Ranji Trophy Final | Can Gujarat end Mumbai’s hegemony?

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© BCCI

Ranji Trophy Final | Can Gujarat end Mumbai’s hegemony?

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Bastab K Parida

01/09/2017

To beat Mumbai in the finals will not be an easy task given Mumbai’s ability to make a comeback from any precarious position. But if Gujarat can pull off the upset at the Holkar Stadium in Indore, it will be a giant leap for sure.

Mumbai vs Gujarat- For any avid follower of Indian domestic cricket, this match is a mismatch. It is a contest between two teams that have been at the far ends of the spectrum, when you look at pedigree and familiarity in the finals. At one end, there is Mumbai, the domestic behemoth, who have won the tournament 41 times in the 83-year history of the tournament, while at the other end is Gujarat, a team that doesn’t often qualify for the semi-finals.

Mumbai and the Ranji Trophy are two closely attached terms. As far as winning is concerned, anything short of winning the title is considered as mortification. That’s why when the 41-time champions ended their campaign in the quarterfinals and then in the semifinals in 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons respectively, they came in for a lot of criticism  

The primary reason for their failure in those two seasons was a tumultuous transition in the dressing room. But from the last season, the young bloods of Mumbai, led by Aditya Tare and coached by former India stumper Chandrakant Pandit, haven’t given their critics much to munch on. Rather, they have delivered a brand of cricket that was completely contrary to the Khadoos attitude instilled at the Azad Maidan and Shivaji Park and still managed to win. 

But whatever the fact, winning the Ranji Trophy for 41 times- exactly the half of the entire India combined- is no simple feat. But the desperation to prove a point appears to have pushed them towards glory, more often than not. For them, Ranji Trophy is not just another Trophy but a necessary silverware that has to be won.

The one thing that pumps the Mumbai cricketers up even now is the fact that they are the champions. The indomitable spirit that Mumbai cricket possesses has largely been attributed to the fact that they have been constantly reminded about their history and their capability- both from former cricketers and the seniors in the dressing rooms. 

But going into the final on Tuesday at the Holkar Stadium in Indore, Mumbai can’t sleep peacefully and bank on their legacy and track record. They still have a hurdle to overcome to bring home the 42nd title. The impediment will come as an in-form Gujarat, who has been powered by the belligerence of opening batter Priyank Panchal and an inspiring captain in the form of Parthiv Patel. Moreover, Gujarat’s journey this season has been more about the squad of 11, who have given their everything in almost every match.

Panchal has scored a staggering 1270 runs from nine matches and now needs 145 runs from the match to break the record of legendary VVS Laxman to be the highest run-scorer in a single edition of the Ranji Trophy. Not only Panchal, Gujarat have enough firepower in their ranks to pose a threat. Samit Gohel hogged the headlines in the Ranji Trophy by scoring a humongous 359 not out in the quarterfinal against Odisha, which was the highest knock in first-class cricket for an opener carrying his bat. 

 © BCCI

Most crucial of all, Gujarat will be strengthened by the presence of Parthiv Patel, who had to miss out the last part of the league phase of the season for the national commitments. Parthiv’s experience will be invaluable for Gujarat in the final.

With 26 wickets from nine matches, Rush Kalaria has been the most consistent bowler for Gujarat, but Jasprit Bumrah’s big-match experience acted in the team’s favour. While they had the cushion of runs by the batsmen, they have done well to defend those - evidenced by a total of two wins, five draws, and no losses during the league phase. But Bumrah and Axar will not be available for the match though owing to their national duty. 

To enter the finals of the tournament, Gujarat have had to face a lot of obstacles on their road, but they never shied away from the challenges. They had won the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in 2015, and they followed that with a triumph in the Vijay Hazare Trophy in the next season. Their consistency and determination during the preceding four years paid off at Nagpur when they took the game away from Jharkhand’s jaws to enter the finals of the Ranji Trophy for the first time in 66 years. 

To beat Mumbai in the finals will not be an easy task given Mumbai’s ability to make a comeback from any precarious position. But if Gujarat can pull off the upset at the Holkar Stadium in Indore, it will be a giant leap for sure. 

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