Agarkar acknowledges home advantage
As he prepared to lead Mumbai in their 44th Ranji Trophy final, Ajit Agarkar admitted that the team hasn’t been at its dominant best this season. However, the Mumbai captain took heart in the fact that despite not playing to their full potential, they have made the final.
“I am very happy with the way we have gone so far. We never had a perfect game. We had to scrape through in most. Hope that we play well. From struggling a little bit to qualify, to being in the final. Very happy with the way we are. Looking forward to the final,” he said on the eve of the big match.
“It is a massive match and I am looking forward to it. It is a big honour to lead the team. We are very happy to be a part of it. It is better than sitting at home and watching it on TV,” Agarkar said.
Both Mumbai and Saurashtra are missing some of their key players, who are currently with Team India for the ODI series against England. Agarkar said that the team cannot afford to think about the players who are not around.
“Both teams are missing players,” Agarkar said. “We are missing Rohit [Sharma] and Ajinkya [Rahane]. That's been the case for now. But it doesn't change anything. We have moved on. The other guys will have to make a mark and there is not a bigger opportunity than the Ranji Trophy final. All the guys have had a decent season.”
While they are without two young batsmen, Mumbai’s campaign has been bolstered by the presence of Sachin Tendulkar. As captain, Agarkar feels blessed to have the batting maestro by his side.
“We have the great man. Sachin's presence in the dressing room helps. We are very happy that he is part of the squad. He helps the younger guys out. We have been lucky enough to have him. The timing is right,” he said.
In the bowling department, Mumbai are missing their most experience spinner, Ramesh Powar, who is out injured. While he rued his absence, Agarkar also expressed confidence in his younger spinners.
“Ramesh Powar has been missing due to injury. He was a key performer. But our left-arm spinners [Ankeet Chavan and Vishal Dhabolkar] are doing well. We'll go with the ones who are available, than worry about finding bowlers,” he said.
While lauding the teamwork this season, the Mumbai captain made special mention of Abhishek Nayar, Wasim Jaffer and Aditya Tare. “We've had good performances from most of the guys. Nayar, Tare and Wasim have been our standout performers. Everyone has chipped in at important times. We are very happy,” he said.
While his team will go into the match as favourites, Agarkar refused to take Saurashtra lightly. “For anyone to reach the final, it is not easy. We don't underestimate anyone. Any opposition in the final is dangerous.
“You must be at your best. It's a one-off game and it should be a tough game. We have to play well. We have guys who have been in more than final. We generally play well in a final,” he said.
Agarkar admitted that playing at their home ground will give an edge to Mumbai. “We prefer playing at home. You know your conditions. But we have to play well for five days. There is a little bit of advantage,” he said.