Giants Mumbai look to assert supremacy

Gujarat will be a tough nut to crack

Giants Mumbai look to assert supremacy
The journeys of Gujarat and Mumbai to the title round of this season’s Ranji Trophy couldn’t have been more similar. They have endured ups and downs throughout the season but both teams have showed great character and grit to prevail in tough situations. At the Holkar Stadium here from Tuesday, they will look to put their best foot forward and become the champions of country’s premier domestic tournament.  

Mumbai, the domestic giants, are not new to the challenge of playing in a Ranji final. However, throughout their campaign, the defending champions have been far from the dominating force that one expects them to be. The Aditya Tare-led team has been patchy, with injuries and inconsistency hitting them hard. Having won just three games out of the nine they have played en route to the final, Gujarat are no different. If not for a couple of exceptional individual performances, Parthiv Patel’s men would have found it tough to make it to the knockouts.  
 
However, both the teams carry momentum on their side, raising hopes of an exciting finale. After having conceded the innings lead, Gujarat, spurred by the fast-improving Jasprit Bumrah (6/29) and the experienced RP Singh, staged a remarkable comeback to rout Jharkhand by 123 runs in the semifinals. Following a nervy 30-run victory over Hyderabad in the quarterfinals, Mumbai found their hero in the young Prithvi Shaw as the teenager’s century on debut helped them post a comprehensive six-wicket win over Tamil Nadu in the last-four tie.

Mumbai hold the aces thanks to their experience. The 41-time champions are known for playing well in big matches. With their first-choice opener Akhil Herwadkar expected to return from a foot injury, Mumbai’s top order offers a solid picture. The southpaw is expected open with the 17-year-old Prithvi.

Though he is yet to slam a big one, Tare’s important innings in the knockouts have bailed Mumbai out of trouble. In the quarterfinals, the skipper’s 73 and 57 were crucial in the context of the game while his gutsy 83 in the semifinals helped Mumbai gain the innings lead. Just like last season, the promising Shreyas Iyer is once again Mumbai’s top scorer (629) and the 22-year-old is a vital player in his team’s batting line-up.

The seasoned Abhishek Nayar was the standout performer in the two knockouts with his match-winning all-round efforts and is Mumbai’s go-to man in crisis situations. For Gujarat, Priyank Panchal’s dream season has been one of the major factors behind their success. With a staggering average of 97.69, Panchal has amassed 1270 runs, including one triple hundred (314 not out against Punjab), to lead the charts this season. The 26-year-old right-hander, who slammed 232 against Mumbai in the group-stage match, will be hungry to fire in the final against the same opponents.

With skipper Parthiv Patel and Samit Gohel, who slammed a record-breaking 359 against Odisha, in good touch, Gujarat’s batting will not be a pushover for Mumbai. In the bowling department, in the absence of the injured Dhawal Kulkarni, Mumbai’s pace attack has lacked sharpness. Left-arm spinner Vijay Gohil has been impressive throughout and could pose a threat to Gujarat’s batting.

Gujarat will miss their semifinal-hero Bumrah, who is out on national duty and will hope their leading wicket-taker Rush Kalaria (26) who sustained a shoulder injury in the semifinals, takes the field on Tuesday. It is Gujarat’s first final in 66 years and for Parthiv’s boys, a victory against the mighty Mumbai will give them their maiden Ranji title.

Teams: Mumbai: Aditya Tare (captain), Prithvi Shaw, Praful Waghela, Suryakumar Yadav, Siddesh Lad, Shreyas Iyer, Abhishek Nayar, Balwinder Sandhu, Shardul Thakur, Akshay Girap, Tushar Deshpande, Vijay Gohil, Akhil Herwadkar, Kevin Almeida. 

Gujarat: Parthiv Patel (captain & wicketkeeper), Rujul Bhat, Priyank Panchal, Samit Gohil, Bharghav Merai, Manprit Juneja, Chirag Gandhi, Rush Kalaria, Mehul Patel, Karan Patel, Hardik Patel, Chintan Gaja, Dhruv Raval, RP Singh, Ishwar Chaudhary.
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