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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Mumbai seek 40th Ranji title, Saurashtra first!

Mumbai seek 40th Ranji title, Saurashtra first!

January 25, 2013 15:46 IST

It's a mismatch of sorts. 

One team is attempting to win its 40th title, the other its first!

Yet, the final of the Ranji Trophy between Mumbai and Saurashtra, starting Saturday at the Wankhede stadium, promises a lot more. 

For, Saurashtra have displayed ample resilience in reaching their first final in 75 years. Mumbai, on the other hand, stuttered on their way to the decider, with just one outright victory in the group phase -- against Madhya Pradesh, and it would be apt to say the 39-time champions were calculative in the latter stages. 

Having guaranteed qualification, during the course of their final group matches - against Gujarat - Mumbai, instead of going for what seemed a comfortable win at the DY Patil stadium, settled for a draw instead, palpably to avoid playing former champions Karnataka away in the quarter-finals in what could have been a tricky affair. 

Instead, they played Baroda at home, and a first innings lead on an apology of wicket was enough to secure them a passage to the last four. 

Their reputation carried them through against Services in a rain-affected encounter at the Palam ground, in Delhi, with the home team crumbling from a comfortable position on the final day to hand Mumbai the first innings lead required to qualify for its 44th final. 

Saurashtra's progress, on the other hand, marks the peak of what is one of the consistent teams in recent times. 

Sachin TendulkarFrom winning the Plate Division in 2005-06, to making it to the semi-finals of the Elite Division in both 2008 and 2009, Saurashtra have come a long way.

This season they finished second behind Punjab in Group A, ahead of Mumbai, losing just one game out of eight -- against the toppers of their group.

But Saurashtra did turn the tables on Punjab, and in the game that mattered - the semi-final tie in Rajkot, winning comprehensively by 229 runs and thereby making sure of a berth in their first final in 75 years.

For the record, Saurashtra, formerly Nawanagar, won the Ranji title back in 1937, beating Bengal in the final.

However, the final will be anything but easy for the title aspirants, as Mumbai are playing on home soil.

For that matter, the 39-time champions dominated Saurashtra in the group game in Rajkot as well. Besides, the visitors won't have the services of their two star players, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja, both on national duty against England. 

Mumbai too have lost Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma to the national team, but in Sachin Tendulkar they still have the biggest name to reckon with. Besides, the likes of Ajit Agarkar, Dhaval Kulkarni and Wasim Jaffer all have international experience, something their opponents can't boast of.

Having said that, Saurashtra have shown ample fortitude during their run-up to the final. And they need to show more of that if they are to deny Mumbai a 40th Ranji title, and claim a first for themselves.

Bikash Mohapatra