New Delhi: In the fitness of things, the teams that will clash in the final of the Toyota University Cricket Championship on Sunday have been unbeaten in the tournament so far. Kent RO Northern Stars Jamia Millia Islamia lock horns with Southern Champs Jain University, Bengaluru, both teams wanting to keep their four-match winning streak intact, one last time!
Jain University, Bengaluru have looked the most accomplished side in the tournament so far. The manner in which they defended a low total (145/6) against a top team like Mumbai University at the Brabourne Stadium on Friday night speaks volumes about the team's ability to keep its nerves intact on big days. It was the almost perfect team game the Southern Champs could have asked for as their slow bowlers bowled extremely tidy spells and the fielding was spotless.
Jamia, by contrast, are a team high on adrenaline and with thousands in the stands and even treetops to cheer them up, the Delhi boys are living a dream. Jamia topped group B, having beaten two fancied teams like Mumbai (tournament opener on February 23) and Madras en route to the semifinals. The route to the final, however, was a no contest with the Jiwaji University, Gwalior boys caught by stage-fright in their first big game under floodlights. Jamia won by 10 wickets after packing the Gwalior boys off for a paltry 61, the lowest team total in the championship.
But Sunday's final will be a test of skill and mental stamina. Bengaluru have the professional acumen with at least four players playing for the Karnataka state teams at various age levels. Plus, being the all-India Rohinton Baria champions, they have a solid reputation to defend. Plus, with a captain who leads by example, Kaunain Abbas will be hoping to finish as the Man of the Series. He is the TUCC's leading run-getter with 280 runs.
The Jamia Sports complex has generally seen low scores and the final could turn out to be a contest between the slow bowlers of the two teams. The Delhi boys have two of the best bowlers in the competition - left-arm spinner Deepak Sharma, the leading wicket-taker with nine scalps and seamer Abhay Negi (seven wickets).
But from an overall perspective, Bengaluru have the best slow bowlers in the championship with plenty of variety in leg-spinners Shreyas Gopal and Shashindra, left-arm spinner Suchith Jagadeesh and off-spinners Samarth Ravi Kumar and Abdul Majid. In many ways, Bengaluru look a more balanced side with depth in batting and bowling. Their fielding too has been top class.
Jamia may be the underdogs on Sunday, but the Northern Stars are twinkling every day. They have batsmen who can give the ball a thud. Amit Verma will look to carry his good form into the final. The Rahul Dravid look alike, has scored 155 runs in the tournament so far at an average of 52. Verma will remain Jamia's best bet in batting along with the hard-hitting Shivam Sharma, who has a batting average of 132!