BENGALURU: There is a common adage in sports. “You never win a silver medal. You always lose a gold medal.”
Mumbai cricket followed that old concrete jungle by saying the ‘T’ as their side now chase an unprecedented 42nd Ranji Trophy Title. He now finds a group of brave Madhya Pradesh who stand in his way with tricks of the trade learned from a Mumbaikar.
MP head coach Chandrakant Pandit won’t let his side settle for anything less than a championship, but Amol Muzumdar’s men have dominated the proceedings since the start of the end of the season.
On paper, the Mumbai team are the overwhelming favorites for the final match from Wednesday with the best Gen-Next talents in their roster.
Sarfaraz Khan, after a few indifferent seasons, has taken his game to a whole new level with over 800 points in just five games.
Yashasvi Jaiswal is a youngster who is as passionate about his red ball performance as he is about donning the garish pink shirt of the Rajasthan Royals. Three hundred in four quarter-final and semi-final rounds showed his voracious appetite for racing.
Prithvi Shaw is not the typical Mumbai khadoos (stubborn) batter, but rather Virender Sehwag mold with a penchant for butchering any attack.
Arman Jaffer is a smart old block and it would be good for him if he could achieve even 50% of what his illustrious Uncle Wasim did.
Add to that the likes of Suved Parkar or Hardik Tamore, who knew the opportunity to wear the Lion crest on white flannels was a premium.
Mumbai has always had terrific batting line-ups that can scare the opposing team, but this time the two underrated performers were left-arm spinner Shams Mulani (37 wickets and 292 runs) and non-spinner Tanush Kotian (18 wickets and 236 runs).
Mulani or Kotian are India’s hopefuls or even India ‘A’ contenders by far, but they are a rare breed of domestic entertainers who know how to win tiebreakers like they did against Goa in a do-or-die situation.
However, MP are one of the most improved teams in recent times and under Pandit have instilled the discipline needed to rise to the top in a tournament like the Ranji Trophy.
Missing Venkatesh Iyer at bat and spearheading Avesh Khan at bowling didn’t do them any good, but the underrated Kumar Kartikeya, with his stamina to play for hours on end, did the job for his team.
The Himanshu Mantris and Akshat Raghuvanshis all performed their assigned roles perfectly.
In this team, there is only one player who is a true blue talent and that is Rajat Patidar.
For Mumbai, it will be imperative to ensure that Patidar doesn’t walk away with the game in one session with his wide range of shots.
MP, along with his two spinners in Kartikeya and Saransh Jain, will like to play the waiting game, something that Pandit as a coach has injected into his quarters across the states.
It would be a game of chess played over 22 meters but appealing enough to anyone watching.
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