2015-16 Ranji Trophy: Batsmen who ruled the roost

The batsmen who excelled in the 2015-16 Ranji season. Here’s Sportstar’s pick.

Shreyas Iyer played a pivotal role in a relatively young Mumbai side winning the Ranji Trophy for the 41st time.   -  V. GANESAN

Arun Karthick, in his second season with Assam, was so consistent with the willow that he virtually single-handedly led his team’s batting department in the league stage.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

Shreyas Iyer (Mumbai Cricket Association)

Second-season blues. That is one of the most common phenomena with rookie cricketers, especially in Indian domestic cricket. A newbie — a bowler or a batsman — who excels in his maiden first class season, is invariably sorted out by the opposition in his next and he fails to match his exploits of the first season.

Shreyas Iyer, however, is an exception. If his tally of 809 runs in his maiden Ranji season (2014-15) was an outstanding feat, the stylish middle-order batsman bettered it by a few notches, shattering a plethora of records in the process. More importantly, he played a pivotal role in a relatively young Mumbai side winning the Ranji Trophy for the 41st time.

During his match-winning 117 against Saurashtra in the final, Iyer became Mumbai’s highest run-getter in a season, eclipsing Wasim Jaffer’s tally of 1260 runs in 2008-09. He, however, fell 94 runs short of the overall record of 1415, scored by V. V. S. Laxman in 1999-2000.

What made Iyer’s feat stupendous was the audacity with which he batted throughout the season. His strike rate of 92.70 sounds too good to be true in the longer version but Iyer made it happen right from the first game of the season. The fact that two of his four hundred-plus innings, including a double, were scored at more than a-run-a-ball elucidates the manner in which he toyed with the opposition.

The 21-year-old cool dude will now be hoping to carry his form in the Ranji Trophy into the off-season assignments for India A, something that he failed to do last year.

Season stats — Matches: 11; Innings: 18; Runs: 1321; Highest score: 200; Average: 73.38; 100s: 4; 50s: 7.

K. B. Arun Karthick (Assam Cricket Association)

No doubt, Krishna Das and Arup Das, with 50 and 35 scalps respectively, were the chief architects of Assam emerging as giant killer and storming into the semi-finals of the Ranji Trophy. Had it not been for their import from southern India, the dazzling display of Das & Das would perhaps not have helped the team’s cause as much as it eventually did.

Arun Karthick, in his second season with the eastern minnow, was so consistent with the willow that he virtually single-handedly led his team’s batting department in the league stage. That he came good against the toughest of opponents and bowling attacks — domestic powerhouse Delhi, defending champion Karnataka and Rajasthan with a well-oiled pace attack — made his contribution all the more important.

Karthick couldn’t really carry his league stage form into the knockouts, tallying just 79 runs in two games. However, his job was well and truly done by then.

While Karthick has proved that Assam’s gain is Tamil Nadu’s loss, if he can continue in the same vein in the coming season, only then can he hope to go a notch higher and hope to be considered for India A outings.

Season stats — Matches: 10; Innings: 19; Runs: 802; Highest score: 151; Average: 47.17; 100s: 3; 50s: 3.

Akhil Herwadkar (Mumbai Cricket Association)

 

He may have made his first class debut four years earlier, but Akhil Herwadkar was for the first time given the opportunity to start the season as Mumbai’s specialist opening batsman. And he grabbed the opportunity with both hands, ending the season as the second-highest run-getter in the tournament.

The left-handed batsman started the season well but failed to convert any of his first four starts into a significant contribution. That had left him in danger of missing out on playing his first full season. He silenced his critics in a remarkable manner though, scoring 67, 58, 58, 145 and 75 in his next five outings.

Herwadkar’s consistency at the top of the order should also be admired for the fact that he delivered despite missing out on a regular opening partner. Mumbai tried as many as six players at the other end but none of them matched Herwadkar’s consistency.

The only blemish in an otherwise outstanding season for Herwadkar was the ducks in his last two outings, one each in the semi-final and the final. However, they were among only three of his single-digit scores throughout the season and should not take away from the four months in which Herwadkar has risen in stature.

The 21-year-old, who moved from Kolhapur, a western Maharashtra city, to Mumbai for making his mark in cricket, is surely one to watch out for in the coming years.

Season stats — Matches: 11; Innings: 18; Runs: 879; Highest score: 192; Average: 48.87; 100s: 3; 50s: 4.