Ranji Trophy: Mumbai hope to avoid early-season jitters

Located around 50 kilometres off Vizag, this town occupies a special place in Indian cricket history. The erstwhile ruler of this place once ruled over Indian cricket too. Maharajah of Vizianagram, who captained India during its eventful 1936 tour to England, was one of the most controversial figures.
The man, who sponsored India’s first two tours of England, has in his honour, an inter-varsity tournament-the Vizzy Trophy, named after him. Today, a dilapidated stadium, which doesn’t even host Ranji Trophy matches, is all that stands in his memory. The new PVGR Sports Complex, housed in the campus of an engineering college, is the venue where Andhra Pradesh plays most of its home games these days.

It is here that Mumbai, a traditional domestic cricket super power, but struggling lately, will lock horns with Andhra Pradesh – a team that has fought its way through the ‘wooden spooners’ to earn a right to play against the big boys.

On a pitch which both the camps felt would be ‘sporting,’ it should be riveting to watch how Mumbai, a team in transition, manages to keep its reputation intact against fast-improving Andhra, who have Mohd Kaif, a domestic stalwart at the helm of affairs. With both the teams boasting of a plethora of youngsters, Kaif feels the time is ideal for an upset.

“Mumbai have had their ups and downs recently. They probably aren’t the team they were, at least on paper. Yes, they’ve produced so many international players and won so many Ranji titles. But recently they’ve shown some inexperience. They’ve anew coach and lots of new players. They’ll also be feeling the pressure of playing the first game outside Mumbai,” he reckoned.

The former India player said that his team had gained in confidence after reaching the Ranji quarters from Group ‘C’ last season. However, he admitted things would be “tough” in Group ‘B’ this time. “The margin of error will be miniscule. Against a big team, you’ve to be up to the mark from he start. We won some close games last season and that has infused us with self-be ief,” he proclaimed.

That self-belief will be severely tested against Mumbai. The 40-time Ranji champs began disastrously last season when they lost to Jammu & Kashmir at home, but recovered brilliantly to make the semis. Under new coach Chandrakant Pandit, who is known for his tactical acumen, hey’ve already sent out a warning to opponents by winning the Buchi Babu tourney n Chennai.

“I’m sure I’ll learn a lot about captaincy from Chandu sir,” felt skipper Aditya Tare, who led the team pretty well to help it bounce back after the campaign looked all but over at one stage. “He’s a sensible, wonderful captain. I’m happy that we share a good understanding,” Pandit said, returning the compliment.

Mumbai need their three big guns to fire. Two of them – Shreyas Iyer (809 runs in 10 games@50.56 in his debut season) and paceman Shardul Thakur (48 wickets in 10 games @20.81) carried the team on their shoulders almost the whole of last season. The third, Suryakumar Yadav, hit a double hundred in the Buchi Babu tourney to show that he’s better off without the burden of captaincy.


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