Mumbai, Dec 6: Seeking their 41st Ranji Trophy title, former champions Mumbai are to open their campaign against Group A minnows Jammu and Kashmir in the first-ever meeting between the two teams in 80 years of the tournament, here tomorrow.
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The hosts, despite missing two key batsmen - Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane who are away in Australia - and Zaheer Khan to open the attack, are nevertheless the favourites in their group game at the Wankhede Stadium.
After their failed campaign last season, when they tripped against arch-rivals Maharashtra in the quarters, Mumbai have named attacking batsman Suryakumar Yadav to lead the team once again. Mumbai, who had produced great openers like Vijay Merchant and Sunil Gavaskar, are left with choosing among lightweights Praful Waghela, Kevin Almeida and Bhavish Shetty.
Asked why their most experienced player Wasim Jaffer has not been requested to launch the innings, captain Yadav came out with the excuse as per the team management's wishes that the top-order batsman will be best suited at number 3.
"We will all play around him. It's not that we are overdependent on him. Whenever he has not scored big there have been others who have stepped up," he said.
The team that was announced a few days ago had Kaustubh Pawar, who opened the innings in the previous season. But he has been replaced by Waghela after developing some problem in his shoulder at the team's first day's practice, according to Yadav.
The visitors too are facing uncertainty over the availability of captain Parvez Rasool tomorrow. "He's got fever, but he should be okay tomorrow," said newly-appointed team coach Sunil Joshi.
"The team is very excited to play in Mumbai and against Mumbai as they know a good performance will be appreciated," said the former India left arm spinner.
Joshi said the players were keen to "carry forward the momentum gained in the zonal one-day tournament in which we performed well." The team scored three wins, that included a shock victory over heavyweights Delhi.