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Ranji Trophy quarterfinals: Big boys Mumbai, Karnataka, TN, Saurashtra eye semis berth

41-time champions Mumbai will be the favourites to win it all, but the formidable Karantak and Tamil Nadu teams, as well as giant killers Baroda and Vidarbha are also in contention to lift the trophy.
Last Updated 22 February 2024, 08:22 IST

Mumbai: After a month and half of topsy-turvy ride, eight teams have managed to steer themselves clear of other 24 contenders to enter the quarterfinals. Now, they are standing at a point of no return, as even the slightest slip can throw them out at the quarterfinals stage, beginning across India from Friday.

There are familiar faces -- 41-time champions Mumbai, strong contenders Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, giant-killers Vidarbha and Baroda, the stonewalling Saurashtra besides Madhya Pradesh and Andhra, who are capable of springing a surprise or two.

So, here's a closer look at the four last eight clashes.

Mumbai vs Baroda

A depleted Mumbai will hope to make the most of their current form when they face Baroda here from Friday.

Without middle-order batter Shreyas Iyer, who has been struggling for fitness, and star all-rounder Shivam Dube, who has been sidelined with a bilateral side strain, Mumbai have their task cut out against Baroda at the BKC Ground.

While Dube could be unavailable for the remainder of the season, the Mumbai squad has been bolstered with the inclusion of India’s U-19 World Cup star Musheer Khan.

Having recorded the most points (37) in the Elite Group B, Mumbai have been in red-hot form with their defeat to Uttar Pradesh at the Wankhede Stadium being an exception.

With Dube unavailable, Mumbai will hope for right-handed opener Bhupen Lalwani, who has struck 493 runs in seven games at 49.3 with one century and five fifties, to continue his run.

Mohit Avasthi has been Mumbai’s key weapon with 31 wickets from six matches including three fifers and as many Player of the Match awards, and he has formed a potent attack with Royston Dias (17) and left-arm spinner Shams Mulani (23).

Skipper Ajinkya Rahane’s form has been a concern but Mumbai will hope for fireworks from Prithvi Shaw, who has made a comeback midway through the season.

However, Mumbai will feel they are favourites given Baroda's recent form — three draws and one loss — in the last four games despite Shashwat Rawat's (628 runs) consistency with the bat.

Vidarbha take on Karnataka

Vidarbha will fancy their chances against a formidable Karnataka when they meet at the VCA Ground in Nagpur.

Vidarbha are the only team apart from Mumbai to have recorded five wins in Group A and playing in their backyard will help their confidence against Karnataka, who finished second in Group C behind Tamil Nadu.

But Vidarbha will feel the absence of seasoned campaigner Faiz Fazal who called time on his career after the last group stage game, in which they crushed Haryana by 115 runs.

Skipper Akshay Wadkar (431 runs), Dhruv Shorey (427) and former Karnataka batter Karun Nair (391) have been at the forefront of Vidarbha’s charge with the bat while Aditya Sarwate and Aditya Thakare have handled the responsibility well in the bowling department with 30 wickets apiece.

The unavailability of Devdutt Padikkal (556 runs in 4 matches at 92.66) will be felt in Karnataka camp but the likes of Manish Pandey (464) and Sharath Srinivas (429) can shoulder the batting responsibility.

Pacer Vysakh Vijaykumar's all-round brilliance will also be a key factor for Karnataka.

Saurashtra confident against TN

Some of Saurashtra’s all-time greats have travelled to Coimbatore to take on Tamil Nadu, who have made it to the Ranji Trophy knockouts for the first time in six years.

Cheteshwar Pujara has piled up 780 runs (at 78.1, 3x100s, 2x50s) this season with skipper Arpit Vasavada (440) and Prerak Mankad (426) in tow.

With both Gaurav Yadav (Pondicherry) and Hitesh Walunj (Maharashtra) out of race for most wickets (41) this season, Saurashtra’s Dharmendrasinh Jadeja is in open territory with 39 wickets to establish himself the leading wicket-taker.

Saurashtra finished second behind Vidarbha in Group A while Tamil Nadu have recorded some big wins including a nine-wicket hammering of Punjab.

Narayan Jagadeesan (775) is only six runs behind Pujara in the run-getters' chart while Baba Indrajith has once again showcased consistency in domestic circuit, garnering 606 runs in seven games.

TN spinners R Sai Kishore (38 wickets) and S Ajith Ram (36) have hunted in tandem and Saurashtra batters will be wary of their exploits in home conditions.

MP wary of Andhra’s all-round strength

At the Holkar Stadium in Indore, hosts Madhya Pradesh will have to put their best foot forward against a dangerous Andhra side who are coming off a three-match unbeaten run.

Ricky Bhui (861 runs at 86.1, 4x100s, 3x50s) has been the season’s best performer with the bat whereas India batter Hanuma Vihari (453) has also played some vital knocks.

Andhra finished second behind Mumbai in Group B, indicating their form and confidence coming into this knockout game.

On the other hand, the 2021-22 Ranji Trophy winner MP have had the distinction of being unbeaten this season.

Venkatesh Iyer (510 runs) and Kumar Kartikeya (34) have been the players in-form for MP, who have recorded some one-sided wins coming into this quarterfinal clash.

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(Published 22 February 2024, 08:22 IST)

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