Ranji Trophy: Several gains for Kerala from its campaign

Rohan Kunnummal, Vathsal Govind and Edhen Apple Tom proved that backing young talent pays dividends as Kerala cricket, in a refreshing change, showed faith in players from age-group teams to deliver at the senior level.

Kerala opener Rohan Kunnummal has been a revelation, scoring three hundreds in four innings this season.   -  VIJAY SONEJI

Kerala lost the session that mattered most on Sunday, but there have been some significant gains for the team from the three matches it played in the league phase of the Ranji Trophy.

It indeed must have been heartbreaking for Sachin Baby and his men to miss out on a place in the quarterfinals after coming so close. It was the batting collapse shortly after Tea on the final day against Madhya Pradesh that let them down.

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The dismissals of Baby and then opener P. Rahul, who put on 187 for the third wicket, meant Kerala would lose the battle for the run quotient, which decided the group winner.

It is a pity though that the most important match in Group A had a wicket on which neither team actually was dismissed even once in four full days of play.

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The wickets for Kerala's matches against Meghalaya and Gujarat were sporting ones though. You had some memorable spells of bowling and a few splendid innings, like the three back-to-back hundreds from Rohan Kunnummal.

The opener was a revelation. A sweet timer of the ball, he is easy on the eye, and has a knack to make the scoreboard tick fast.

On the third day against Madhya Pradesh, it had looked like he might even score his fourth hundred in as many innings, but he fell short by 25 runs.

Vathsal Govind, another youngster, making a return to the Ranji side like Rohan, is a batter built in a different, more traditional mould, with his solid technique and temperament.

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It is nice that coach Tinu Yohannan and the selectors are backing young talents like them. That hasn't always been the case with Kerala cricket. Often in the past, you could see a reluctance to blood outstanding players from the age-group teams to the senior side early enough, fielding them instead only in junior tournaments.

But the decision to give a Ranj Trophy cap to teenaged seamer Edhen Apple Tom shows things are changing. He obliged too, with a Player of the Match performance on his debut, as he took a wicket with his first ball in both the innings against Meghalaya.

He is a find, no doubt. And he was included in the squad after being called in as a net bowler. Batters had told Tinu he was the most difficult bowler to face.

If Edhen announced his arrival in style, Rajkot saw Basil Thampi returning to his true form with some furious spells of quality pace bowling. The other senior seamers, M.D. Nidheesh and Manu Krishnan, also impressed. As did spinners Jalaj Saxena and Sijomon Joseph.

Rahul's two hundreds and his partnership with Rohan indicate Kerala needn't worry about the openers any longer. The batting is looking really good now; there have been eight hundreds here.

This Ranji Trophy season may be over for Kerala, but it could afford to look forward to the next one with great expectations.

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