Tendulkar’s presence will help: Agarkar
Mumbai have pushed their way into the Ranji Trophy 2012-13 quarter-final and will take on Baroda in the five-day encounter at the Wankhede Stadium beginning January 6. Although they will be without the services of Zaheer Khan, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, the former champions have been boosted by the presence of Sachin Tendulkar in the side. The legendary cricketer was at the nets at the Wankhede Stadium practicing with the Mumbai team and guiding the youngsters.
Speaking to the media after the practice, Mumbai captain Ajit Agarkar said, “We have Sachin [Tendulkar] back [in the team] which is great. It helps to have an experienced player in the dressing room. Also, there are other guys, Abhishek Nayar has had a terrific season for us, Wasim’s [Jaffer] around and Hiken Shah has done well too. We have guys who have done well throughout the season. We would have liked to [have] cruised a little bit more in to the quarter-finals but sometimes it is nice doing it the hard way. So yes, we are ready for tomorrow.”
Although they did not suffer any outright loss they only secured only one outright win in the league stage and edged into the top three in Group A by peaking at the right time during the latter half to seal berth in the knockout stage. Speaking about the team’s journey to the quarter-final, Agarkar said, “The Indore game [which Mumbai won against Madhya Pradesh] was a bit of lift. And against Gujarat we played well. [We knew that if in the last] three games, in fifteen days, if we play good cricket we are in with a good chance [for qualifying]. The first priority is [always] to qualify for the quarter-finals, which was a lot more difficult this year than it was.”
About the team missing out the services of Rahane and Rohit Sharma, the skipper said, “We have other guys who have done well throughout the season, so we have happy with what we have.”
As the former champions look to stake a claim for their 40th title they will be looking to put their best put forward on their home ground against the visitors. The Mumbai team has struggled this season with their fielding. Discussing the concern, and how they have worked on it ahead of a crucial game, the Mumbai captain said, “Every game was crucial. We have not fielded well [but] it is not because of lack of trying or anything. We have to get it right. It is about concentration and focus and practicing more if you keep dropping catches. The guys have been doing well. Hopefully, the worst is behind us and we can grab on to whatever comes next.”
Asked if they have tried alternatives like rearranging the slip cordon, Agarkar said, “We have tried that as well. There have been different guys in the slips but these are specialised positions and there are guys who do it regularly and they got to take the catches. They have taken some good catches as well but we have dropped a fair amount of catches, so hopefully, it doesn’t happen again. There are five tough days ahead and it doesn’t make it easy if you drop catches.”
Speaking about his opposition number, Yusuf Pathan who is known to change the course of a the game in a session or two and how they will look to play against him, Agarkar said, “It is a worry to play against 11 guys who have turned up in a quarter-final we have to worry about what we need to do than worrying about Yusuf Pathan or any other player. He is a good player [but] if we do our jobs well we should be okay. Rather worry about where to put the ball, field right and take the catch. The rest looks after it.”
Asked if he will be playing with a combination of three seamers and two spinners, the pacer said, “Generally, we like to go with that. The last game [against Gujarat] was an exception. But we are still looking. It’s a five-day game [so] one extra bowler comes in handy because of the wear and tear also. We are still thinking on those lines but generally we prefer playing with five bowlers at least since I have been around. We have guys [lower down the order] who can bat so that helps. I generally prefer five bowlers.”
Speaking about the availability of veteran batsman and former Mumbai captain, Wasim Jaffer, who has been dealing with a family emergency, Agarkar said, “He is quite keen to play. He is obviously very focused and he practiced today. We have left it completely to him. He is very keen to play which is great for us.
Asked about the pitch and the grass on it, Agarkar said, “It was there in the match against Punjab as well. We will have to wait and see [how it plays]. Generally the Wankhede track helps the batsmen and the bowlers. And this time it is a five day game and so it is a bit different. On the fifth day there might be a lot more wear and tear we will have to wait and see how it plays.”