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Ranji Trophy 2013-14: Mumbai look to showcase pedigree as knockout stage begins

Zaheer Khan-led Mumbai will be without Dhawal Kulkarni (right) for the quarter-final tie against Maharashtra in the Ranji Trophy © PTI
Zaheer Khan-led Mumbai will be without Dhawal Kulkarni (right) for the quarter-final tie against Maharashtra in the Ranji Trophy © PTI

Mumbai have squeezed themselves out of tough situations successfully on many occasions in the Ranji Trophy. The quarter-final against Maharashtra is yet another task for the 40-time Ranji Champions while playing at home. Abhijit Banare has more…

In the 2012-13 edition of the Ranji Trophy, Mumbai’s only outright victory till the final was against Madhya Pradesh — a match which the barely survived winning by seven runs. Despite having the old stalwarts like Romesh Powar (though he didn’t feature in most games), Ajit Agarkar, Wasim Jaffer and other players, Mumbai looked like an ordinary team in the league stage focusing on first innings leads rather than dominating the opposition and gunning for a win. Come the knockout phase, the team turns the tables and plays like a true champion. This time around, the Mumbai team doesn’t have the veterans Agarkar. Not to forget the Little Master Sachin Tendulkar too played a key role in the campaign in the early stages.

Captaincy shuffle

Before the start of the season, Zaheer Khan was declared as the man to lead the charge for Mumbai. This was a decision taken despite knowing the risk of the left-arm pacer who was in contention for an India spot. When the pacer left to join the national team, all-rounder Abhishek Nayar pitched in. And when he was injured, it was back to the old warhorse Jaffer to rally the team ahead. The continuous shift in leadership during a tournament does have its influence on the way a team performs. With three different captains and now Zaheer back in the team to lead again, it will be a stiff challenge for the captain to keep his new ideas aside and follow the team strategy more.

Not so convincing performance

Mumbai’s campaign has looked shaky despite registering four outright victories. The team that is known to build a trap and bat the opposition out of the game has hardly looked dominating. We all know how the ‘Hand of God’ assisted them in winning the Haryana tie on a green top. Against Karnataka, they barely managed to sneak a first innings lead and then the wickets fell in a heap in the second innings.

In their crunch games, Mumbai don’t provide any glimmer of hope for the opposition. But in their final match against Gujarat, the defending champions were staring at nothing but a defeat until the last day. What was more surprising was that they faltered against a team like Jharkhand on their own turf and later failed to break the resistance of a team like Odisha. These are two teams, where most of the others dominated and earned their points.

And to top it up, the injuries this season has ensured that the playing XI has not looked stable. Ahead of a key game, they have lost the services of Hiken Shah and Siddhesh Lad. Dhawal Kulkarni, their strike bowler has been away with an injury. The only silver lining for Mumbai is the return of two experienced players in Zaheer and Nayar. And that will be enough to boost the confidence. At the same time, their batting mainstay, Jaffer, hasn’t been in great touch and a big score is due.

It will be a tough ask for Mumbai to reach to the summit once again. They are nowhere close to being called the favourites in comparison to other teams. But knowing what they have done in the past, we might be in for yet another Mumbai magic. And they couldn’t have asked for a better place to start the knockouts than on their home ground at Wankhede Stadium.

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)

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