Ranji Trophy: Maharashtra, Vidarbha to fight for knockout stage

Maharashtra, Vidarbha require to keep winning from here to keep alive their hopes of making it to the knockout stage. Needless to say, each of them will be keen to grab maximum points from their meeting at the Eden Gardens starting from Sunday.

Known for handling pressure situations well, Jadhav, who will captain Maharashtra, will have to lead from the front.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

Hailing from one state, Maharashtra and Vidarbha are in the same boat. Yet to register a win, both sides have seven points apiece from four outings so far and are placed among the lower rung teams in Group B of the Ranji Trophy.

With their back to the wall at the half-way stage, the two require to keep winning from here to keep alive their hopes of making it to the knockout stage. Needless to say, each of them will be keen to grab maximum points from their meeting at the Eden Gardens starting from Sunday.

Despite the record breaking batting performance of Swapnil Gugale and Ankit Bawne against Delhi, Maharashtra has not been consistent with its showing. Its bowling has contributed lesser than its batting and Maharashtra will want its bowlers to raise its performance against Vidarbha.

The big boost for the side though is the return of its top batsman, Kedar Jadhav, following his National duty in the one-day series against New Zealand. Known for handling pressure situations well, Jadhav, who will captain the side, will have to lead from the front. “I am happy to be back to serve Maharashtra. We are in a difficult situation and need to win the forthcoming matches,” said Jadhav.

Pacer Nikit Dhumal’s comeback and the inclusion of promising youngster Pradeep Dadhe in place of an out-of-form Samad Fallah may provide some strength to the attack, led by pace ace Anupam Sanklecha and left-arm spinner Akshay Darekar.

Vidarbha took a little different course while gathering its seven points. It produced some good performances against Assam and Odisha but could not garner outright wins due to roadblocks posed by rain.

Vidarbha will give its best to make its batting, comprising experienced campaigners such as captain Faiz Fazal and Ganesh Satish, a little more consistent. The return of Salabh Srivastava, who was out due to dengue after the first match, will bolster the batting.

All-rounder Shrikant Wagh provides good balance to the team. His pace partner Lalit Yadav and off-spinner Akshay Wakhare will share his workload. Leg-spinner Azhar Shaikh, who replaced Aditya Sarwate, will be eager to get a chance to prove his utility.

“We played well but were unlucky not to get wins in two matches. We need to gather some points here to move ahead,” said Fazal. With forecast of pleasant days ahead, the re-laid Eden Gardens pitch, which has tested the skill and character of players so far, should stage an intense contest.

The teams:

Maharashtra: Kedar Jadhav (captain), Swapnil Gugale, Harshad Khadiwale, Ankit Bawne, Rahul Tripathi, Chirag Khurana, Vishant More (wk), Akshay Darekar, Mohsin Sayyad, Nikit Dhumal, Murtaza Trunkwala, Taranjeet Singh Dhillon, Prayag Bhati, Anupam Sanklecha, Naushad Shaikh, Pradeep Dadhe.

Vidarbha: Faiz Fazal (captain), Sanjay Ramaswamy, Ganesh Satish, Aditya Shanware, Ravi Jangid, Jitesh Sharma (wk), Akshay Kolhar, Shrikant Wagh, Lalit Yadav, Akshay Wakhare, Ravikumar Thakur, Rajneesh Gurbani, Akshay Karnewar, Salabh Shrivastava, Azhar Shaikh.