Mumbai v Delhi, Ranji semi-finals, Mumbai

No more a blockbuster, but plenty of character

The Preview by Nagraj Gollapudi

January 2, 2010

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Match facts

Sunday, January 3
Start time 09:30

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Ishant Sharma bowls in the nets, Kingston, June 24, 2009
Ishant Sharma, out of the Indian team, needs to impress the selectors © Associated Press
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Mumbai against Delhi was a blockbuster. That was a fact in the 20th century. In the 21st century it has become just another contest.

The thrill that this storied rivalry ignited in the past is now a distant dream. One main reason is the absence of any big name players. It would've been a completely different setting and feeling if Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir were pitted against each other. But they are not available for the semi-final that starts at the Brabourne Stadium on Sunday.

It could still turn out be a keen contest, though, especially since there is no established match-winner in either side. Delhi reached the semis in typical Dilli style - full of chaos. After three league matches they had already slumped to an innings defeat against Uttar Pradesh, but redeemed themselves with two outright wins in the following two matches. Three captains were appointed for the seven previous matches but the team did not disintegrate. Senior players like Aakash Chopra and Mithun Manhas missed four games each but youngsters like Gaurav Chabra and Puneet Bisht grabbed their opportunity with match-winning hundreds.

Bisht, the only Delhi player in the top 20 run-scorers this season, has been his team's most valuable batsman. His two hundreds came when Delhi were on the brink against Saurashtra and Bengal. Chabra's only century was in the quarterfinals and his 92-run sixth-wicket partnership with Bisht gave Delhi the crucial first-innings lead against favourites Tamil Nadu. In the bowling department, youngsters like Sumit Narwal, Parvinder Awana and the left-arm spinner Vikas Mishra, who got a five-for in the quarterfinals, showed patience and made inroads into the opposition's batting.

Defending champions Mumbai, too, never seemed settled, a contrast to the last season when they ran roughshod over nearly every team. Apart from Wasim Jaffer and Ajinkya Rahane, none of the top order batsmen has scored consistently. Though Sahil Kukreja notched a double-hundred he remains inconsistent. Mumbai tried six different openers in eight previous games and Jaffer has now decided to promote himself as a precautionary measure. It is a wise move in the absence of Rohit Sharma, who was picked for the tri-series in Bangladesh.

Mumbai's middle order has floundered but the lower order comprising Ajit Agarkar, Ramesh Powar and Iqbal Abdulla has helped avoid embarrassing situations. The team management is hoping Agarkar recovers from the fever that kept him out of the pre-match practice sessions. Already Dhawal Kulkarni, last year's highest wicket-taker who has been struggling this season, has been virtually ruled out due a side strain sustained during the quarterfinal against Haryana.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first) Mumbai - WWWWW
Delhi - WLWWL

Watch out for...

Wasim Jaffer v Ishant Sharma: On his day, Jaffer is a joy to watch. He is a wristy player whose strokes flow smoothly, and incessantly, into various gaps. Hence he is the ideal hurdle for Ishant, who was recently dropped for the tri-series in Bangladesh after his patchy form during the Sri Lanka series. Ishant has admitted he is struggling for form but his hunger can only push him further to prove his worth.

Ajinkya Rahane: He is the highest run-getter this season with a double-hundred, three centuries and three fifties. Last year he was the second-best batsman in the competition, and one of only two batsmen to cross the 1000-run mark. Though he had a terrible start this year, failing in the first three matches, Rahane worked on his mindset, realising he had to curb his aggressive instincts early on and play the anchor instead. Along with Jaffer, he would be the most prized wicket for Delhi's bowlers.

Team news

Mumbai: (probable) 1 Wasim Jaffer (capt), 2 Sahil Kukreja, 3 Ajinkya Rahane, 4 Onkar Khanvilkar, 5 Abhishek Nayar, 6 Vinayak Samant (wk), 7 Ajit Agarkar/Sushant Marathe, 8 Ramesh Powar, 9 Iqbal Abdulla, 10 Aavishkar Salvi, 11 Usman Malvi.

Delhi: (probable) 1 Rajat Bhatia (capt), 2 Shikar Dhawan, 3 Mayank Tehlan, 4 Aditya Jain, 5 Mithun Manhas, 6 Gaurav Chabra, 7 Puneet Bisht (wk), 8 Ishant Sharma, 9 Chaitanya Nanda, 10 Vikas Mishra, 11 Pradeep Sangwan.

Pitch and conditions

The Brabourne pitch has always been a result-oriented one and will provide assistance to both batsmen and bowlers. Captains will not think twice about batting first if they call the toss right.

Quotes

"We have changed three captains this season and everything went smoothly. We know what our goal is and we just wanted to work towards that."
Vijay Dahiya, Delhi's coach, cites an example of how the team played as a unit despite the absence of seniors.

"We haven't been getting very good starts and with Rohit not there I need to take up the responsibility of opening the innings. If we get past the new ball we can hope to post a big total. "
Wasim Jaffer was left with no other alternative but to promote himself.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

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