that tag on us. The team that won in 2012-13 was a completely different team. It had Sachin Tendulkar, Wasim Jaffer and Ajit Agarkar.”
In contrast, Sheldon Jackson’s run tally of 525 is the best this season for Saurashtra, who are hoping to turn the tables on Mumbai after being dealt an innings defeat in their maiden final in 2012-13.
Their hopes in only the second final will rest heavily on Cheteshwar Pujara. The batsman looked forward to the challenge. “I always love playing against Mumbai. I’ve always scored against them. That’s a positive for me, but we don’t want to look at whom we are playing against. I’d rather focus on our plans and what we have to do.
“Playing in a Ranji final means a lot, especially for a team like Saurashtra that hasn’t played a lot of finals. Most of us are young and haven’t played Ranji for a lot of years,” he said.