| Mumbai captain Paras Mhambrey (left) and Amol Muzumdar inspect the pitch Saturday, the eve of their Ranji Trophy final against Tamil Nadu. (PTI)
Mumbai, May 3 (PTI): A keen tussle for supremacy is on the cards when Tamil Nadu take on former champions Mumbai in the five-day Ranji Trophy cricket final at the Wankhede Stadium here from Sunday.
Mumbai, who have won the trophy a record 34 times in 38 attempts, might hold a slight edge as they are playing on their home pitch against a youthful and determined Tamil Nadu who are in search of their third title. Tamil Nadu have entered the final eight times before this.
Former Indian speedster Paras Mhambrey, who has led Mumbai magnificently despite their top order batsmen failing time and again, will be hoping that the likes of Wasim Jaffer, Vinayak Mane and Amol Muzumdar strike form in the title-clash and the semi-final heroes Bhavin Thakkar and Nishit Shetty and allrounders Sairaj Bahutule, Ramesh Powar and Ajit Agarkar continue with their good form.
Mumbai’s wicketkeeper-batsman Vinayak Samant is another player to take note as he has bailed out his team several times in the company of lower order batsmen Mhambrey, Powar and Shetty.
However, the man whose performance would be watched keenly, especially by their rivals, would be the new Indian speedster Avishkar Salvi, who had a good debut tournament in recent Dhaka tri-series.
Left-arm spinner Nilesh Kulkarni and allrounder Robin Morris may not even find a place in the playing XI as coach Chandrakant Pandit is likely to retain the same XI which beat Baroda in the semi-final.
The new ball will be in the hands of Agarkar and Salvi while the more experienced Mhambrey will be the one change bowler. The two spinners — vice-captain Bahutule and offie Powar — pick themselves automatically as both can bat with considerable consistency.
Tamil Nadu too have a young fast bowler in L. Balaji, who will be raring to go, following his fine show against Delhi in the semi-final. The wicket here has always helped new ball bowlers initially and if Balaji is let loose on the Mumbai top order, who are struggling to regain form, the hosts could be pushed on the back foot straightaway.
Apart from Balaji, the team from the south have M. R. Sriniwas, skipper S. Suresh and the two spinners Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan and D. Dandapani, who could turn out to be totally new commodities for the Mumbai batsmen.
The Tamil Nadu batting also looks quite impressive, especially with Test discard Sadagopan Ramesh, S. Sriram, S. Sharath, Hemang Badani and S. Suresh — all hoping to make a big impact in the final match of the domestic season before the New Zealanders arrive in September.
Vasant Sarvanan and Raaju are the two newcomers in the side and it will be interesting to see them play under pressure situations in a big final.
The two umpires for the match are V. K. Chopra from Delhi and Narendra Menon from Madhya Pradesh, while Bhairav Ganguly of Calcutta will be the BCCI’s Match Referee.
MUMBAI (from): Paras Mhambrey (captain), Sairaj Bahutule (vice-capt), Wasim Jaffer, Vinayak Mane, Bhavin Thakkar, Amol Muzumdar, Nishit Shetty, Ramesh Powar, Vinayak Samant (wk), Ajit Agarkar, Avishkar Salvi, Nilesh Kulkarni, Swapnil Hazare, Robin Morris and Vinit Indulkar.
TAMIL NADU (from): S. Suresh (captain), S. Ramesh, S. Sriram, Hemang Badani, S. Sharath, S. Vasant Sarvanan, M. R. Sriniwas, L. Balaji, Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan, D. Dandapani, Raaju, S. Badrinath, S. J. Gokulakrishnan, Dinesh Karthik, J. R. Madan Gopal and R. Ramkumar.
Umpires: V K Chopra (Delhi) & Narendra Menon (Madhya Pradesh).
Match Referee: Bhairab Ganguly (Bengal).