Ranji Trophy: Why Kerala should be proud despite embarrassing loss in semi

Last year Kerala had reached the Ranji Trophy quarterfinals for the first time in its six-decade old history. A year on, it proved it was no fluke.

Kerala reached the Ranji Trophy semifinal for the first time in its history.   -  Special Arrangement

Not all dreams come true. This season, the Kerala cricket team's Ranji dream didn't. After a stunning victory in the quarterfinal over former champion Gujarat, Sachin Baby's men had begun to dream of playing the final and even lifting the trophy.

They had every right to dream big as they beat two other former champions in the league stage, where they got more wins than anybody else in the Elite Groups and had a strong bowling attack.

But Vidarbha woke them up to a harsh reality in the semifinal at the Krishnagiri Stadium in Wayanad. The minute Kerala lost the toss, its chances of an unlikely victory against the defending champion diminished considerably.

READ | Ranji Trophy: Vidarbha topples abject Kerala in under two days, reaches final

On a green-top on a cold wintry morning, batting first was going to be difficult. More so against an attack led by Umesh Yadav, who was singled out for praise by Andy Roberts. With 12 wickets, Umesh blew the host away as Kerala lost by an innings and 13 runs. But there is no shame in it.

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No fluke

It's a season that Dav Whatmore's boys can look back at with pride. Last year they had reached the quarterfinals for the first time in their six-decade old history. A year on, they proved it was no fluke.

The way they felled giants like Delhi and Bengal and ambushed Himachal Pradesh in its own backyard in a must-win game, chasing close to 300 on the final day, has shown they are no longer the easy points in the Ranji Trophy.

With seamers Sandeep Warrier (44 wickets) and Basil Thampi (36) and off-spinner Jalaj Saxena (28), they form an attack as good as any in the tournament. The same cannot be said about their batting, though.

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Need for a grafter

Vathsal Govind, who is Kerala's U-19 captain, is the highest scorer in the Cooch Behar Trophy and could be one of the answers to Kerala's batting line-up.   -  Special Arrangement

 

Whatmore's ploy to shuffle the personnel as well their order may have worked most of the time, but they need a batsman or two at the top of the order who can anchor the ship when the sailing gets tough. Vathsal Govind, Kerala's Under-19 captain who is the highest scorer in the Cooch Behar Trophy with 1,130 runs, could be one of the answers. Not because he scores at an average of 125.66, but more because of his strike rate of 54.58. In a team packed with stroke-makers, what Kerala needs is a grafter.

He needs to be given more chances than the one match he played this season. Perhaps there is no harm either in looking for a dependable, experienced batsmen from outside Kerala. Wasim Jaffer's transformation of the Vidarbha side is a lesson.

However, Kerala's transformation from a team whose most members wanted their captain to be removed to a spirited one for which a player – Sanju Samson – came out to bat with a broken finger, has probably been the story of this Ranji Trophy season.

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