The disparity between the two sides was striking. While Mumbai played most of the season without their two experienced bowlers — Ramesh Powar (dropped or unfit, we’ll never know) and Zaheer Khan (injured) — Saurashtra predominantly rode on the performances of their two stars: Ravindra Jadeja and Cheteshwar Pujara.
While Mumbai soldiered on even when Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane were on national duty, Saurashtra, without Jadeja and Pujara, looked a crippled unit here.
Jadeja set the tone for Saurashtra this season, scoring two triple centuries in their first four matches. The all-rounder’s most decisive performance, though, came against Bengal, a game Saurashtra won by 270 runs. He took a total of eight wickets, and his 70 and 68 with the bat were invaluable in that low-scoring encounter.
And in one of the very few games that Jadeja failed, Saurashtra, much like in the final, suffered an embarrassing batting collapse. They were bundled out for 90 against Punjab in the first innings and lost by eight wickets.
Pujara joined the squad for the last two league matches. With the team eyeing a quarterfinal spot, he rose to the occasion. He cracked a smashing double ton against Madhya Pradesh that ensured Saurashtra a quarters berth. And he followed it up with a triple in that knockout round against Karnataka.
Their only ‘team’ performance, so to say, came in the semifinal, when they out-batted Punjab at home. But on a tricky Wankhede wicket, they just didn’t belong. With the exception of wicketkeeper-batsman Sheldon Jackson (three centuries, including 107 in semis) and left-arm spinner Dharmendrasinh Jadeja (17 wickets in four matches), none of the other Saurashtra players produced match-winning performances. In the past couple of seasons too, it was Jadeja and Pujara who gave Saurashtra reasons to cheer.
“We need more seaming tracks in Rajkot. Pujara and Jadeja have played outside on such tracks, so they have that experience,” Saurashtra coach Debu Mitra said.
Mumbai, on the other hand, won their only outright game away (against MP in Indore) and took the all-important first innings lead against Services in Palam in the semis, largely due to the contributions from the entire team.