How on earth are Maharashtra here? Well, if you are a casual fan of domestic cricket, you would make such weird observations but for regulars, Maharashtra have been one of the strong forces in white-ball format in domestic cricket.
The experienced lot of Ruturaj Gaikwad, and Rahul Tripathi, alongside veterans such as Ankit Bawne, combined with the sparkling energy of Rajvardhan Hangargekar and Kaushal Tambe has led them here. But up against them are Saurashtra, the domestic behemoths. No, really.
Saurashtra are perhaps the most oiled unit in domestic cricket across different formats. En route to the final, they have beaten white-ball giants Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, making them one of the favourites for the title. Skipper Jaydev Unadkat can be credited for spearheading such a clean system.
But a knock-out is a knock-out, anything crazy can happen. Who would have had Saudi Arabia come from behind to beat Argentina in their opening fixture? Even though such things happen least in cricket, Saurashtra wouldn’t want to be overly confident.
Saurashtra need to find a way against Gaikwad
Casual fans know Ruturaj Gaikwad. Domestic cricket fans know him pretty well, and people who have watched the domestic affair closely would know that the right-hander is on a mad run. 168, 220*, 40, 124*,168 are his last five scores in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. If you extend it past that, there are three more centuries – 124, 154* and 136 – which really shows how good he has been.
Even when the likes of Tripathi have been dismissed early, there has been Gaikwad, who has stood as a pillar of strength. His brute force against spinners has been well-documented thus far in the tournament. Saurashtra have two left-arm spinners in their ranks. While Dharmendrasinh Jadeja is definitely experienced, Gaikwad’s ability against spin is god-like.
Left-arm pace has been one of Gaikwad’s vulnerabilities, regularly witnessed in the Indian Premier League. That’s where Unadkat’s wealth of experience could prove to be invaluable for Saurashtra, especially with how he has found early swing in the tournament. It could be the match-up that could well decide the game.
Samarth Vyas is due for a big innings
After just two games, Samarth Vyas was the talk of the town. Alongside Harvik Desai, Vyas scored one heck of an innings, where he smashed 20 boundaries and nine sixes. But keep in mind that was against Manipur, not an elite group side. Ever since that 200 against Manipur, Vyas has not stepped up substantially with the bat, with his highest score being the 42 against Uttar Pradesh.
Even in the semi-final win over Karnataka, Vyas scored a valuable 33 before being undone by Krishnappa Gowtham. Against Maharashtra, all eyes would be yet again on Vyas, considering how Saurashtra have restructured their batting order to put Sheldon Jackson at the top of the order.
Maharashtra too, would be aware of his ability to convert starts into a big score, and hence would want to stop the bleeding when it starts. In Maharashtra’s nervy win over Assam, their bowling was well tested, and it could yet again be under the pump in the final.
Experienced bowling unit vs exuberant bowling unit
Saurashtra vs Maharashtra; Experience vs Exuberant; Two of the best bowling units in the competition, if not the best. It would be a great battle, the average age of Saurashtra’s bowling unit is 30, with four of their pacers being over the age of 30, with just two youngsters in the bowling unit.
On the other hand, barring left-arm orthodox Satyajeet Bachhav, who is 30, all of the other bowlers in Maharashtra’s setup are still in their formative years. Their best bowler in the competition – Rajvardhan Hangargekar – is just 20 and without any IPL experience, having warmed the bench for the entire season with Chennai Super Kings.
In Saurashtra’s setup, there is Jaydev Unadkat, who is one of the stalwarts of domestic cricket, having excelled across formats in India, with 18 wickets at an average of 15.6 in the competition. Jadeja is second-best, with 15 wickets averaging 18.9. In Maharashtra’s setup, there is really no bowler who has an average under 20, which really could set up for an exciting contest.
Will experience topple the exuberance of youth?
How did the two sides get to the final?
Team Combination and Predicted XI
Expect Saurashtra to field an unchanged XI in the final unless someone gets injured at the last minute, having won their clash against Karnataka in the semi-final.
Saurashtra Predicted XI: Harvik Desai (wk), Sheldon Jackson, Jay Gohil, Samarth Vyas, Arpit Vasavada, Prerak Mankad, Chirag Jani, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, Kushang Patel, Jaydev Unadkat (c), Parth Bhut
Maharashtra might ponder making a change, just to bring Vicky Ostwal into the picture but mostly, they will go unchanged in the final.
Maharashtra Predicted XI: Ruturaj Gaikwad (c), Rahul Tripathi, Satyajeet Bachhav, Ankit Bawne, Azim Kazi, Saurabh Navale (wk), Kaushal Tambe, Shamshuzama Kazi, Manoj Ingale, Mukesh Choudhary, Rajvardhan Hangargekar