Aiming for an outright victory to make it to the quarters, Mumbai will take on bottom-placed Tripura in their last Group C Ranji Trophy league game
beginning in Mumbai on Saturday.
For the 41-time champions, it's a must-win game and it's fortunate they face minnows Tripura.
However, the hosts cannot be complacent and need to go all out with guns blazing when they take the field in the four-day match at the Wankhede Stadium.
Mumbai are in the third spot with 14 points, having won a lone match and drawn four others. Andhra Pradesh have completed their league campaign and are on the top of the table with 19 points, while Madhya Pradesh are at number 2 with 15 points from five matches.
This season has been pretty tough for the Mumbai side coached by former India stumper Sameer Dighe. They have been able to defeat only Odisha in Bhubaneswar outright while drawing the rest.
Their in-form player, Prithvi Shaw, who has scored three hundreds this season in the championship, is a key player on his current form.
But the 18-year-old needs support from the other top order batsmen who had not been as consistent. He, along with opener Jay Bista, will need to provide a decent start.
In the lower-middle order, Siddesh Lad, who has a hundred and two fifties this season to his credit, has been Mumbai's crisis man, but skipper Aditya Tare has not been
among the runs and needs to fire big in this game.
Skipper Tare conceded that it was a must win game and that the boys were aware of the situation.
"One positive thing is it is in our hands. We don’t depend on any other result. If we win this game we deserve to qualify. If we don’t, we do not deserve to qualify. As simple as that, " Tare told reporters.
"We played three away games and we fared pretty well. We could not get enough points from two home games. Had we got the lead in either of those games we would have been in a better position. The game at BKC (in suburban Mumbai, against
Tamil Nadu) we should have taken the first-innings lead," explained the Mumbai skipper.
"Our approach will remain the same. We will try and play our brand of cricket. We will try and be as aggressive and positive as we can. Yes, they are an unknown quantity.
"I don’t think we have ever played them.. At least I have never played Tripura. So we might take more time adjusting to their players but if we do our things correctly, we will be able to achieve the result we want," added Tare.
Mumbai bowlers also need to step up big in home conditions.
Visitors Tripura are out of contention with just four points in hand but would be motivated to catch the eye in their maiden game against the oft-crowned champions.
They have drawn four games this season and had lost only to Madhya Pradesh by 10 wickets.
An outright victory looks beyond their means but they could certainly frustrate the hosts from recording a win.
Meanwhile, Tare praised Shaw, saying he is in a terrific touch.
"He has batted really well in whatever games he has played. It is a good sign for us that he is playing this game as well...it is going to be a boost for us...top of the order he puts the team in a good position," Tare signed off.
Image: The Mumbai Ranji team. Photograph: PTI Photo.
It's do-or-die for TN, Baroda
Tamil Nadu has a lot to play for when it takes on Baroda in its final Ranji Trophy Group C match in Vadodara from Saturday, with qualification for the knockouts on the line.
The team currently is at fourth position in the group with 11 points from five games, and the final round of games would decide who goes through.
Tamil Nadu, which was held to a draw by Madhya Pradesh in a must-win game in the previous game, needs to beat Baroda (on 10 points) possibly with a bonus point and hope that the other results go its way.
Andhra Pradesh, which has completed its league campaign, leads the group with 19 points followed by Madhya Pradesh (15) and Mumbai (14).
The visiting team will miss the services of all-rounder Vijay Shankar, who has been picked for the Indian Test team playing Sri Lanka currently and experienced 'keeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik.
The Tamil Nadu selectors have recalled left-arm spinner D T Chandrasekhar and picked medium-pace all-rounder R Rohit to bolster the bowling attack.
The batting has come good after failing to fire in the opening game of the season against Andhra Pradesh. Skipper Abhinav Mukund, who was in prolific form in the previous season, has not got going and would be eager to pull his weight in the crunch game.
Also, comeback man V Yomahesh has scored two centuries, which helped the team secure the lead against Mumbai and Madhya Pradesh.
Medium-pacer K Vignesh, who was one of the finds of the 2016-17 season, has tried manfully and has been supported by Yomahesh but the team's inability to prevent Odisha from securing the lead, seems baffling.
Tamil Nadu would be expected to go all-out in the final league game while Baroda too would fancy their chances despite having been up-and-down through the season.
Vishnu Solanki and all-rounder Swapnil K Singh have been in good form with the bat, while the latter has 14 wickets in his kitty.
The Baroda bowlers rocked a strong Mumbai batting line-up and Tamil Nadu would be wary of that fact.
A fascinating battle lies ahead as both teams would look to register a win and keep their knockout prospects alive, albeit depending on results in the two other Group "C" matches (Mumbai vs Tripura and Madhya Pradesh vs Odisha).