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Stage set for battle of equals

Mumbai’s mighty batting unit takes on a potent Karnataka bowling attack

Written by Devendra Pandey | Mumbai |
November 17, 2011 1:18:24 am

Ajinkya Rahane strolled in for practice at the Brabourne Stadium wearing the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) jersey with the lion-crest logo embossed on it. He greeted his Mumbai teammates before joining a training drill on the eve of the Group A game against Karnataka.

Rahane’s availability for Mumbai will depend on whether or not India take an unassailable 2-0 lead against the West Indies at the Eden Gardens. Rahane was released by the Indian team management for this Ranji Trophy game following a request from the MCA but if India rests regulars for the third Test,Rahane will be in line for a Test debut.

Mumbai skipper Wasim Jaffer knows the value of making every outing count as the most successful team in domestic cricket has often had its top players engaged in national duty. Rohit Sharma,after scoring back-to-back hundreds,is another batsman who is eyeing a national recall for the One-day Internationals against the West Indies.

“There is a possibility of Sharma and Rahane being picked to play the ODIs against the West Indies.

And who knows,they can go to Australia too. We want to gain as many points we can in order to ensure that we give ourselves the best chance of entering the knock-outs. We will find it tougher if and when both Rahane and Sharma are playing for India,” Jaffer said.

Tough battle

These two teams were involved in a thrilling final two seasons ago and a tough battle is on the cards for supremacy in this group as both sides enter the game with nine points each. Mumbai’s strong batting line-up will have to be at their best to neutralise Karnataka’s prowess with the ball.

Jaffer is due for a big score,while Suryakumar Yadav,the 21-year-old,has shown glimpses of why he is rated so highly in his three-match old first-class career. All-rounder Abhishek Nayar struck 243 in the last round against Rajasthan. Nayar and Rohit were largely responsible for Mumbai overhauling Rajasthan’s 530 to take the first innings lead.

The lower-order has also put a price on their wickets with Dhaval Kulkarni and Iqbal Abdulla scoring half-centuries in the game against Rajasthan. “I think we made a big statement in the previous game. It is not often that a side overhauls such a big score. It showed the character of the team,” Jaffer added.

Karnataka has arguably the best bowling attack in domestic cricket. R Vinay Kumar,Abhimanyu Mithun and S Arvind have been among the wickets and they have combined to share 17 scalps. Left-arm spinner K Appanna took 11 wickets against Railways. The bowlers will hope that their in-form batsmen — young opener KB Pawan (251 vs Rajasthan) and Stuart Binny — will continue their rich vein of form.

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