When Parthiv Patel says that his young side can defeat domestic cricket’s most-celebrated side Mumbai,his words don’t sound hollow. Actually,the Gujarat skipper is merely stating the fact. By virtue of having a three-point lead over Mumbai before the last league game of both the teams,Patel has the right to play the favourite.
As for Mumbai skipper Wasim Jaffer,he doesn’t enjoy the same privilege. Jaffer has too much on his mind. Tied with Punjab at 23 points,they are joint-third on the table. With just the top-three teams qualifying for the next stage,the defending champions can’t afford any slip-ups in this crucial stage. While matching their wits against the ‘surprise package of the season’ Gujarat,Mumbai will have one eye at Dhanbad where Punjab play Jharkhad. After their stunning win over Delhi in the last game,Punjab seemed to have found a second wind in this final stage of the competition. This isn’t good news for Mumbai,who after a fine start to the season are presently in the middle of a slump.
Jaffer agrees that his team isn’t in an ideal situation. The skipper has been his usual consistent self and crossed the 500-mark for one more time in a Ranji season. The highest scorer for Mumbai has been Aditya Tare who has a tally of 534 runs. Other than the two,the Mumbai middle-order has failed to deliver. And that the reason Mumbai has tried out 22 players and five debutants this season.
While the Mumbai youngsters have failed to grab the opportunity,it is a very different story in Gujarat. Patel remains the team’s fulcrum and he has for company a couple of old hands – the most-travelled domestic player Venugopal Rao and left-arm spinner Rakesh Dhruv. The rest of the team consists of enthusiastic,but inexperienced,players. When we got together before the season,it was made clear to each youngster that they will get at least four games to prove their mettle. We told them that even if they fail in one-two match they will not be dropped. When you are building a team you need to give them chances, Patel explains.
Between them,Patel and Rao have 5 centuries this season while 32-year-old Dhruv as scalped 32 victims in 7 games. The more heartening thing for the team has been the 456 runs amassed by 23-year-batsman old Bhargav Merai and the 32 wickets that have made pacer Jasprit Bumrah the leading wicket-taker of the team. Bumrah,20,is playing his first season while Merai,23,has played just 14 first class games. With Mumbai low in confidence,Patel knows the his team,a perfect combination of youth and experience,can pull off a big upset.