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|Ranji Trophy finals: Keen tussle on the cards |
Thursday, March 25 2004 18:20 Hrs (IST)
Tamil Nadu, who lost to Mumbai by 141 runs despite taking a first innings lead in the away final, will bank on the home advantage to end the title drought in the prestigious event since their only second win in 1987-88 against Railways under the captaincy of S Vasudevan. They had won the maiden title way back in 1954-55 under R B Alagannan.
However, Tamil Nadu will have to pull out all stops if they are to halt Mumbai from winning the trophy for a record 36th time as history appears to favour them with the side winning all the four finals the two sides had fought so far.
The hosts, who topped Elite group 'B' and edged out Railways in their semi-finals via a first innings lead, have a formidable batting line up, bolstered by the return of Hemang Badani from Pakistan after his omission in Indian Test squad.
Besides Badani, their batting would revolve around Test drop-out Sadagopan Ramesh, captain S Suresh, S Badrinath, S Sriram, S Sharath and Dinesh Kartik.
Ramesh came good in the semi-final against Railways with a fluent 97 while Sriram and Kartik scored century-plus. Sharath and Badrinath have also been among runs this season. The return of medium pacer M R Shrinivas, who missed the earlier match due to an ankle injury, should pep up bowling attack, weakened by the absence of strike bowler Lakshmipathy Balaji, doing duty for India in Pakistan.
Mumbai have a balanced side with an equally strong batting order spearheaded by Wasim Jaffer, Vinod Kambli and Amol Muzumdar, all of whom have hit century-plus scores so far.
The bowling is led by skipper and former India spinner Sairaj Bahutule, who took 10 wickets in Mumbai's innings win over Hyderabad in the semifinal, and three more internationals in Munaf Patel, Nilesh Kulkarni and Avishkar Salvi. But, they will miss Ajit Agarkar and all-rounder Ramesh Powar, selected for the Indian Test team in Pakistan.
The current champions have also had a comparatively much more impressive showing in their run-up to the final, winning three of their seven matches and taking first innings lead in the other drawn encounters.
Tamil Nadu also did not lose a match but followed on against Hyderabad and Bengal in the league phase, albeit handicapped by the absence of Ramesh, Badani and Sriram.
But, on the eve of the summit clash, rival coaches sounded cautious, maintaining they were confident of a good showing and forecast a close match. They were also happy with the pitch, saying it looked good and expected to assist batsmen.
"The boys are in a upbeat mood and confident of doing well. Confidence is going to be the key. Mumbai is definitely one of the best sides in the country and we expect a good match," said Tamil Nadu coach B Arun said.
Mumbai coach and former India stumper Chandrakant Pandit also said both the teams were good. "They are not in final just like that. Tamil Nadu have the home advantage, but we have already played in Chennai and know the conditions.
Our boys are more confident this year and we will like to finish off the season on a winning note," Pandit, who led the team to the title triumph last year on his very first season in the new role, said.
TN sets up repeat title clash with Mumbai