Former captain urges Kerala to play fearless cricket in knockouts

The former Kerala captain and first-class umpire outlined the makings of the State side’s Ranji Trophy success this season, and commented on its quarterfinal challenge.

Kerala has “one of the best medium-pace attacks in the country,” according to Ananthan.   -  V. V. Subrahmanyam

Former Kerala captain and first-class umpire K. N. Ananthapadmanabhan knows how it is to be in the exclusive league. He has the unique distinction of the being part of the Kerala teams that had qualified for the second stage of Ranji Trophy competitions on three occasions before Sachin Baby’s boys made it into the quarterfinals this season.

Fresh from officiating in the Saurashtra-Rajasthan Ranji match in Jaipur, Ananthan, as he known in cricket circles, pointed out the makings of the State side’s success. He said the current team was finely balanced and a good fielding side which deserved to be in the quarterfinals.

Read: Kerala scripts history, makes it to quarters for the first time

“We qualified from a tough group which had two former Ranji champions. Though the pattern of win in the first three matches were scripted by spinners our medium pacers came good when it mattered. We have one of the best medium-pace attacks in the country with three bowlers capable of touching the mid to late 130km mark. Sanju has been an impact player this season while Rohan Prem and Jalaj Saxena were consistent. The good thing is that we had contributions from all players this season. I think at this level what a coach can do is to tell the players his specific role and motivate them and Dav Whatmore was pretty good at that. I should also congratulate the KCA selectors for picking a good team for this season.”

Bat first, bat big

Ananthan advised the team to play carefree and fearless cricket in the quarterfinals against Vidarbha which too has had an outstanding season in the Ranji Trophy.

Read: How eight teams ticked the right boxes

“Look, we have achieved our primary goal but we mustn’t relax against Vidarbha. The players should push themselves hard and play beyond their potential. Vidarbha has been one of the consistent batting sides this season. They have piled over 400 runs in most of their matches. Their top four batsmen, including professional Wasim Jaffer, are among runs. Our bowlers should try to look for taking early wickets and restrict them. I have played and officiated on the wicket in Surat and it is a flat track which helps spinners in the later stages. So if we are batting first we should try to pile up a good total and put pressure on the opposition. The key is doing well in the first innings and if we bat poorly we will be doing the catch up for rest of the match,” he said.

Read - Ranji Trophy quarterfinals: Captains exude confidence

Terming the qualification for the quarterfinals as only a small step toward the bigger goals, Ananthan wanted the team to be consistent and carry on the momentum in the coming season. “What we lacked in the past was consistency. We are entering the second stage after 15 years. We must make it count. Only if Kerala do well in the knockouts do our players get attention of the selectors. Look at Gujarat which became champion last year and suddenly you see a revival in the career of Axar Patel and Parthiv Patel, not to speak of Bumrah. If we want Kerala players to be noticed they should do consistently well in Ranji Trophy,” he added.