Mumbai: Mumbai captain Ajit Agarkar said his side`s Ranji Trophy Group A league match against table toppers Punjab, starting here at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday, is crucial from the point of view of the team`s progress to the knockout stage of the tournament.
"We are third in the group and we still have to play the two teams who are ahead of us. I don`t think we are going to get too many seaming tracks when we travel away from Mumbai, or (even) a turner. We have seen the scores in Rajkot and I don`t expect much in Rajkot (against Saurashtra). We have got another game in Indore (against Madhya Pradesh), that is why it is even more important," said Agarkar today.
Mumbai have ten points from four games while Punjab, who are leading the pool table, have 29 from five and are virtually through to the next stage.
Agarkar said skipper Harbhajan Singh`s presence in the Punjab line-up is a big boost to the side.
"Any international player who is currently with the team, coming back to a state team, is a big boost. A guy who has got 400 Test wickets is a big player," he said.
Agarkar, who is coming into the game after missing the earlier three games due to a calf injury, said that it would be a good contest.
"They are the in-form team. They are miles ahead of everyone in the group. Obviously, the team that is best at the moment. We would like to play well," said the pacer.
Talking about the injury, Agarkar said though he was fit for the previous game against Bengal played at the Brabourne Stadium, he did not risk playing without having done enough bowling in the nets.
"It was frustrating. I was probably fit to play the last game but I had not had enough bowling. That is why I had to take that extra week to prepare myself," he said.
"It helps if there is some continuity. I missed three games, which doesn`t help in the continuity. The guys did a good job. We probably should have gotten over the line in the last game, which was unfortunate. We have got 4 internationals in the top 5, so you can`t ask for a better batting unit. We have to play well for any kind of result," Agarkar said.
The Mumbai skipper said Abhishek Nayar`s primary role in the teams is as a batsman and his bowling is always seen only as a bonus.
"We stuck to five bowlers. Batting is the one probably going well for us. We have guys who contribute with the bat lower down the order. We need to take 20 wickets. Nayar getting us wickets is always a bonus but we want him to get runs more than his wickets."
Nayar had picked up six wickets against Bengal in the second innings.
His Punjab counterpart Harbhajan said the team is not eyeing for the trophy yet and wants to concentrate on playing good cricket.
"We don`t want to set goals of winning the title, it is still very far away. We just want to continue with the process and doing the right things and just want to play good cricket," he said.
He said it will be a good contest against the hosts as the wicket offers something for both bowlers and batsmen.
"Mumbai wicket always offers something. It is a track to bat on once you are in and it gives you spin as well. It will be a good contest," he said.
"Mumbai is a very strong side and they have won Ranji Trophy title for many years. We have got a very young and exciting side. They have done very well in last games.
"We are on top of the table and we will continue to do what works for us and hopefully doing that will get what we want out of this game," he added.