New Delhi: They may have upstaged one of the tournament favourites - Mumbai -- in their first match of the Toyota University Cricket Championship, but on Thursday, Kent Northern Stars Jamia Millia Islamia will be up against one of the most effervescent teams in the competition so far - Western Wizards Jiwaji University Gwalior. The TUCC's first semifinal in New Delhi has all the ingredients for a potboiler.
Gwalior will be the team to beat as the Wizards are on a roll clinching two close matches in the last four days. The Jiwaji boys will not be short of confidence having beaten VBS Purvanchal University, Jaunpur by 12 runs and then shutting out Aligarh by 7 runs en route to the semifinals. The ability of their bowlers to defend low totals has been a hallmark as Jiwaji has come up with great teamwork at the right times.
Jamia will start favourites on paper. With an all-win record in group B, the Delhi boys were the second team to qualify for the semifinals, but history will have no impact as they run into a group of boys very high on motivation. Jamia, of course, will count on home support. The turnout at the Jamia Sports Complex has been amazing but support can also bring pressure on the home side.
In this T20 tournament, a handful of players have played key roles for their teams. But Gwalior seems to have the all-round depth, especially in the bowling department. Ravi Sikarwar is one such man for the Jiwaji boys. With Aligarh needing about 28 runs to win off 18 balls, the lanky off-spinner came on to bowl in the 17th over on Tuesday. He showed nerves of steel in those death overs as he took 2 wickets for 13 runs to eke out a seven-run win victory and cement a semifinal berth for the Gwalior boys.
Jiwaji have ridden all-round shows from the inspirational Prashant Mavai and skipper Sohraab Dhaliwal. The beefy boy from Morena, Mavai, has already become the star of the tournament with his brilliant all-round show. He has flourished as a batsman, chipped in wickets and has been a safe pair of hands in the park.
In every match, Mavai has played a key role. He has scored at an average of 30 in every match, is the tournament's leading wicket-taker with nine wickets and has held three catches, and all under pressure. Jamia will be wary of him for sure.
Dhaliwal's coolness under pressure has rubbed on his teammates. His acumen never to let the opposition settle down has paid dividends. He has scored runs, provided breakthroughs and stood out with his fielding (four catches in three matches). Dhaliwal has led by example.
Jamia will have to bank on team effort. They have accomplished batsmen, with opener Amit Verma the third highest scorer of the championship with 141 runs at an average of 47. Skipper Parveen Yadav is not far behind with 114 at an average of 38. With Shivam Sharma (89), the third Jamia batsman among the top 10 of the TUCC, the home team's biggest strength will be their batting. Left-arm spinner Deepak Sharma, of course, remains Jamia's best bowling bet with five wickets in the tournament so far.
The matches at Jamia have generally been low-scoring contests. With summer setting in, the dew can be a factor late in the evening. Under the circumstances, defending a total could be a better option. And the Gwalior boys seem to have mastered this art in this tournament!