The 74th Ranji Trophy season begins on Saturday across the country with huge expectations, plenty of excitement and players looking to make an impression. Most of the focus at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai for the next four days will be on Rahul Dravid — even more than Anil Kumble or Mumbai, the defending champions.
The locals would be wishing that Mumbai notch up maximum points from this match, not an easy proposition, though. At the same time, they would be praying for Dravid to score heavily and force his way back into the Indian team, where he actually belongs.
It was at this venue a little over a fortnight back that Dravid was left out of the India XI against Australia in the final one-dayer. His subsequent omission from the one-day squad has triggered public outcry, though not as strident as when Sourav Ganguly was dropped two years back.
Badly in need of runs, Dravid would be pumped up to set the record straight and show that the series against Australia, where he scored only 51 runs in five innings, was just a bad dream. While Dravid would want to use this match to rediscover the art of scoring, Kumble and his side would be keen to put it past Mumbai.
Mumbai had the worst possible start to their campaign last year, though they ended up in style. Three matches on the road didn’t yield a point.
They earned their first points in their first home match, against Gujarat, and went on to lift the title for the 37th time. They are better off this time, beginning at home against last year's semifinalists.
There are some exciting prospects in both teams, like opening batsman KB Pawan of Karnataka, and left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla and top-order batsman Ajinkya Rahane of Mumbai.