Mumbai: Mumbai skipper Aditya Tare said the four-day Group C Ranji Trophy match against Baroda, commencing on Thursday at the Wankhede Stadium, was "special" for his team as it's the 500th tie to be played by the 41-time national champions in the tournament's long history.
"It is a special game for us. It is a great feeling to be playing the 500th Ranji Trophy game for a terrific side. It is going to be a great game for us," said Tare, who is blessed with a near-full strength team at his command with the return of Ajinkya Rahane and Shreyas Iyer from their India duties.
"We feel we are quite fortunate to be the squad that will be playing the 500th game. There has been a huge contribution right from the inception of Mumbai cricket. Fortunately it is us who are playing the 500th game. Congratulations to everyone who has been part of the Mumbai team," said Tare.
Mumbai, who finished runners-up to maiden title winners Gujarat last season, are currently lying third on the table with 10 points, while Baroda are in the fifth spot with 4 points. Both have played three matches.
"There is going to be a great vibe to the game. But, we are going to treat it as just another game of cricket, which is important for us, and we want to win it. So, we will play with positive intent and hopefully try and get maximum points from the game," said the wicketkeeper-batsman.
"We are playing at the Wankhede after a long time. It is great to be coming back to the dressing room at the home ground. Obviously with a good strength in the squad as well," he added.
Last year all matches in the championship were played at neutral venues, a format that was changed to the original home and away for this season.
"Every game from now on is important. We know that we have two teams ahead of us in the points table and we have to do the catching up," he remarked about the close race to take the top two spots in the group table. We already have five hundreds. Batting strength is good. We are in good form," said Tare.
Baroda, in contrast to Mumbai, are without the two Pathan brothers - last year's captain Irfan and his brother Yusuf. But Tare was wary of what a new-look team can do. "Baroda has always been a good team. A lot of cricketers come out of it. At the moment, they are a young team but they are always dangerous. A few unknown players, you don't know what their strength and weaknesses are," said Tare.
Deepak Hooda is leading a new-look Baroda side which does not have the two Pandya brothers too - Hardik, who completed his India duties at Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday, and left-arm spinner Krunal, who is recovering from an injury.
Neither Hooda nor chief coach Atul Bedade were willing to talk about the reasons for the Pathan brothers' absence.
"I dont know what's the reason. It's an Association (Baroda cricket body) decision," said Hooda.
"I look at it as any other game, (and) not as Mumbai's 500th. I don't follow the (league) table. It's a good wicket for fast bowlers here. The ball will move," he said.
"The coach and senior players have built the team in the side games. If you don't fall, how do you learn?" he replied when asked about the likely effect on the team of the senior players' absence.