Mumbai start as overwhelming favourites vs Rajasthan

Jaipur: A keen tussle is on cards as an upbeat Rajasthan take on defending champions Mumbai in a Ranji Trophy quarterfinal, which starts at Sawai Man Singh stadium from on Friday.

For Mumbai, anything less than title will be considered as a failure and Wasim Jaffer’s boys will try to ensure that there are not many hiccups on their road to triumph.

On the other hand, Rajasthan who have performed well in the Plate Group will hope to carry the momentum as they face a formidable opposition in Mumbai.

It will be an onerous task for the Rajasthan bowlers as they face a batting line-up that boasts of battle hardened domestic pro like Jaffer who has been scoring tons of runs. There is talented Rohit Sharma who will be eager to remind the selectors that he is very much in contention for a World Cup berth.

Ajinkya Rahane, who has had quiet season by his standards will like to make most of this opportunity after being named in the 30-member probables for the World Cup.

With hard-hitting players like Surya Kumar Yadav and Abhishek Nayar in the middle and Iqbal Abdulla and Ajit Agarkar to follow, Mumbai remain overwhelming favourites to win the match.

However Mumbai will miss the services of medium pacer Dhawal Kulkarni who is out with injury.

For Rajasthan, a lot will depend on the three outstation pros. Opener Aakash Chopra who has scored a triple hundred in the Plate semi-final, veteran Hrishikesh Kanitkar and former Orissa batsman Rashmi Ranjan Parida form the backbone of their batting.

Also with all-rounder Robin Bisht and wicketkeeper Rohit Jhalani in the team, hosts’ batting looks a decent one on paper.

It will also be a test for young Deepak Chahar who came into spotlight after his sensational spell of eight for 10 during the first match of the season when Hyderabad were bowled out for 21. Chahar will share the new ball with India discard Pankaj Singh.

Mumbai coach Praveen Amre feels that for Mumbai, the competition starts with the start of knock-out stages. Skipper Jaffer however sounded cautious and said that they don’t intend to take Rajasthan lightly.

“They (Rajasthan) have been playing good cricket and that’s why they have reached this stage. Their professionals have done well themselves and guided the youngsters too,” said Jaffer who has scored 728 runs and is second in the list of highest run-getter behind Subramanium Badrinath of Tamil Nadu.

“Playing Pankaj Singh and Deepak Chahar would be a good challenge,” Jaffer said adding that Dhawal’s absence won’t make much of a difference.

On the other hand, the Rajasthan captain Kanitkar feels that Mumbai will be under more pressure as they are favourites.

“We have nothing to lose. We are the underdogs. Though it is a big occasion for us as we have risen from the nadir to zenith but for us it will be another match,” said Kanitkar.

The hosts have opted for a seaming track keeping the rivals’ experienced batting line-up.