Mumbai requires a drastic turnaround in fortunes to make headway in the Ranji Trophy 2012-13. Four draws in four games, inclusive of two on home turf, is not a familiar situation for the multiple Ranji winner.

Bengal escaped with one point and a draw, despite conceding a 96-run first innings lead. Hyderabad got away with three points in the race for first innings lead, chasing 443.

Ajit Agarkar returns to the squad for the encounter against Punjab, with stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma relieved of responsibility and free to focus on run-making in a team of under-achievers so far. Whether Agarkar or Rohit is at the helm, Mumbai has looked a pale shadow of the outfit which prided itself on being ruthless in match situations.

The former is a handy all-rounder and captaincy brings out the best in him. Mumbai’s batting, strengthened by Ajinkya Rahane’s return, needs to fire and give bowlers the breathing space to attack rival batting line-ups.

He shares a rapport with opener Wasim Jaffer and with in-form Hiken Shah and Abhishek Nayar in the middle-order, the home team has the personnel for the job.

Rohit has not done justice to his talent for batting, so it is time he played an effective role.

The Mumbai skipper said, “We’re third in the group still and the two teams that are ahead, we still have to play them. If you don’t get the results at home, it becomes more and more difficult. Tracks are not likely to be seaming or turners in the away matches.”

Punjab has been dominating sessions and matches with such consistency, aggregating an astonishing 29 points, that nothing seems impossible for pacemen Sandeep Sharma, Siddharth Kaul, batsmen Jiwanjot Singh and Mandeep Singh.

The visitors have young fast bowlers to exploit the bounce in the Wankhede wicket early in the day and late in the afternoons when the sea breeze blows. Harbhajan Singh, back as captain for this tie, can be deadly when in mood.

If Mumbai banks on a batting beauty for the four-day game, in the hope of Agarkar getting lucky with the toss and batting line-up clicking, it has to contend with the phenomenal opener Jiwanjot, credited with a double ton on Ranji debut.

The potent home team attack is a perfect occasion for the 22-year-old to get cracking at the Wankhede, putting his skills to the test against the Mumbai bowlers.

“Punjab is the in-form team, miles ahead of everyone else in the group. Obviously, the team is playing at its best at the moment, so we will have to play well,” said Agarkar, aware of the difficult road ahead.

Keywords: Ranji Trophy

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