Mumbai, Delhi fight for bragging rights

Comparing a contest between Mumbai and Delhi with that of India and Pakistan, as Mumbai coach Vinayak Samant put it, might be a stretch but when it comes to domestic cricket, only the clashes between southern neighbours Karnataka and Tamil Nadu rival in its intensity.

When the semifinal line-ups kept changing for more than once on the BCCI website after the final round of quarterfinal fixtures, it appeared as though the scheduling managers were planning a potential Vijay Hazare Trophy summit clash between the two domestic giants that leave no stone unturned to win the bragging rights.  

However, the plan, if there was one, almost went kaput when Delhi, who have been dominant for most part of the tournament, seemed headed for a shock defeat against Jharkhand before all-rounder Pawan Negi and tailender Navdeep Saini pulled off a heist and kept their dream date with Mumbai alive.

The radical changes in the format of the domestic tournaments, that sees less of these two sides facing each other, and the changing relations between cricketers after the arrival of the Indian Premier League, where many players from Delhi and Mumbai share dressing rooms at different franchises, may have ebbed that old bitterness but you can rest assured that there won't be any let up in intensity when they run into each other here at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on Saturday for the title. 

On paper Mumbai look the better equipped side given their enviable batting might. Even without Rohit Sharma, who has left to join the Indian team for the ODI series against West Indies, they have a line-up to die for. Mumbai also got a boost with the latest sensation Prithvi Shaw, who has scored a whopping 348 runs in just four matches on either side of the Test series against West Indies, being declared fit by Samant.

In the absence of Rohit, Ajinkya Rahane will link up with Shaw at the top. And with skipper Shreyas Aiyar, Siddesh Lad, Surya Kumar Yadav and Aditya Tare to follow, no target appears insurmountable for Mumbai. The minor concern, if at all, is that the middle-order is largely untested and in case of a rare top-order failure, Mumbai may just find it difficult.

Samant, however, wasn't too perturbed by such a prospect. "We are professionals," he said. "You can't think about these things that 'I have not batted for 4 or 5 matches'. It's your duty that when you're there (you have) to perform. You have to be professional, think positively."

While Mumbai bowling has been excellent, Delhi attack has been no less effective. With medium pacers Saini (13 wickets) and Kulwant Kejroliya (14) manning the new ball well, Delhi have been served well by a host of slow medium pacers and off-spinner Lalit Yadav (13).

Mumbai will look to pacemen Dhawal Kulkarni (15) and Tushar Deshpande (13) to deliver for them upfront with left-arm spinner Shams Mulani (16) expected to control the middle phase of the innings. Mumbai's prime target will be skipper Gautam Gambhir who has been the mainstay of Delhi's batting with 517 runs so far in the tournament, second only behind Tamil Nadu's Abhinav Mukund (560). With Unmukt Chand not in the best of shapes, it becomes crucial for Gambhir to deliver. Another batsman critical to Delhi's fortunes is Nitish Rana (362). And if the two fail to get going, Mumbai can pin down Delhi.

What should also keep Mumbai's desire burning is the fact that they have not won the national one-day championship since it was rejigged in 2007-08.

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Mumbai, Delhi fight for bragging rights

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