: Sachin Tendulkar’s availability for the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal will be of little help to Mumbai if his teammates are not able to raise their game against a bold Baroda team.
The visiting side does not have ‘icons’ in the dressing room for the five-day knockout tie, but a bunch of skilled youngsters look determined to seize the moment session-by-session at the Wankhede stadium here.
Mumbai held back punches in the league phase, content with first innings points in drawn games and doing just enough to get over the line. The ruthless mentality in pinning down opponents was missing this season, home and away.
Tendulkar’s presence in the first league tie against Railways at the Wankhede boosted Mumbai’s first innings total to 570, but an outright win never materialised as Railways escaped with a draw. Seven draws out of eight in Group A has dimmed the aura surrounding Mumbai to the extent that rivals feel a side banking hugely on Tendulkar’s match-winning ability and handicapped by bowlers unable to run through the opposition, is beatable.
Zaheer Khan is unfortunately ruled out of the quarterfinal tie due to recurring injuries.
Baroda, which took second spot in Group B with two wins out of eight, gets its first crack at a Ranji superpower. Ambati Rayudu, familiar with sights and sounds at the Wankhede during his IPL stints with Mumbai Indians, will shoulder the responsibility of guiding a bunch of talented, enthusiastic youngsters.
The Baroda vice-captain showed the way with attacking knocks against reputed sides like Delhi (131), UP (83) and TN (54 and 66).He relishes a challenge and it cannot get any bigger than facing a Tendulkar-inspired Mumbai.
Irfan Pathan sits out
All-rounder Irfan Pathan is sitting out with an injury, but will barely be missed if the visitor continues to throw up youngsters like Waghmode (22 years) and newcomer Gagandeep, who are ready to take responsibility.
Tendulkar, in his second appearance this season at 39 years, will be looking to improve upon the exhilarating 137 he scored against Railways in the league stage.