Ranji: Mumbai favourites against zonal rivals Baroda
Mumbai: Mumbai, bidding to bag their 40th Ranji Trophy crown, start firm favourites against west zone rivals Baroda in the five-day quarterfinals commencing at Wankhede Stadium here tomorrow.
With the experienced lot of Sachin Tendulkar, skipper Ajit Agarkar and opener Wasim Jaffer to guide their fortunes, the hosts carry too many guns for the comfort of their rivals who will be without two key players all-rounder Irfan Pathan and fast bowler Munaf Patel both injured.
Yusuf Pathan, who has been out of action since breaking a finger in the league game at home against Vidarbha in early November, will lead the Baroda side.
Yusuf shone with both bat and ball in the second of his two games of the season for Baroda by grabbing 2 for 38 with his off-breaks. He also scored 78 against Vidarbha.
While Mumbai are bolstered by the availability of Tendulkar following his retirement from the ODI format and that of regular skipper Agarkar who missed the last league game against Gujarat due to injury, they would be without batsmen Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma and pace spearhead Zaheer Khan.
Rahane and Sharma are involved in the ODI series against Pakistan and Khan is yet to recover from the calf injury sustained in the previous game against Gujarat.
But even without the trio, the home team appears very strong with Tendulkar, in-form batsmen Abhishek Nayar (730 runs from 8 games), Wasim Jaffer (505 from 4) and Hiken Shah (630 from 7) along with young opener Kaustubh Pawar (457 from 7) and wicket keeper Aditya Tare (628 from 8).
The bowling appears a bit thin, especially with Agarkar just coming back after his injury and Dhawal Kulkarni not as penetrative as the side would want him to be.
But Agarkar has experience with him and Kulkarni can crank up the pace. The duo will also have newcomer Javed Khan for company.
Nayar, with his ability to break partnerships, is the one the team looks up to when in trouble, and he has grabbed 16 wickets so far with his gentle pace.
In spin, the team has been dependent on left-arm Ankit Chavan (28 wickets from 7 games) while off-spinner Ramesh Powar (5 wickets in 6 games) has just about managed to retain his place.
For Baroda, Rayudu (558 runs from 7 games), left handed batsmen Aditya Waghmode (584 from 8), Abhimanyu Chauhan (566 from 8) and Saurabh Wakaskar (337 from 8) have been the main run-getters in the league phase.
Kedar Devdhar has been a bit of a disappointment and the team would be hoping he comes good in the knock-out phase.
The bowling, without Irfan and Munaf, would be lacking the bite, and the burden would fall on medium pacer Murutza Vahora (22 wickets in 7 games) and slow left arm bowler Bhargav Bhatt (24 from 8).