Shreyas Iyer in spotlight as Mumbai take on Tamil Nadu in Ranji Trophy semifinal

PTI, Mar 1, 2024, 11:50 AM IST

Out-of-favour India batter Shreyas Iyer will be motivated to prove a point and serve a timely reminder of his skillset as he gets back to domestic action when the record 41-time champions Mumbai take on Tamil Nadu in the Ranji Trophy semifinal here on Saturday.

Dropped from the Indian Test side and discarded from BCCI’s list of contracted players after he did not make himself available for the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal due to groin and back trouble, Iyer has recovered completely to join Mumbai for the key clash.

Iyer would be key in Mumbai’s scheme of things specially against Tamil Nadu’s quality spin bowling, which has been one of their key weapons this season. Skipper R Sai Kishore (47 wickets) and fellow left-arm spinner S Ajith Ram (41) are perched atop the list of highest wicket-takers, against whom Iyer and Co. will have a great opportunity to make a strong statement.

The semifinal promises to be an enthralling battle between Tamil Nadu’s persistent and disciplined bowlers and their batters who have piled up big runs this season versus Mumbai’s all-round strength.

Mumbai have made it to the semifinals riding on timely performances from different players barring skipper Ajinkya Rahane, who has just one fifty to show from six matches.

None of the Mumbai bowlers has even made it to the top 10 in the list of wicket-takers — Mohit Avasthi (32) is at 13th — yet they find themselves in the final four with their bowlers sharing the workload quite well.

Both Mumbai and Tamil Nadu are coming off impressive wins at the quarterfinal stage.

Young Musheer Khan’s unbeaten 203 allowed Mumbai a slender lead which swelled to an insurmountable 605 courtesy a historic show from tailenders Tanush Kotian and Tushar Deshpande against Baroda. While Tamil Nadu stopped defending champions Saurashtra.

A standout feature in Tamil Nadu’s impressive run this year has been the fact that they have bowled out each of their opponents twice in all Ranji matches this season irrespective of the outcome. Both Mumbai and Tamil Nadu have lost only one match each. While Tamil Nadu only rose to find their best form after an away defeat to Gujarat in their season-opener, Mumbai’s narrow loss to Uttar Pradesh only proved to be a minor blip. It remains to be seen if N Jagadeesan (821 runs) rediscovers his form which helped him register consecutive scores of 245 not out and 321 earlier in the tournament. The right-hander has not crossed fifty in his last seven innings.

However, Baba Indrajith’s (686 runs) enviable consistency has done wonders for Tamil Nadu, with the 29-year-old being on a run-making spree with scores of 80, 187, 98 and 48 in last three matches.

Tamil Nadu have also been strengthened by the inclusion of all-rounder Washington Sundar, who has been released from the Indian Test side.

On what is expected to be a batting-friendly surface, Mumbai’s deep batting line-up with Prithvi Shaw and Bhupen Lalwani at the top and all-rounder Shardul Thakur and even Shams Mulani in the lower-order, the hosts will fancy putting up a big score.

For Tamil Nadu, it would be imperative to keep working with their strengths — if Jagadeesan, Indrajith and Pradosh Ranjan Paul form the fulcrum of their batting, seamer Sandeep Warrier has provided adequate support to the spin duo of Sai Kishore and Ajith. Squads: Mumbai: Ajinkya Rahane (c), Shreyas Iyer, Prithvi Shaw, Bhupen Lalwani, Amogh Bhatkal, Musheer Khan, Prasad Pawar (wk), Hardik Tamore (wk), Shardul Thakur, Shams Mulani, Tanush Kotian, Aditya Dhumal, Tushar Deshpande, Mohit Avasthi, Royston Dias, Dhawal Kulkarni.

Tamil Nadu: R Sai Kishore (c), Pradosh Ranjan Paul (vc), Baba Indrajith, Narayan Jagadeesan (wk), Suresh Lokeshwar (wk), Sai Sudharsan, Vijay Shankar, Vimal Khumar, Balasubramaniam Sachin, Washington Sundar, Sandeep Warrier, Trilok Nag, T Natarajan, Mohammed Mohammed, S Ajith Ram.

Match starts 9:30am IST.

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