But such parallels across sports — if entertainment wrestling is at all a sport, that is — can rarely be exact. In this case, the Hogans, 39-time champions Mumbai, are as much the punks. They are young, agile, without their ageing stars and led by the effervescent Rohit Sharma.
With Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan and Ajinkya Rahane returning to the Test camp, Ajit Agarkar injured and Wasim Jaffer yet to return from Haj, Rohit will lead Mumbai in a Ranji Trophy game for the first time. And he will have with him a group of happy-go-lucky performers in Abhishek Nayar, Kshemal Waigankar, Dhawal Kulkarni and Prashant Naik — all mates of Rohit's from his age-group days. This bunch, unlike Hogan, have their best ahead of them.
Rajasthan aren't out-and-out 'Punk' either. They are a recent phenomenon, but, led by a 38-year-old Hrishikesh Kanitkar, also have the appearance of an ageing champion. Their most consistent performers include Kanitkar, fellow outstation pro Rashmi Ranjan Parida, opener Vineet Saxena and the unflagging Pankaj Singh, all of whom have been around for a while. They are more Mumbai — the true veterans who have mastered the art of winning the title — than Mumbai themselves.
Had this been the Madison Square Garden, ring announcers would have purred at the pre-fight weigh ins, calling out the achievements of the challenger and champion with modular changes to their vocal cords. This, however, is the Ranji Trophy and this is the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, which a day before the big clash welcomes you with a banner that reads: "Home of the Rajasthan Royals, 2008 IPL champions."
Hrishikesh Kanitkar does not have the flamboyance of Shane Warne or the following of a WWE wrestler. But with a few good men in whites, the Rajasthan skipper managed to do what Warne's Royals did once and the villanous heel-men in tights do every Monday night — pull off the most unbelievable storylines.
They climbed a rung to win the trophy a couple of seasons ago and proved it was no fluke by doing it all over again last year. Now the Sawai Mansingh, fast becoming a fortress, will host an early bragging rights contest between Kanitkar's defending champions and the biggest name in the Ranji Trophy. And it was right here, against the same opponents, that Rajasthan really came of age.
Back in 2010, when Rajasthan rose from Plate and booked themselves a quarter-final spot with the Elite, few gave them a chance. Especially against Mumbai. But that's when Kanitkar brought out his steel chair from under the ring — Pankaj Singh. The paceman's spell of 6/64 reduced Mumbai to 252 and Rajasthan won on the basis of their first-innings lead.
"He puts in the same effort every time he walks out in Rajasthan's whites," says Kanitkar. It shows, considering Pankaj has finished with 43 and 34 wickets respectively in Rajasthan's last two seasons. And he's already leading the wicket charts this season, with nine wickets against Bengal in the opener.
So what is it about the Pankaj factor that threatens to damage Mumbai's reputation again? "His height is his biggest advantage. Plus, the bounce he extracts from the wicket, coupled with his movement, is a deadly combination," says Kanitkar. "Enough to trouble any batsman."
Two years ago, Rohit was one of the six batsmen Pankaj dismissed on that frenetic opening day. He's back at Sawai Mansingh, leading a group of men, the majority of whom know of Mumbai's decorated past but weren't part of it.