Mumbai start as favourites against Punjab

Published: Thursday, March 17, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Mumbai:The availability of powerhouse left hander Yuvraj Singh gave a big boost to Punjab's hopes ahead of their five-day Elite Division Ranji Trophy semi-final clash against hosts and holders Mumbai starting tomorrow.

"It is a great news for us. It is very good for him (Yuvraj) also, to get the chance to play in the semis. He is in good form," said Punjab captain Dinesh Mongia in reaction a couple of hours after ruing the absence of Yuvraj and star off-spinner Harbhajan Singh from the squad.

Yuvraj was released from the Indian squad in Kolkata today after the Punjab team requested for his release.

The presence of a match-winner like Yuvraj, who was in splendid touch for North Zone in the Duleep Trophy final against Central Zone, has boosted Punjab's hopes considerably.

But Mumbai still seem to hold the edge due to their superb gelling in the league phase and familiarity with the pitch conditions at the Wankhede Stadium.

Punjab would depend on Yuvraj, captain Mongia, openers Reetinder Singh Sodhi and Ravneet Ricky, and experienced wicket keeper batsman Pankaj Dharmani to put up a big score against a charged up Mumbai team.

A proven performer like Harbhajan Singh is bound to be missed though Mongia feels young off spinner Rajesh Sharma is "the second Harbhajan" in the making.

"He's not had many chances to show his worth at Mohali, where the wickets are seaming ones, but outside our home ground he's our key bowler," Mongia said.

It will be a big test for the Punjab youngster to bowl against the in-form Mumbai batsmen - notably opener Wasim Jaffer, Amol Muzumdar and Vineet Indulkar.

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