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The Preview by Sidharth Monga
January 5, 2013
Match factsJanuary 6, 2012
Big PictureThese are two survivors. These teams have come so far because they have found that something extra when all else seemed lost. They are the winners of two closest matches of the year, and two of the closest in Ranji Trophy ever. Baroda beat Haryana by one wicket, with their last stand adding 23 in a low-scoring match. Mumbai beat Madhya Pradesh by seven runs. In the end, those results took these two sides over the line.
Mumbai are clearly the scarier of the two sides. They have the momentum, they have won the tournament 39 times, and clearly know every trick in the book better than any other side. They have come so far by not playing their best cricket; just imagine if they begin playing their best. Moreover they have Sachin Tendulkar back. And even though Zaheer Khan might miss the quarter-final, they have Ajit Agarkar coming back.
Baroda are not as used to winning the Ranji Trophy as often, they are not as formidable a side, but they have been consistent over the recent years, making three semi-finals over the last six tournaments. Ambati Rayudu will be away on India duty, but Yusuf Pathan is back from injury, and they also are the side better rested. Mumbai finished their last game on Tuesday, Baroda a week before that. What Baroda would not give for the services of Irfan Pathan and Munaf Patel, who are both injured. Then again, India - playing ODIs against Pakistan - might be saying the same too.
In the spotlightSachin Tendulkar will obviously be the focus. The last two times he has played for Mumbai, they won the title on both the occasions. That won't take away from two of their best players over the recent years: Wasim Jaffer and Abhishek Nayar. Nayar has never been too far from making a contribution, but Jaffer had had a lean season until he scored the century against Gujarat, one that sealed the three points to take Mumbai forward. Jaffer is coming back from a family emergency, but his captain, Agarkar, said he is keen to play.
Yusuf Pathan is back to lead Baroda, but he has played only one match this season. The key men to bring them thus far are Abhimanyu Chauhan (566 runs and three centuries), Aditya Waghmode (584 runs and two centuries) and Murtuja Vahora (22 wickets at 25.18).
Team newsMumbai are shaping up well as a combination, with Tendulkar taking Nikhil Patil's place, and Agarkar coming in to replace Zaheer Khan.
Mumbai (possible): 1 Wasim Jaffer, 2 Kaustubh Pawar, 3 Aditya Tare (wk), 4 Sacin Tendulkar, 5 Hiken Shah, 6 Suryakumar Yadav, 7 Abhishek Nayar, 8 Ajit Agarkar (capt.), 9 Ankeet Chavan, 10 Dhawal Kulkarni, 11 Javed Khan.
For Baroda, Yusuf Pathan is likely to take the place of Anupam Gupta. Chauhan could possibly move up to open for them.
Baroda (possible): 1 Saurabh Wakaskar, 2 Abhimanyu Chauhan, 3 Aditya Waghmode, 4 Kedar Devdhar, 5 Yusuf Pathan (capt.), 6 Pinal Shah (wk), 7 Ketal Panchal, 8 Gagandeep Singh, 9 Ketul Patel, 10 Murutja Vahora, 11 Bhargav Bhatt.
Pitch and conditionsThe Wankhede pitch hasn't produced a result this season, but over a period of five days a better outcome is expected. However, under pressure it might be difficult for a side to come back from behind so a big first innings will still remain the key. Ajit Agarkar said: "We always ask for a wicket that gives help to both batters and bowlers. It has generally been the nature of the Wankhede pitch over the years. It is five days this time, adds a little bit difference to it. On the fifth day there will be a lot more wear and tear. We will have to wait and see how it turns out, but we are hopeful that it will be a good pitch."
Stats and Trivia
Quotes"We have got Sachin back, which is great. Someone like him showing keenness to play, it obviously helps. That experience in the dressing room will always help."Ajit Agarkar on the return of the great one
"I have played with him in one-day matches and against him in IPL. This is the first time I will play against him in Ranji Trophy. The youngsters, playing their first or second season can learn a lot from him. They can observe the way he approaches his game. Youngsters like us have a lot to learn from him."Yusuf Pathan on the presence of Tendulkar
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Sidharth Monga
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