Mumbai and Rajasthan start their Ranji Trophy Super League Group ‘B’ encounter at the Wankhede stadium here from Tuesday in a tricky situation. While an outright win could put either of them in contention for a semi-final berth, even a first innings loss could put the loser in danger of relegation to the lower division.
Mumbai, who opened their points tally with a bonus point win over Gujarat last week, have five points from four matches and are placed fifth in the group of seven teams. And with two matches remaining in the league phase, Rajasthan lie at the bottom with four points in their kitty.
Obviously, a tough battle will be on cards, with both teams looking forward to garnering maximum points.
Mumbai skipper Amol Muzumdar, however, was not considering qualification for the semis at all.
“We want to play positive cricket,” he said after the team’s last practice session on the eve of the game. “Honestly, we are not thinking beyond that.”
Muzumdar added that it will be important to carry on the momentum that they generated during the Gujarat tie.
“We scored 500+ and then bowled them out on the third day of the match,” he said. “Carrying the momentum on will be the key.”
The Mumbai dressing room has received a welcome boost as medium-fast bowler Ajit Agarkar has regained fitness and will be included in the playing XI. Agarkar, who was recovering from a groin injury that he suffered in South Africa, will replace all-rounder Wilkin Mota in the team.
“Apart from his bowling skills, Ajit’s inclusion will also help us keep the side’s balance intact,” Muzumdar said. “We will continue having three all-rounders at No. 6, 7 and 8 in the form of Abhishek (Nair), Ramesh (Powar) and Ajit.”
While Mumbai are the undisputed kings of Indian domestic cricket with 36 Ranji Trophy titles, Rajasthan are playing their first season in the Super League.
Rajasthan, though, have seasoned campaigners like coach-cum-captain Ajay Jadeja and Gagan Khoda. Besides, the presence of England international Vikram Solanki in the team makes the team better. Rajasthan will however feel the absence of another England cricketer, fast bowler Kabir Ali, who is ruled out due to a rib injury.
However, Rajasthan captain-and-coach Ajay Jadeja sounded positive about his team’s attitude. “I believed before the game began that this side has a chance of making it to the semis,” he said. “And I still believe so.”
Jadeja, however, added that his team had a lot of ‘respect’ for Mumbai.
“We do realise that we are up against the best team in India,” he said. “Though they have a very young side, it doesn’t matter who is in the team in the tradition of Mumbai cricket.”
Mumbai: Amol Muzumdar (capt), Vinayak Mane, Sahil Kukreja, Rohit Sharma, Bhavin Thakker, Abhishek Nair, Ramesh Powar, Ajit Agarkar, Vinayak Samant (wk), Nilesh Kulkarni, Swapnil Hazare.
Rajasthan (from): Ajay Jadeja (capt), Rahul Kanwat (vc), Gagan Khoda, Vikram Solanki, Nikhil Doru, Naresh Gahlot, Rajesh Bishnoi, Rohit Jhalani (wk), Mohammad Aslam, Pankaj Singh, Shailendra Gehlot, Afroz Khan, Shamsher Singh, Sudhanshu Vijay, Sumit Mathur.
Umpires: S Tarapore and Nandan
Match referee: Mukund Parmar
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