Jharkhand-Kerala set to renew rivalry

Starting 2004-’05, the two teams have battled against each other six times and Kerala holds the advantage with a 3-1 record; the remaining two matches ended in a draw.

Having topped its group, Jharkhand defeated Haryana to reach the semifinals last season.   -  M.A SRIRAM

It is the start of a new season. And as much as the rest of the other 26 teams in the fray attempting to shrug off the initial blues with a positive outcome, Kerala and Jharkhand too will be keen to have a favourable start made in this year’s Ranji Trophy.

The Kariyavattom Sports Hub, getting underway for the four-day Group B tie, is all geared up for its maiden first class encounter. It could also very well mark the revival of the rivalry between the two teams after a gap of one year.

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Starting 2004-’05, the two teams have battled against each other six times and though Kerala holds the advantage with a 3-1 record (the remaining two having ended in a draw) against its rival, this particular match is not one to be taken for granted especially after Jharkhand’s good run in the premier tournament last year.

Having topped its group, Jharkhand had then defeated Haryana to reach the semifinals where it was stopped by eventual champions Gujarat.

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Kerala, on the other hand, could only muster a poor fourth place in its pool having surprisingly shuffled its team many times between matches. The home team, now being coached by the renowned Dave Whatmore, who was drafted in more than three months ago, will look forward to improve upon this poor record, despite being left without the services of pacer Basil Thampi after his call into the India A team to play against New Zealand and Salman Nizar following his appointment as the Kerala under-23 team captain for the C.K. Nayadu Trophy.

Under these circumstances, Kerala will rely on the experience of its batting line-up led by none other than its skipper Sachin Baby, Sanju V. Samson and Rohan Prem.

Jharkhand with Varun Aaron on the lead too has a dependable batting line-up in Saurabh Tiwary, Ishank Jaggi, Virat Singh and Ishan Kishan to provide the platform for its bowlers on a virgin pitch which may turn after a couple of days. Accordingly, there should be no mistaking the fact that the toss could be crucial to both the teams in their attempt to have a head start in the new season.

Squads

Kerala (from): Sachin Baby (captain), Sanju V. Samson, Rohan Prem, Arun Karthik, Jalaj Saxena, Mohammed Azharuddin (wicket-keeper), Akshay Chandran, Nikhilesh Surendran, Sandeep Warrier, K. Monish, M.S. Nidheesh, Vinod Kumar, P. Rahul, Vishnu Vinod, K.M. Asif.

Jharkhand (from): Varun Aaron (captain), Saurabh Tiwary, Ishan Kishan(wicket-keeper), Ishank Jaggi, Sonu Kumar Singh, Ashish Kumar, Babul Kumar, Nazim Siddiqui, Virat Singh, Kaushal Singh, Sumit Kumar (wicket-keeper), Samar Quadri, Sunny Gupta, Ajay Yadav, Jaskaran Singh.