Mumbai favourites to clinch Ranji Trophy for 41st time: Ajit Agarkar

By the end of next week, city cricket fans will know whether Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy season is a clear-cut success and whether the trophy returns to the Mumbai Cricket Association’s glittering cabinet at ‘D’ Road, Churchgate. Mumbai, who entered their 45th final on Wednesday in Cuttack beating Madhya Pradesh by virtue of a first innings lead, will take on Saurashtra in the summit clash at Pune in a repeat of 2012-13 final where they were successfully led by Ajit Agarkar at Wankhede Stadium.
“It’s just been two years that we won the Ranji Trophy, but according to Mumbai’s standards, it is quite a lot (of time),” Agarkar quipped during a conversation with mid-day yesterday.

Ajit Agarkar’s team with the Ranji Trophy in 2013 at the Wankhede Stadium. Pics/mid-day archive
Ajit Agarkar’s team with the Ranji Trophy in 2013 at the Wankhede Stadium. Pics/mid-day archive


The former India pacer does not see any reason why Mumbai cannot reclaim the Ranji title in the February 24-28 fixture at Pune. “I will back Mumbai to win because they have played some tough games throughout the season and the best part is that various players have contributed at different junctures which is a good sign for the team. I would probably be more worried if I were in the Saurashtra camp. Mumbai should feel confident going into the final considering the way they have played throughout the season. They have a real good chance to win it,” said Agarkar.

‘Iyer, standout performer’
Agarkar was most pleased with Shreyas Iyer’s batting form. “You don’t want to pick names, but Iyer is clearly the standout performer. After a very good first season, he has backed up really well in his second season which is fantastic. He has got well over 1000 runs and it’s a huge season for him. All his scores have either come at a run-a-ball or less. And he has been doing it consistently.

“Tare (skipper Aditya) got a hundred (in the semi-final vs MP), Surya (Kumar Yadav) has got a hundred too. (Abhishek) Nayar has contributed well with the bat and ball. Shardul (pacer Thakur) has had a decent season. (Akhil) Herwadkar is having a good season (as opener). As a coach or captain, you want as many options coming into the big final,” said Agarkar.

Though Agarkar is not in favour of playing at a neutral venue, he sees a point in the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s decision. “I was always in favour of playing on home ground for either of the teams. But it (BCCI) has its own reasons to play at neutral venues although I don’t remember Mumbai ever trying to make certain kind of pitches. However, we have seen cases where pitches have been doctored and that is one of the reasons why a neutral venue is picked.

“I don’t think the venue should really matter. Good teams play well anywhere. We had a spicy track for the T20 (between India and Sri Lanka recently) in Pune. Hopefully, we will see a good contest,” Agarkar signed off.