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Match Preview – M. Pradesh vs Mumbai, Ranji Trophy 2021/22-2022, Final

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“Whoever wins, Shivaji Park is the winner,” a former Mumbai player quipped.

He was referring to this year’s Ranji Trophy final and how Amol Muzumdar and Chandrakant Pandit, two Mumbai greats who honed their skills at the fabled nursery under late Ramakant Achrekar, are now on opposite sides.

Mumbai vs Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday will bring together two old friends who know everything about each other. Muzumdar actually played under Pandit in 2003-04 and enjoyed one of the most prolific seasons of his career. This, after he had been contemplating retirement.

Both men share the same coaching philosophy: it’s about the players and nothing but the title constitutes success. It’s a sentiment embedded into Mumbai players when they get the cap. Pandit has been part of six title wins as coach; Muzumdar will be looking to steer Mumbai to their first under him, in his maiden season, and their 42nd overall.

Except for Dhawal Kulkarni, who was part of their previous title win in 2015-16, none of the other Mumbai players know what it is to win the Ranji Trophy just yet. It’s the same for MP. Barring Pandit, who was captain when they last made the final in 1998-99, the others will experience the final feeling for the first time.

MP might look unheralded by comparison but they still have Rajat Patidar, who lit up the IPL, Yash Dubey and Himanshu Mantri – two old-school openers who love to dig in and bat deep – and Akshat Raghuwanshi, an 18-year old batter so impressive that it took Pandit all of one look in a practice game to pick him into the main squad.

Coming out of a group that had the likes of Kerala and Gujarat, MP had little choice but to be result-oriented, and that meant their bowling had to be on point. Puneet Datey leads a seam attack that has combined to pick up 47 wickets so far this season, second-best to Bengal’s 60. Kumar Kartikeya leads the spin attack and is second on the list of highest wicket-taker’s this season with 27 scalps in five matches. Saransh Jain, Anubhav Agarwal and Gaurav Yadav are always on hand for support.

So everything is set. The pandemic wiped out a lot of domestic cricket over the last two years. But now, over the course of the next five days, 22 men – a lot of whom play away from the IPL spotlight – will have the opportunity to make history.

Form Guide

Mumbai: DWWWD (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Madhya Pradesh: WWDWW

In the spotlight

Mumbai’s success this season has been a result of their batters putting up huge first innings totals and then grinding the opposition to dust. But their captain hasn’t got going yet. Prithvi Shaw‘s stocks have fallen over the past year. Once a first-choice pick in the Indian team, he has now been bypassed by Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan and Shubman Gill. A Ranji Trophy final is a high-profile game and if he can make a big one here, he might just be able to persuade the national selectors to give him a second chance. A player with average of 82 across 33 first-class games deserves it.

Five-wicket haul in the quarter-final, five-for in the semi-final, a maiden IPL stint – life may look like a bed of roses currently for MP’s Kumar Kartikeya. But the man hasn’t been home in over a decade. He can only go back after making a name for himself. That was the deal. Leading Madhya Pradesh to their first ever Ranji Trophy title should probably do the trick.

Team News

Barring late injuries, both squads are unlikely to make changes from the XIs that played the semi-final.

Mumbai: 1 Prithvi Shaw (capt), 2 Yashasvi Jaiswal, 3 Armaan Jaffer, 4 Suved Parkar, 5 Sarfaraz Khan, 6 Hardik Tamore (wk), 7 Shams Mulani, 8 Dhawal Kulkarni, 10 Tanush Kotian, 10 Mohit Avasthi, 11 Tushar Deshpande

Madhya Pradesh: 1 Yash Dubey, 2 Himanshu Mantri (wk), 3 Shubham Sharma, 4 Rajat Patidar, 5 Aditya Shrivastava (capt), 6 Akshat Raghuwanshi, 7 Saransh Jain, 8 Anubhav Agarwal, 9 Gourav Yadav, 10 Kumar Kartikeya, 11 Puneet Datey

Pitch and conditions

June is an unusual time for first-class cricket in India, and given the rain all around, the groundstaff have found it extremely challenging to get the grounds in Bengaluru ready for the Ranji Trophy knockouts and the India-South Africa T20I that was abandoned on Sunday. This is the first time the Chinnaswamy Stadium will be hosting a first-class game in over two years, and the curator hopes for a surface with decent grass cover and excellent bounce. There will be plenty of moisture for the seam bowlers to work with.

Stats and trivia

  • Mumbai have lost only one of the 12 finals they have played in the last 30 years. That was to Gujarat in 2016-17. Incidentally, Mumbai were coached by Pandit then. They haven’t made a final since.
  • Mumbai are one of only three teams this season (Andhra and Rajasthan being the other two) to not concede a century.
  • Mumbai’s bowling average of 19.73 is the best for any team in this Ranji Trophy.
  • The average of MP’s seam bowlers (19.91) is the best among all teams that made the Ranji knockouts this season.

Quotes

“We haven’t looked at the quarter-finals or the semi-finals or the finals. There are systems that are working in the dressing room, and we would like to follow that till the last ball is bowled in the Ranji Trophy season. That was our commitment at the start of the season.”
Mumbai coach Amol Muzumdar on what has worked for his team

“I don’t tell state associations what my expectations are. Those who know the dos and don’ts of bringing Chandrakant Pandit on board only get in touch with me. My working principle is simple: complete trust in me by the establishment and letting me have complete freedom to operate if you want results.”
MP coach Chandrakant Pandit to PTI on the way he likes to work.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo



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