Win against Gujarat boosted team: Zaheer
Indulkar likely to suit up for Mumbai, Zol for Maharashtra
A determined performance against Gujarat in the last match of the league phase has helped Mumbai qualify for the quarter-finals of the Ranji Trophy 2013-14. Once again under the leadership of Zaheer Khan, they will take on Maharashtra at the Wankhede Stadium in five-day game beginning January 8. The ace pacer had led the team to three outright wins before heading to South Africa and is now back at the helm for the defending champions.
The team had struggled in a few games in between. However, Mumbai pulled off an improbable victory in their last group encounter versus Gujarat to claim a berth in the knock-out stage. “The team looks good. We have had few days of practice. We are looking forward to the game. The last win has definitely helped in boosting the confidence of the team,” Zaheer told the media.
“Guys have performed at the right time. The last game was very crucial for us; we had to win that game. And especially when you know that Gujarat needed only one point (to qualify), and we managed to qualify, it is a big achievement on the team’s part. I always look at the positives. Now it is the knock-out stage, so every game counts,” Zaheer said. “Sometimes when you have matches like these and you are not supposed to qualify but you do, then you know that the morale is especially high.”
The hosts have lost key players through the season for various reasons like injuries, retirement and national call-up. Reflecting on the predicament that the team finds itself in, Zaheer said, “It can happen when a team is going through a transition phase. Especially Ajit (Agarkar) was instrumental in keeping everyone on track and keeping everyone together and helping the youngsters when it comes to bowling. And right now we have few youngsters playing and we have been trying new bowlers as well to see who can be useful in coming years for Mumbai cricket.”
“And the same goes with the batting as well. So that is why I think you will see that there are many guys who have played this season. It is a transition that the team is going through.”
The Mumbai batting line-up has faced ups and downs through the season. And Hiken Shah’s absence due to injury will add to their woes. But they are looking to cope with it and hopeful that Vineet Indulkar’s return will make a difference. Speaking about the situation, Zaheer said, “That is one thing that we had concerns about. Right now if you see, few of the batters, who have been playing regularly, are injured. It is an opportunity for others, especially for someone like Vineet, who has been around for a while and has been playing club cricket now. Having played at the Ranji Trophy level should help him deal with the kind of pressure, which we will be dealing with in a stage like this. But yes, we will miss the services of Hiken; he has played some good knocks for the team to get here. Along with a few others, Hiken will also be missed.”
The stand-in captain also mentioned that he is especially impressed with Shardul Thakur’s performance. “I am particularly impressed with Shardul Thakur; he has got the pace, which is required at a higher level as well. So that is very promising. He is someone who we should invest in for the future and hopefully we will get some good performances out of him. Shardul being able to bat is an added responsibility on him as well. And he is a good all-round prospect, I think.”
Speaking about the opposition, Maharashtra, who topped their group to qualify, Zaheer said, “Every team who has qualified for the knock-outs has done well. We are just focusing on our strength. We are happy to be in the knock-out stage and we are just taking it one game at a time.”
Meanwhile, Maharashtra captain Rohit Motwani said, “It is a very crucial game. There is not much to be done about talking about the game and making it an issue. We have to go through the same processes that we have been doing all through the season. Let’s see what happens on the fifth day.”
The top two run-getters of the season are from Motwani’s team and most of the side has also been performing well. They will be further strengthened by the inclusion of Vijay Zol.
“It’s a great thing for us and these players too. This is a stage where we have to perform and we need to relish these opportunities,” he said about Harshad Khadiwale and Kedar Jadhav.
“Being in great form is something we need. Everyone is doing well. Team morale is very high,” he added.
Speaking about the team’s campaign so far, he said, “It’s been doing really well over the season. We have won three at home and one away. Winning three at home outright was not easy, considering Gahunje is a batting wicket. But the bowlers have done really well getting the 20 wickets and worked hard and they are in very good shape and hopefully they will do well in this game too.”
Talking about the opposition, he mentioned, “We haven't looked at the scores Mumbai has produced. We have been doing well in every department. Each and every bowler has contributed with wickets. We just have to target and get the small things right, whether it’s the four-five wickets in the beginning or the runs on the board.”
Report: Asia Cup, Final: Ind U-19 vs Pak U-19
Zol, Samson slam tons as India lift trophy with 40-run win
India Under-19 captain Vijay Zol (100) and middle-order batsman Sanju Samson (100) scored contrasting centuries as Indian colts posted a comprehensive 40-run win over Pakistan to clinch the Under-19 Asia Cup trophy.
India reached 314 for eight in their allotted quota of 50 overs. Zol faced 120 balls to reach his hundred (seven fours and two sixes) while Samson took just 87 balls to notch up his century (eight boundaries and four sixes).
In reply, Pakistan could reach 274 for nine, despite a hundred from Kamran Ghulam (102 not out; 89b, 12X4s).
Put in to bat, India got off to a solid start with openers Ankush Bains (47) and Akhil Herwadkar (12) putting on 65 runs in 6.4 overs for the opening wicket.
It was medium pacer Zia-ul-Haq who got the first breakthrough for Pakistan by removing Herwadkar, while leg-spinner Karamat Ali dismissed Bains to reduce India to 85 for two.
However, Zol and Samson joined hands to share a massive 180-run partnership for the third wicket to give India the upper hand.
Karamat finally broke the partnership when he saw off Zol, who mistimed a shot and lofted it to Zafar Gohar at mid-on.
But Samson maintained tempo by hitting Karamat for two consecutive sixes in the next two deliveries. He, however, failed to sustain for long and got out a couple of overs later.
But by the time Samson departed, India were comfortably placed at 286 for four in 44.1 overs.
For Pakistan, Zafar Gohar (2-52), Zia-ul-Haq (2-56) and Karamat (2-78) took two wickets each, while Kamran Ghulam chipped in with one.
Chasing a massive target, Pakistan faltered from the very beginning, losing Mohammad Umair (17), Imam-ul-Haq (18), Hasan Raza (1) and Saifullah Khan (3) cheaply, to be reeling at 88 for four.
Opener Sami Aslam played the role of an anchor to perfection even as wickets kept tumbling at the other end.
Leading from the front, skipper Aslam finally found an able support in Kamran Ghulam and the two put on a solid 93-run stand together for the fifth wicket to keep Pakistan's chances alive.
Aamir Gani managed to break the dangerous partnership by dismissing Aslam for a well-made 87 off 96 balls, studded with 10 boundaries.
Ghulam, however, showed a lot of character as he continued to play aggressively, scoring at better than a run-a-ball.
Kuldeep Yadav was the pick of the Indian bowlers with figures of three for 72, while Deepak Hooda (2-37), Gani (2-39) and Chama Milind (2-44) claimed two wickets each.