Mumbai v Gujarat, Ranji Trophy 2016-17, Final, Indore January 9, 2017

Gujarat's best shot at title after 66-year wait


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Kishore: Gujarat used to batting big, batting long

India had not yet recorded their first Test win when Gujarat last had a shot at Indian domestic cricket's biggest prize a lifetime ago, in 1950-51. Polly Umrigar was their captain then. Chandu Sarvate, Jamshed Bhaya, Madhavsinh Jagdale and Syed Mushtaq Ali, after whom stands are named at Indore's Holkar Stadium, the venue of the 83rd Ranji Trophy final starting Tuesday, were in the opposition camp. Deepak Shodhan, who until May last year was India's oldest living Test cricketer, played in the game which they lost to Holkar. Multiple generations of cricketers from Gujarat don't know what it is to feature in a Ranji final.

In comparison, Mumbai have converted 41 of their 45 finals appearances into championship wins. The last time they lost in the summit clash was to Haryana in 1990-91, a game where Dilip Vengsarkar was inconsolable after Mumbai lost by two runs. Since then, they have qualified for the finals on eleven occasions, and have won every single time, the last of which was against Saurashtra, who were crushed in little over two days last year in Pune.

Yet, this is Gujarat's best possible chance at glory, for they have shown more than just glimpses of old Mumbai in the way they have set up games, by batting big, batting long and then using the scoreboard pressure to skittle opponents. It was this tactic that worked when the sides last met in Hubli in November. But Jasprit Bumrah, whose five-for snuffed out Mumbai's quest for a lead there, will be missed; he has been named in India's limited-overs squad for the England series.

That puts the onus on RP Singh, fresh from a nine-for in the semi-final, to spearhead the young bowling attack.They will be buoyed by the return of Rush Kalaria, who didn't bat or bowl in the second innings during the semi-final, because of a shoulder injury. One of Mehul Patel or Chintan Gaja is in line to replace Bumrah.

It's the batting, however, that is more formidable. Priyank Panchal is on the cusp of an all-time Ranji record - he needs 146 more to beat VVS Laxman's record for most runs in a season, achieved in 1999-00. With 1270 runs, he's miles ahead of other batsmen for runs this season.

Among batsmen from in this match, Samit Gohel, his opening partner, comes a distant second with 889 runs. Parthiv Patel, the captain, can be a thorn to any bowling attack. The domestic veteran's grind for more than a decade now cannot be understated. Manprit Juneja and Chirag Gandhi, both of whom played key roles in building a substantial second-innings lead in a crisis during the semi-final, have shown the ability to adapt at different times.

Priyank Panchal and Gujarat are both in line to break records of high standing © Sunny Shinde

That Mumbai are a step away from the title without having a single batsman or bowler in the top 10 list this season is as much due to their typical 'khadoos' mentality symbolized by Abhishek Nayar. The veteran, who has been a part of five title-winning teams, has often rescued the sides with telling contributions lower down the order - none more important than at the semi-final in Rajkot, where he made 58 and struck vital partnerships with the tail to not just take the lead but also stretch it past 100, which proved decisive. In the quarter-final too, against Hyderabad, he picked nine wickets in a low-scoring game which Mumbai won by 30 runs.

The emergence of a young 17-year old opener in Prithvi Shaw, a schoolboy wonder, who stroked an under-pressure century on debut in the semi-final, has given Mumbai a fresh look. He will be partnered by Akhil Herwadkar, who missed the previous four games because of a foot injury. That means Praful Waghela could miss out. Herwadkar, Mumbai's second-highest run-getter last season, was given an extended workout at an optional net session on Sunday. Shreyas Iyer - Mumbai's highest run-getter this season without being the intimidating batsman he has been in his first two seasons - Suryakumar Yadav, Aditya Tare, the captain, and Siddesh Lad complete a formidable batting set that has shown capability of rising to the big occasions in the past.

On a red-soil surface that promises bounce and has a green cover, Mumbai could possibly have a healthy headache: do they go in with two frontline seamers in Shardul Thakur and Balwinder Sandhu alongside Nayar's more-than-useful seam-ups, or do they play a third seamer? If they decide the latter, Tushar Deshpande is likely to come in. After the debut season he has had, there can't be much doubt over the place of left-arm spinner Vijay Gohil, unless he is injured. That means the recalled Vishal Dabholkar, who has tweaked his action after being reported earlier in the season, could sit out.

The numbers favour Mumbai - they have lost just two out of the 61 matches against Gujarat, the last of which was in 1977-78. But in a crunch game, where both sides have shown why they deserve to be here, both captains insist no one had the edge over the other. That can't be a bad thing after all.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sir_Ivor on January 10, 2017, 7:58 GMT

    It is very unfortunate that Prithvi Shaw got run out. He looked good for a hundred and more.It surprises me that Mumbai's top order looks uncomfortable against good pace bowling. This seems to be happening because there is no worthwhile pace bowler in their own ranks. R P Singh bowling just at around 130kmph and below seems to be troubling their top order. I wish Bumrah was playing for Gujarat. He would have put the Mumbai batting in its right perspective.

  • siddharth110575 on January 10, 2017, 7:12 GMT

    Sad to see Shreyas Iyer fall away a bit this season. I remember he had a very productive season couple of years back and was even talked of as close to a India spot. Hope he makes up for this failure in the second innings if he gets a chance!

  • paramnp9 on January 10, 2017, 6:54 GMT

    Intense first session. Gujarat pacers have bowled well. Mumbai would have been in a better position had Iyer stayed away from that loose shot. Shaw looks solid and needs to continue with Yadav.

  • Vishu_the_cricklover on January 10, 2017, 6:50 GMT

    The first session goes to Mumbai. Wayward bowling on the green swinging top, and once Mumbai started scoring freely they chose to bowl negatively on 7th to 9th stump line. Poor fielding as well. If they can't get another wicket or two after lunch our Mumbai batsmen will punish them to no end. Well played Shaw. Way to go little champion.

  • ovzdatta151 on January 10, 2017, 6:21 GMT

    Quite an irony, both the Captains are Wicket Keeper. I want Gujarat to win..!!!

  • cricfan30142864 on January 10, 2017, 5:36 GMT

    this kid pritivi Shaw is the man to watch out for

  • Vishu_the_cricklover on January 10, 2017, 4:43 GMT

    @genious: your choice of name explains everything.

  • lovemybharath on January 10, 2017, 4:14 GMT

    Good green pitch this one for the final game. Hope gujarat pulls it up

  • STUPID-GENIOUS on January 9, 2017, 23:14 GMT

    Gujarat best way to win is bat with enormous patience and take first innings lead that is Mumbai strength . What happened against TN .If same - they TN lost but because they had little option other than risk .Always there are ifs and buts - very poor decision against Dinesh Kartik might have costed the match . When a boundary was reviewed by Umpires why not lbw - such pathetic system

  • baghels.a on January 9, 2017, 18:40 GMT

    Ideally Bumrah should have been released to play in the Ranji final so what if he misses an odd ODI out of what i dare say is just another Meaningless Bilateral ODI series .We (India) won the main event i.e Test series 4-0 , just to put things in perspective when India last toured England the main takeaway there was India losing the Test Series not many remember the fact that India beat England in the ODIs that followed .

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