Mumbai: Their campaign back on track after a wobbly start, 40-time champions Mumbai take on struggling Madhya Pradesh as marginal favourites in their fifth round Group A Ranji Trophy cricket match commencing at the Wankhede Stadium.
Mumbai are currently in second place behind leaders Karnataka with ten points, same as third-placed Jammu and Kashmir to whom they had shockingly lost by four wickets in their campaign opener at this venue last month.
Since that surprise defeat to J and K and after having conceded the first innings points to Railways in their second game, Mumbai have resurrected their campaign with commanding performances against Uttar Pradesh, finishing with an outright win, and against Bengal - both away from home.
However, their batting still sports some vulnerability at the top - with their opening combinations failing to fire consistently.
The Mumbai bowling attack too depends to a large extent on Shardul Thakur who has manfully taken up the leader's role in the absence of Dhawal Kulkarni who is away in Australia.
Suryakumar Yadav has led the batting from the front and is the leading scorer with 279 runs while young hopeful Shreyas Iyer has stepped up to the plate in the last two games after a forgetful beginning to his first class career against J and K and Railways.
Siddesh Lad is back in the squad and is expected to shore it up along with another youngster Akhil Herwadkar who is looked upon to lay a strong foundation.
Thakur has done well with the ball with back-to-back five-wicket hauls and Mumbai would be hoping that Kshemal Waingankar and Wilkin Mota, who have done reasonably well, help the Mumbai pace attack to maintain the pressure.
Mumbai, however, clearly lack a penetrative spinner to exploit the bounce on the Wankhede track with left arm Iqbal Abdulla not really looking at his best.
MP, on the other hand, are second from the bottom of the nine-team table with 5 points. They need to pull up their socks in both batting and bowling to trouble the Mumbai team in transition.
They rely mainly on captain Devendra Bundela, seasoned all rounder Jalaj Saxena, who opens the innings, and wicket keeper batsman Naman Ojha and middle order batsman Harmanpreet Singh to shore up the batting.
The absence of lanky pacer Ishwar Pandey, who limped off the field after taking three wickets in the first innings of their second game against UP, has weakened the bowling.
Puneet Datey with 15 wickets to his credit has been the leading wicket taker with help from former India under 19 player Avesh Khan (12 wickets).
Experienced Saxena and teenager Saransh Jain are among the slow bowling options in the MP squad.
The rival squads:
Mumbai: Suryakumar Yadav (capt), Aditya Tare, Shrideep Mangela, Siddhesh Lad, Akhil Herwadkar, Shreyas Iyer, Sufiyan Shaikh, Sarfraz Khan, Iqbal Abdulla, Akshay Girap, Shardul Thakur, Wilkin Mota, Badre Alam, Kshemal Waingankar, Javed Khan.
Madhya Pradesh: Devendra Bundela (capt), Naman Ojha (vice-capt, wk), Jalaj Saxena, Harpreet Singh Bhatia, Rameez Khan, Ankit Sharma, Puneet Datey, Shubham Sharma, Sanjay Mishra, Avesh Khan, Anand Singh Bais, Saransh Jain, Ankit Kushwah, Aditya Shrivastava, Yogesh Rawat, Ankit Dave.