Mumbai normally enter a match as the ‘favourites’ no matter where they are playing. But, on Saturday, when they take the field against Punjab in their fifth round Ranji Trophy match at the Wankhede stadium, they will be the ‘underdogs’.
Nineteen points separate third-placed Mumbai and Group A toppers Punjab. With Punjab amassing 29 points, Mumbai have 10 and are yet to post a victory this season.
Points are what they play for. Mumbai are in such a situation that they can’t take risk going all out for a win as it could also backfire. First innings points in each of the remaining four league matches can help them sail to the knockout stage. But an outright win or two will put them on the safer side.
The home team can’t afford to relax against a side like Punjab, especially against the likes of Harbhajan Singh, Rahul Sharma, Sandeep Sharma, Siddharth Kaul and Manpreet Singh Gony. In fact, the duo of Sandeep and Kaul have picked up 56 wickets between them this season.
If Punjab have the bowling to die for, Mumbai have a mouth-watering batting line-up. Ajinkya Rahane’s return is certainly a boost for the Ajit Agarkar-led side. On top of all, you have Wasim Jaffer, Rohit Sharma, Abhishek Nayar, the reliable Hiken Shah and the entertaining wicketkeeper-batsmen Aditya Tare.
Such is Mumbai’s luxury that the talented Suryakumar Yadav could hardly find a place in the eleven. In fact, he might be asked to leave on Saturday for Baroda to be with the Mumbai U-25 team for their CK Nayudu Trophy semifinal against the hosts.
Mumbai’s biggest disappointment has been their bowling and fielding this season. And Agarkar, who is back after missing three matches due to injury, will hope that both come good against Punjab on a wicket that looks sporting on face.
A cracker of a contest between Mumbai’s batting and Punjab’s bowling is on the cards.
Mumbai: Ajit Agarkar (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Wasim Jaffer, Rohit Sharma, Kaustubh Pawar, Hiken Shah, Abhishek Nayar, Suryakumar Yadav, Aditya Tare, Ramesh Powar, Ankit Chavan, Iqbal Abdullah, Dhaval Kulkarni, Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Shardul Thakur
Punjab: Harbhajan Singh (C), Mandeep Singh, Amitoze Singh, Bipul Sharma, Karan Goel, Manpreet Singh Gony, Jiwanjot Singh, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Uday Kaul, Siddharth Kaul, Rajwinder Singh, Sandeep Sharma, Rahul Sharma, Mayank Sidhana