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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

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

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Gujarat-Mumbai ready for final face-off (2:26)

Shashank Kishore previews the Ranji trophy final between Mumbai and Gujarat from Indore (2:26)

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.

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.

Rare defeat

1990-91

Last time Mumbai lost a Ranji final, before this - to Haryana, by 2 runs. They had won 11 Ranji finals since then. Overall, it is only their 5th loss in 46 final appearances.

Maiden title

1

No. of Ranji Trophy titles for Gujarat, this is the first. They are the 17th team to become Ranji champions.

Parthiv's favourties

5

No. of centuries for Parthiv in first-class matches against Mumbai, including this. He hasn't scored more than 2 centuries against any other team.

Big target

310

Highest target successfully chased in a Ranji final, by Hyderabad v Nawanagar in 1937-38. Mumbai have set 312 in this final. However, a draw is enough for Gujarat.

Can Mumbai win?

7

No. of times a team has won a Ranji final after facing a deficit in 1st inns; Mumbai have done it twice. They lead over 250 in this final after conceding a lead of 100.

Shreyas in finals

117

Runs scored by Shreyas Iyer in last season's Ranji Trophy final, against Saurashtra. He has reached a fifty in this year's final too.

Second of the season

2

No. of times Gujarat has taken the first inns lead against Mumbai this season. They are the first side to do this against Mumbai in a Ranji season in the last ten years.

Mumbai's rare low

2

No. of lower first inns totals for Mumbai in Ranji finals, than the 228 this time. Their two lowest: 151 v TN in 1972-73 and 191 v Holkar in 1947-48.

Yadav's feat

4000+

Runs for Suryakumar Yadav in fc career, reaching there in this final. Since his debut in Dec 2010, no Mumbai player has scored more than him; Nayar 3264 comes next.

A long wait

1950-51

Last and the only time Gujarat entered finals of a Ranji Trophy season, before this. They had lost to Holkar then. However, this is Mumbai's 46th final, a record.

Ranji Trophy

Group A
TeamMWLDPTNRR
MUM8305300.027
GUJ8205260.368
TN8215260.164
PNJB8215210.109
BENG821421-0.235
MP8215200.024
UP814313-0.125
BRODA813410-0.003
RLYS815210-0.367
Group B
TeamMWLDPTNRR
JKAND8503390.399
KNTKA8512370.273
ODSH821522-0.054
DELHI8224210.579
MAHA823321-0.059
VIDAR822420-0.025
SAU8242180.101
RAJ814312-0.637
ASSAM81528-0.62
Group C
TeamMWLDPTNRR
HYD941331-0.117
HRYNA9315310.218
AP9315280.119
HP9306260.662
KER9117250.206
GOA923418-0.33
SVCS912616-0.177
J + K913515-0.383
CGARH914414-0.01
TPURA914314-0.196