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Big battles in this war!

Updated on: 02 March,2024 07:13 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Subodh Mayure |

Besides being a titanic clash of two top teams, the Ranji Trophy semi-final between Mumbai and Tamil Nadu is also crucial for a number of individuals who are eyeing the big international stage through this domestic platform

Big battles in this war!

Mumbai skipper Ajinkya Rahane at the MCA-BKC nets yesterday

The Ranji Trophy semi-final between Mumbai and Tamil Nadu [TN] at the Mumbai Cricket Association’s Bandra-Kurla Complex ground, starting today, is not just a contest between two big teams, but also a platform for many individuals to showcase their character.

For 41-time domestic champions Mumbai, this game provides an opportunity to continue their dominance and take another step towards lifting the coveted trophy which they last won in 2015-16. Sai Kishore’s TN are also look to raise the bar and enter the final of the premier domestic championship, in which they last played the decider in 2014-15, losing to Karnataka by an innings and 217 runs at the Wankhede Stadium.

Rahane needs more runs

On the individual front, all eyes will be on India’s all-format batsman Shreyas Iyer, who was left out of BCCI’s annual contracts recently. He has been practising hard in the Mumbai nets and will be eager to score big. Mumbai skipper Ajinkya Rahane, who has managed just one half-century in the tournament, will also be aiming for some big runs.

TN all-rounder Washington Sundar (left) has a chat with Mumbai pacer Shardul Thakur at the MCA-BKC ground yesterday. PIC/SUBODH MAYURE
TN all-rounder Washington Sundar (left) has a chat with Mumbai pacer Shardul Thakur at the MCA-BKC ground yesterday. Pic/Subodh Mayure

Two India players—Mumbai pacer Shardul Thakur and TN off-spinning all-rounder Washington Sundar—who spent a good amount of time with each other after their practice sessions on Friday, will also be keen to give their best and catch the eye of the national selectors. Both Mumbai and TN have match-winning bowlers in their ranks. TN’s two left-arm spinners, Kishore (47 wickets) and Ajith Ram (41), are leading the overall wickets chart this season. But apart from Sandeep Warrier (23), no other TN fast bowler has been impressive.  

Also Read: Tamil Nadu bank on 'fingertip knowledge' of coach Kulkarni to knock out Mumbai

For Mumbai, pacer Mohit Avasthi and left-arm spinner Shams Mulani are consistent performers, having taken 32 and 27 scalps respectively. Off-spinner Tanush Kotian, who contributed an invaluable 120 not out in the quarter-final against Baroda, has 18 wickets to his name. Pacers Thakur and Tushar Deshpande, who have played three games, have picked 11 and 10 wickets respectively.

In the batting department, both teams have a string of potential heavyweights. However, if the pitch remains the same green top which it seemed on Friday, it will be a tough task for the willow wielders. The hosts will depend on Test players Iyer, Rahane and Prithvi Shaw, along with Musheer Khan and Hardik Tamore, who played crucial knocks against Baroda. Though young opener Bhupen Lalwani was dismissed early (19 and six) in the quarter-final, he still remains Mumbai’s top run-getter with 518 runs, and is expected to trouble the TN bowlers. In the visiting camp, wicketkeeper-batsman Narayan Jagadeesan (812 runs) and Baba Indrajith (686) are the top run-getters.

‘Thrilled to have Iyer’

Mumbai skipper Rahane admitted that Iyer’s presence will boost his team’s morale. “He [Iyer] is an experienced player. His contribution to Mumbai has been amazing. Whenever he has stood up for Mumbai, he has done really well. So, I don’t think he needs any encouragement or advice. We are thrilled to have him in our team for this semi-final. A player like him can contribute with the bat, and also his sheer presence around the players will really help,” Rahane told reporters on the eve of the match on Friday.

Mumbai key batter Shreyas Iyer
Mumbai key batter Shreyas Iyer

Speaking of his own struggles with the bat, Rahane reckoned it’s just a phase. “I think there’s nothing wrong with my batting. It’s just a phase, and I have to respect this phase. Be positive and back my game, back my instincts. Whatever experience I have, I just have to go out there and play freely. So, there’s nothing wrong with my batting or anything,” he said.

Meanwhile, TN skipper Kishore praised the positive energy in his team. “We have all played in finals and semi-finals of white-ball cricket. To do that in red-ball is more satisfying and gets the team together. I feel the universe and God are great, they have made sure things are happening. There is fantastic energy in this team, the universe and God will be on our side,” concluded Kishore.

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