Saurashtra captain Jaydev Shah can be spared the blame if he doesnt end up winning the toss against Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy semi-final on Sunday. For a mighty quandary awaits him if he does,somehow,manage to call it right in the middle.
Batting means his young brigade will be up against a truly world-class bowler,Zaheer Khan,first up. And fielding is an equally unenviable option as it could provide Sachin Tendulkar a golden opportunity to make merry on a first-day wicket at his happy-hunting ground.
The MA Chidambaram stadium in Chennai has borne witness to some of the most memorable and keenly contested encounters in the history of cricket,including the recent Test involving India and England. But despite Mumbais penchant for constantly performing below par and suffering slip-ups against their fellow West Zone rivals,the contest seems lop-sided on paper,with overwhelming odds stacked against Saurashtra.
Any team would be intimidated by reading the names Tendulkar and Zaheer in the opposition line-up,and coach Debu Mitras comments as to how Mumbai are a better team reflect that the mood in the Saurashtra camp is more of hope than of conviction.
They are two of the best cricketers in the world. But we were up against Karnataka with Rahul Dravid in their ranks,but we still managed to eke out an amazing victory, said captain Shah. He added that his team had only their own game to worry about.
Mumbai skipper Wasim Jaffer though underplayed his teams apparent superiority going into the contest,and insisted that Saurashtra were always tough opponents. He also admitted that his teams poor performance in Rajkot in the league game was something that he was looking to forget.
They are brimming with young talent such as (Cheteshwar) Pujara and Ravindra (Jadeja),who are not intimidated by any opposition,and always pose a challenge to any team they are up against, said Jaffer.
Pravin Amre said any Mumbai coach would be thrilled to have the two world-class players in his side,This is a dream team. But the younger lot have put up their hands up and performed amazingly throughout the season, he said.
Shah,who hit a brazen 55 not out as his team knocked off 325 at the CCI last week,pointed out that Saurashtra always looked forward to playing against Mumbai,as they were arguably the best team in domestic cricket. It is always a great feeling going out against them and performing well. We take great pride in getting the better of them,something that we have done twice in the last couple of seasons, he explained.
Meanwhile,Jaffer revealed that they had already decided on the 12. Amol Muzumdar and Sairaj Bahutule havent done much to write home about this season,and depending on the team combination that Mumbai would want to go in with,it could be a toss up between the two.
Apart from the obvious impact that Zaheer and Tendulkar are set to make,another interesting contest would be the one that pits two of the most talented batsmen in Indian cricket at the moment. Ajinkya Rahane tops the batting charts with 976 runs,while Pujara is hot on his heels with 867 runs,and fresh from his remarkable 112 not out in the win over Karnataka.
Saurashtra may have been Mumbais bug-bear in the past,but with the stakes high it looks unlikely that the 37-time champions will allow themselves to slip,and the apple-cart might end up remaining undisturbed.