Mumbai hold all the aces

Mumbai hold all the aces

Mumbai's Suryakumar Yadav receives treatment after he suffered a blow during nets on the eve of their semifinal against Hyderabad in Bengaluru on Tuesday. DH Photo/ Srikanta Sharma R

Bolstered by the return of all their ace batsmen, a super-strong Mumbai appear overwhelming favourites against Hyderabad in the opening semifinal of the Vijay Hazare Trophy here on Wednesday.

Teen sensation Prithvi Shaw and Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane joined their team-mates on Tuesday evening and with the likes of Shreyas Iyer and limited-overs vice-captain Rohit Sharma in the ranks, Mumbai’s batting line-up wears an international look, good enough to inject fear into any attack in the country.

All the four batsmen have been in good form this season and barring a massive implosion at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, Mumbai — undefeated so far in nine games (two were abandoned) — should waltz their way into Saturday’s title clash. 

In all probability, Shaw and Rohit will open the innings followed by Rahane and Iyer. All eyes though will be on the 18-year-old Shaw who won the man of the series award in his debut Test series against West Indies. The teenager, who smacked 287 runs in just three Hazare games before being called up for the national side, took off from where he had left off, hammering a pulsating century on debut against the Windies. Enjoying a wonderful year, Shaw will no doubt be itching to tear apart the Hyderabad attack.

Rohit, who will leave for national duty after the semifinal, arrived in Bengaluru after leading India from the front in the Asia Cup. In five Vijay Hazare matches, Iyer averages 103.66 (311 runs) while Rahane, who has played three games, averages 115. Add the likes of Siddhesh Lad, Suryakumar Yadav -- who suffered a blow during the nets on Tuesday -- and Aditya Tare, Mumbai’s batting looks extremely potent.

Coach Vinayak Samant, who took over from Sameer Dighe just days before the tournament, was cautious in assessing his team's chances. “The arrival of Prithvi and Ajinkya along with Rohit gives a big morale boost for our team while the opposition has a lot to worry about. But I have to make sure complacency doesn’t set in. Cricket is all about what you do on the day. If you want to make it your day, you have to stay disciplined in batting, bowling and fielding. Sometimes when all the big guys come in, you tend to lose focus. I have to make sure, they keep their eyes on the target.”

As Samant mentioned, giants have been felled on big stages and Hyderabad will be banking on their collective might to create an upset. Mumbai’s lower middle-order has not been tested much and if Hyderabad can manage to deliver some early blows, things could get very interesting for them. Pacer Mohammed Siraj has the potential to surprise batsmen while left-arm orthodox spinner Mehdi Hasan has had a good run so far. Their batting line-up, devoid of star power, has relied on the unified efforts of Bavanaka Sandeep (342 runs), Rohit Rayudu (277), Tanmay Agarwal (292) and Akshath Reddy (266) to reach this far.

Hyderabad will have to draw on that team spirit on Wednesday. Else, Mumbai, given their ammunition, may just blow them away.