Biggest match in my career - Kotak
Shitanshu Kotak, the 40-year old Saurashtra batsman who will play his first Ranji Trophy final in his 129th game, has acknowledged Mumbai are the stronger side in the summit clash, but hopes Saurashtra will do enough to gain the upper hand and not let go.
Kotak, with 7982 runs in his 20-year career, is the Ranji Trophy's highest run-getter without having won the title, and will have a chance to correct that from Saturday.
"Mumbai are obviously a superior team. One can lie that they are not, but the truth is they are a superior team," Kotak told PTI. "But if we get a grip on the match, we have to make sure, we don't lose it.
"I look at it in two ways. If you win the toss, the only way is to bat them out of the game and try and get them out once. Or if we field first, we have to try and utilise the wicket and dismiss the first five batsmen quickly. You have to play one big innings and you have bowl them out once.
"We have played them many times in the last five six years and we got the first-innings lead three times. There is something positive for us to look at."
Kotak said Saurashtra making the final was a "great achievement". "I can't think of playing any bigger match than this Ranji final in my life. I think we have been improving gradually in the last 15 years. And in the last eight years, it has been getting better with outstanding players emerging like [Cheteshwar] Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja and Jaydev Unadkat."
Saurashtra, however, will play the final without Pujara and Jadeja, who are part of India's squad for the final ODI against England in Dharamsala. Kotak wasn't too upset by that though. "Even when they [Pujara and Jadeja] were available they needed support from the others and players like [Sheldon] Jackson and [Arpit] Vasavada performed. In the bowling department when we needed wickets someone or the other stepped up his performance. That's the reason we are in the final.
"Any team will miss them. If they are playing for India, that's fine. If the BCCI thinks that it has to look after the Indian team first, because we need to win 4-1 and that the team should regain its confidence, then that should be the priority.
Kotak was undecided on whether the final would be his last first-class game. "I love the game. I don't have to announce my last match on the ground and declare it in such a big game. The focus is on winning the game. Retirement is an emotional thing and I don't want any emotion to dominate this match."