Ranji Trophy: Kerala aims for its first outright win

Kerala, placed fifth with 16 points despite securing five first innings leads, is desperately trying to catch up with higher ranked sides in Group 'C'.

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Kerala's batting is dependent on Rohan Prem, Sachin Baby and in-form youngsters such as Salman Nizar and Mohammed Azharuddeen.   -  Special Arrangement

Kerala, with six draws so far, has played the highest number of drawn matches across three groups in the current Ranji Trophy season. Besides, it is yet to record an outright win and stands far away from its coveted dream of making it to the knockout stage.

In the hindsight, the first two matches of the season set the tone of Kerala's hapless journey. The rain-affected opening encounter against Jammu & Kashmir prevented Kerala from grabbing seven points in Kalyani at West Bengal, while a below par performance against Himachal Pradesh brought the side its only loss at Kolkata.

Now, Kerala, placed fifth with 16 points despite securing five first innings leads, is desperately trying to catch up with higher ranked sides in Group 'C'. It needs to win its last two engagements in order to be in contention for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Ahead of its match against Tripura at the Barabati Stadium here from Tuesday, Kerala, which changed its coach and replaced some players with younger ones, is hoping to give its best. “Taking 20 wickets is important, we need to work on that. In batting, we are losing three-four wickets in quick succession. We must curb this; then only we can win,” said Kerala captain Rohan Prem.

Kerala's batting is dependent on Rohan, Sachin Baby and in-form youngsters such as Salman Nizar and Mohammed Azharuddeen. It will also expect its professionals, including Jalaj Saxena and Bhavin Thakkar, to contribute significantly. Sanju Samson has been rested for this match.

Kerala's bowling is likely to be led by pacers Sandeep Warrier and Basil Thampi. They will look for some assistance from the spin department, headed by Iqbal Abdullah and Monish K.

Tripura – which is slotted seventh with 13 points from six outings, including one victory, two defeats and three draws – is also optimistic. “One of our matches in Delhi was suspended due to smog and perhaps we lost momentum due to the 12-15 days gap. Now we are regrouping as a team and hope to get back our momentum,” said Tripura skipper Mani Sankar Murasingh.

Seamers Murasingh and Rana Datta and left-arm spinner Gurinder Singh have performed consistently to help Tripura. In batting, the team relies on its highest run-getter Bishal Ghosh and his top-order mates Udiyan Bose and Smit Patel.

The opposing captains agreed that the track with a green tinge might help the seamers early on even while looking promising for the batsmen.

Squads:

Kerala: Rohan Prem (capt.), Sachin Baby, Sanju Samson (wk), Bhavin Thakkar, Iqbal Abdullah, Monish K., Basil Thampi, Sandeep Warrier, Fabid Farook Ahmed, Salman Nizar, Mohammed Azharuddeen (wk), Akshay Chandran, Akshay K.C., Vishnu Vinod, Vinod Kumar C.V., Athif Bin Ashraf and Jalaj Saxena.

Tripura: Mani Sankar Murasingh (capt.), Bishal Ghosh, Udiyan Bose, Smit Patel (wk), Nirupam Sen Choudhury (vice-captain), Rana Datta, Yashpal Singh, Gurinder Singh, Rajat Dey, Banty Roy, Abhijit Dey, Aniruddha Saha, Chiranjit Paul, Sanjoy Majumder and Ajay Sarkar.