Mumbai, Dec 24 (UNI) Defending champions Mumbai face a do-or-die situation when they take on group leaders Saurashtra in their last Elite Division group 'A' match at Wankhede Stadium, beginning here tomorrow.
For the reigning champions, it is a quarter-final situation with a loss most likely to eliminate them, while an outright win will ensure a place in the semi-finals. If they draw, they will have to hope Delhi do worse than them. The two teams are currently tied in the second place with 18 points each.
Mumbai have been in this situation in the recent past and have scripted successful escape acts with last season being a prime example when they did not have a point after three matches and came back to win five in a row to lift the Ranji Trophy.
Amol Muzumdar, the captain, is banking on Mumbai's ability to come back when the situation seems totally lost. ''We have been in this situation before and everybody knows the importance of the game. We can do it,'' Muzumdar said.
But even Muzumdar, who would be playing his 100th Ranji match, only the eighth player to do so in the history of domestic cricket, admits the situation this year is precarious. The bowling has been severely depleted with injuries to Ajit Agarkar, Avishkar Salvi and Rajesh Verma. Meanwhile, Ramesh Powar's recent form has been a cause of worry. He has picked up just nine wickets from the last four games, after grabbing 15 in the first two.
The inexperienced Murtuza Hussain leads the seam attack and Mumbai will hope that Powar, along with veteran Nilesh Kulkarni, the replacement for Iqbal Abdulla, can raise their game when it matters the most.
The hosts have had a tough time in their last two away ties, against Rajasthan at Jhalawer where they squeezed through for a last-ball victory, and against Himachal Pradesh at Dharamsala, where they gained only first innings points (3).
The visitors, on the other hand, are on a high after downing Maharashtra at Nagothane to surge into the lead.
While Saurashtra, with 20 points under their belt, would be keen to deny Mumbai any point, the latter have set their sights on an outright win with a bonus point to boot, if they can get it, which makes the four-day tie a potential humdinger.
The return of the 34-year-old Kulkarni, who will be playing his first match in the league, would certainly be a confidence booster for the hosts, with 18 points in the kitty, ahead of their must-win tie, though he may be a bit rusty.
Iqbal Abdullah is not available for the tie after being chosen to represent the India under-19 team, which is to visit South Africa from December 28.