2016-17 Ranji season: Emerging players

With the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy ending on a dramatic note, Sportstar picks five promising youngsters who made it a memorable season for themselves with consistent performances.

Rishabh Pant... If he keeps a cool head on his shoulders, he could be a household name in India in the years to come.   -  SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Prithvi Shaw… Though only 17, he showed that he has a big-match temperament.   -  R. V. Moorthy

RISHABH PANT

(Matches: 8; Innings: 12; Runs: 972; Average: 81.00; Highest score: 308; 100s: 2; 50s: 4. Catches: 24; Stumpings: 1)

Gujarat opener Priyank Panchal may have emerged as the highest run-getter of the season, but the swashbuckling Delhi batsman-wicketkeeper has unarguably been the best “impact player” in the Ranji Trophy this season. The left-hander had given a glimpse of his Sehwagesque mindset — and even the array of strokes — during the Under-19 World Cup. He carried his prowess seamlessly into the first-class arena, scoring almost a thousand runs at a strike rate of 107.28. If his record — 48-ball century against Jharkhand, the most balanced bowling unit of the season — displayed his ability to get the better of the best of bowlers, he also showed that he could play big knocks, piling on 308 against Maharashtra to nearly pull off a gargantuan chase for Delhi. Following his exploits, he has deservedly earned a call-up to India’s Twenty20 squad for the forthcoming series against England. If he keeps a cool head on his shoulders, Rishabh could soon be a household name in India in the years to come.

 

ISHAN KISHAN

(Matches: 10; Innings: 16; Runs: 799; Average: 57.07; Highest score: 273; 100s: 3; 50s: 2. Catches: 15; Stumpings: 3)

Kishan and Pant are quite similar to each other. Both are left-handed, aggressive and keep wickets. However, Kishan, the India Under-19 captain at the junior World Cup last year, is a bit more experienced than Pant when it comes to first-class cricket. In his third first-class season — his first full season — Kishan was in his elements, as he played a major part in Jharkhand’s run to the semifinals. He did not have a fixed batting slot, floating around from the opener’s position to that of a lower middle-order batsman, depending on the team’s requirement. Still, he did a commendable job by notching up consistent scores. His 273 while batting at No. 6 against Delhi obviously stole the show, as he won the battle of wicketkeeper-batsmen in the match with Pant.

READ: >Parthiv Patel's triumphant tale

KULDEEP YADAV

(Bowling — Matches: 8; Innings: 13; Wickets: 35; Average: 27.42; Best: 6-79; 5W/I: 2; 10W/M: 0.

Batting — Matches: 8; Innings: 13; Runs: 466; Average: 35.84; Highest: 117; 100s: 1; 50s: 3)

Ending the Ranji Trophy season as a team’s highest run-getter and highest wicket-taker is a rare phenomenon. That Kuldeep Yadav achieved it for Uttar Pradesh reflects the kind of effort the left-hander has been putting in. The chinaman bowler has been on the national selectors’ radar ever since he made a mark in the Under-19 cricket. Despite being in and out of the Uttar Pradesh Ranji squad for the last couple of years, he, for the first time, was given the opportunity to lead his team’s spin department. Yadav grabbed the opportunity with both hands. That he registered his personal best with the ball against eventual champion Gujarat underscores his ability to bamboozle the best of batsmen with his uncanny style of bowling. The confidence also reflected in his performance with the bat, as he ended the season on a personal high, scoring a century against Baroda in the last league encounter.

 

MOHAMMED SIRAJ

(Matches: 9; Innings: 17; Wickets: 41; Average: 18.92; Best: 5-52; 5W/I: 1; 10W/M: 0)

Until two years ago, Siraj, son of an auto-rickshaw driver in Hyderabad, had not bowled pace wearing shoes. Cut to 2017, he ended the Ranji season as the third-highest wicket-taker with an unbelievable average. Such has been his raw speed and accuracy that he, along with support from pacers M. Ravi Kiran and C. V. Milind, has been able to run through sides without conceding too many runs to help Hyderabad qualify for the knockout stage. Those who didn’t take the 22-year-old’s performance seriously, saying that his wickets had come in Group C, a relatively easy group, had to eat their words as Siraj rocked the Mumbai line-up during an exciting quarterfinal match in Raipur. His nine-wicket haul, including a five-for in the first innings, was enough to serve notice to the top teams to be prepared for a sterner test next season.

PRITHVI SHAW

(Matches: 2; Innings: 4; Runs: 239; Average: 59.75; Highest: 120; 100s: 1; 50s: 1)

He is 17, and thanks to his exploits in the schools cricket circuit, he is touted as one with the potential to uphold Mumbai’s rich legacy of great batsmanship. He is inducted into the Mumbai team for the high-pressure Ranji Trophy semifinal against Tamil Nadu after a great deal of debate amongst the selectors and the team management. And how does he respond? By hitting a match-winning 120 in the fourth innings! Less than a week later, Shaw proved that his performance in the semifinals wasn’t a fluke as he notched up Mumbai’s highest score in the first innings of the final. No doubt at such a young age, despite having an array of strokes, Shaw has been found wanting in shot selection at times. However, the fact that he has mastered virtually every stroke in the book was evident in both the innings of the final. Moreover, Shaw has also proved that he has a big-match temperament, which augurs well for Mumbai, and hopefully Indian cricket. Watch out for Shaw!