Ranji Trophy 2015-16 Final Preview: Mumbai look favourites to win 41st title
Updated - Feb 23, 2016 11:47 am
Mumbai and Saurashtra will fight it out to decide the champions of the 85th season of Ranji Trophy, India’s most prestigious domestic tournament. This is the 45th time Mumbai is making an appearance in the final and have won the title a staggering 40 times, the most by any team in the history of the domestic competition. Saurashtra have made it to the final only four times, two of those times have come in the last three seasons which speaks of the surge they have had recently in the domestic circuit. The other two occasions came way back in 1937-38 season where they were the defending champion after having won it for the first time in the previous season 1936-37. This season happens to be a resurrection of their bad performance in the last season where both teams failed to go past the league stages.
Aditya Tare led team dominated Group A with 35 points and becoming the first team to qualify for the quarter-finals. They then knocked out Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh to set up a rematch of the 2012-13 Ranji final. In the high scoring semi-finals, the domestic power horses were denied of an outright victory by Madhya Pradesh but they progressed on the basis of first innings lead. Solid performance by Shreyas Iyer and skipper Aditya Tare and all round bowling show shoved MP out of the match, enabling the domestic giants to enter the final.
Shreyas Iyer is the highest run-getter this season with 1204 runs so far and one of the key factors in their superb run this season. Akhil Herwadkar was another youngster who scored runs in heaps. Tare, Siddhesh Lad and Surya Kumar Yadav have also been chief contributors in the team’s success. They will like to shine in the final as well. Mumbai has relied heavily on pace bowlers this season. The experienced Dhawal Kulkarni’s return to the side after missing the semi-final due to a hamstring problem has given a boost to the attack featuring Shardul Thakur and Balwinder Singh Sandhu.
Saurashtra made a stunning start to this year’s campaign with four consecutive wins upfront. They topped their group with 36 points to confirm their place in the knockouts. Ravindra Jadeja played the most vital role in their rise. Jadeja, after being dropped from the Indian side, spelled doom over the opponents in the league stages on the spin friendly tracks to help Saurashtra dominate other teams. They then overcame Vidarbha and Assam to set the title clash with Mumbai, to whom they lost at Wankhede in their only final appearance in the 2012/13 season.
Cheteshwar Pujara will be the star player to watch out for in the Jaydev Shah led team. He did not get many runs this season but announced his comeback with a century in the semi-finals against Assam. His reputation in the longer format makes his a huge advantage for the Saurashtra side. Sheldon Jackson at the top will be the most important factor while his partner AS Barot must step up his game. The skipper, who has had a poor season with the bat would want end on a high.
Jaydev Unadkat led pace attack, which has slightly less firepower than Mumbai, will have a bigger role in the summit clash. Unadkat is fresh from the 11-wicket match haul in the semi-final and will look to exploit the conditions. Hardik Rathod will play his perfect deputy. The 27-year-old was brought into the side in the knockout stages and has done well by taking 8 wickets in 2 matches.
Akhil Herwadkar, Bhavin Thakkar, Shreyas Iyer, Surya Kumar Yadav, Aditya Tare (C), Siddhesh Lad, Abhishek Nayyar, Iqbal Abdullah, Shardul Thakur, Balwinder Sandhu, Badre Alam
Avi Barot, Sagar Jogiyani, Cheteshwar Pujara, Arpit Vasavada, Sheldon Jackson, Jaydev Shah (C), Chirag Jani, Jaydev Unadkat, Deepak Punia, Dharmendrasingh Junia, Hardik Rathod
Pitch and conditions:
The pitch at the MCA stadium, Pune has grabbed a lot of attention recently. This was the venue where India were recently rolled out for just 101 runs by the Sri Lankan pacers. MCA curator Pandurang Salgaonkar has confirmed that the same pitch would be used for the Ranji Trophy final. This means the pitch will wear a lush green look and would offer pacers lot off support. The match would be highly interesting to watch considering pacers from both the sides have been carrying good form.