It will be a good contest, says Laxmipathi Balaji
Abhinav Mukund will be eager to open his account successfully in his first match at the Wankhede Stadium. The 22-year-old Tamil Nadu left-hander, with five Tests and 54 first class matches under his belt and with 4,705 runs, 16 centuries, including an unconquered 300 as his highest and 13 half-centuries, will be keen to make a mark in the Ranji Trophy semifinal against Mumbai starting on Tuesday.
Abhinav, who brings a strong blend of attack and defence to the top order, has scored 825 runs in seven matches this season with two centuries (204 against Haryana at Chennai and 224 against Gujarat at Ahmedabad) and three half-centuries for an average of 103.12, marginally lower than Rajasthan's Robin Bist (841 runs at 105.12).
These are outstanding figures that command fear and respect from rival teams.
Murali Vijay's woes
Abhinav will walk out with Murali Vijay, whose woes this season is reflected in a low average of 39.33.
But three successive half-centuries in three weeks against Gujarat (57), Madhya Pradesh (83) and Maharashtra (79) has offered hints that the right-hander is returning to form and to underscore the fact that Tamil Nadu has the best opening pair in the National championship.
“Both teams enjoy playing each other; it's always been a good contest. The wicket has always been good here and created to assist the seamers, spinners and the batsmen,'' said Tamil Nadu captain Laxmipathi Balaji, who declared himself fit on Monday.
Initially Mumbai depended on the likes of Rohit Sharma, Abhishek Nayar (582 runs) and Suryakumar Yadav (669 runs), but as the tournament progressed to the last stage of the league and the first knockout match against Madhya Pradesh, skipper Wasim Jaffer (406 runs), Hiken Shah (241 runs in four matches), Kaustubh Pawar (530 runs) and Ankeet Chavan (251 runs in four matches), Dhaval Kulkarni (252 runs) ran into form.
“The lower order has given the team depth. Tamil Nadu is a very strong team and we have to play well to beat them,'' said Jaffer.
The groin strain to opening batsman and wicketkeeper Sushant Marathe (against Punjab) has upset the balance of the team. Mumbai will open the innings with Pawar and Onkar Gurav and Jaffer may bat at No. 3. Jaffer said Nayar would replace Praful Waghela.
Mumbai (from): Wasim Jaffer (capt.), Onkar Gurav, Kaustubh Pawar, Abhishek Nayar, Suryakumar Yadav, Hiken Shah, Ankeet Chavan, Dhaval Kulkarni, Ramesh Powar, Kshemal Waingankar, Balwinder Singh Sandhu (Jr.), Iqbal Abdullah, Praful Waghela, Murtuza Hussain, Nikhil Patil (Jr.)
Tamil Nadu (from): Laxmipathy Balaji (capt.), Murali Vijay, Abhinav Mukund, S. Badrinath, Dinesh Karthik, K. Shree Vasudevadas, R. Prasanna, V. Yomahesh, Sunny Gupta, Aushik Srinivas, J. Kaushik, M. Rangarajan, K. Gandhi, S. Sam, Rahil Shah, U. Sushil.