Ranji Trophy: Upbeat Assam faces Saurashtra in semis

Assam has benefited a lot from the contributions with the bat from Arun Karthik, Mohammad, Amit Verma, Pallavkumar Das and captain Gokul Sharma.

The two pillars of Assam's pace department — Krishna Das (left) and Arup Das.   -  PTI

Assam cricket is basking in glory these days. Given the short shrift by a number of champion teams in the past, the north-east state, for a pleasant change, has advanced to the Ranji Trophy semi-final in which, over the next five days, it will lock horns with Saurashtra at the Reliance Stadium here for a place in the final.

There are a handful of familiar names in the squad, who have played their part with the bat and ball, like Tamil Nadu’s Arun Karthik and Syed Mohammad and Karnataka’s Amit Verma, but it’s the genuine home-grown talent in speedsters like Krishna Das and Arup Das, who have made rewarding days possible for the side once the national championship got off the ground last October.

In his mid 20s, right-arm medium pacer Krishna has been quite a sensation, taking 47 wickets at 15.29 from nine matches and his new ball partner Arup has been equally impressive with 32 wickets from eight matches at 17.34. The third seamer Dhiraj Goswami was fielded in only half a dozen matches and his 10 wickets have taken the pace department’s tally to 89. Mohammad has lent adequate support bowling left-arm spin with 18 scalps. These four have really stood up in the absence of the injured Abu Nechim Ahmed.

Even as his charges were toiling hard and sharpening their skills at the last preparatory net session at the outer nets of the stadium on Friday, coach Narasimha Sanath Kumar — about to complete his second stint as coach with Assam — threw light on the reasons for the team having an excellent run in the tournament this season.

With rain lashing Assam for six months from May, the former Karnataka player created opportunities and tournament programmes for 20 Assam cricketers, who spent quality time in the Shafi Darashah and Buchi Babu leagues in Bangalore and Chennai, by playing friendly games against assorted Karnataka teams and also with focused net sessions.

Assam lost two matches in the league stage to Odisha and Vidarbha, but Sanath Kumar said the big achievements of the season have been taking the first innings points against Karnataka and defeating Delhi and Punjab.

“There is plenty of talent in Assam; in fact the brightest young talent there is the 14-year-old Riyan Parag. I was keen that he travelled with the team here for exposure, but it did not happen because the Assam officials wanted him to focus on the age group.”

Clearly Assam has benefited a lot from the contributions with the bat from Arun Karthik (728 runs, three 100s, two 50s), Mohammad (363 runs, one 100, one 50), Verma (388, three 50s), Pallavkumar Das (332, two 50s) and captain Gokul Sharma (356, two 50s).

Not long ago Rajasthan employing professionals like Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Aakash Chopra and Rashmi Parida won the Ranji Trophy. Assam, too, after not making much head with the likes of Mumbai’s Amol Muzumdar and Maharashtra’s Dhiraj Jadhav, has found a combination that has helped it yield good results.

“Verma, Mohammad and Karthik have mingled with the team and helped in their cricket too,” said Sanath.

Dominant Saurashtra

Saurashtra has proved to be a force in recent times with the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja lifting the profile of the team with solo contributions on many occasions. A look at this year’s chart points to a team performance under coach Sitanshu Kotak, who has impressed upon the lower order and tail to bat well and get runs for the team. Saurashtra will largely depend on the striking power of left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat and left-arm spinner Dharmendrasinh Jadeja.

The wicket prepared for some matches in the city for senior and junior tournaments has come under severe criticism, but Sanath Kumar believes the surface at the Reliance Stadium is a good wicket and that it will offer help to the seamers.

Saurashtra off-spinner Kamlesh Makvana will not be allowed to play the semi-final against Assam, after the BCCI sent out a circular. According to sources, Makvana was reported for suspect action in the league match against Delhi and the quater-final against Vidarbha. > Read the full report here .

Squads:

Saurashtra: Jaydev Shah (captain), Cheteshwar Pujara, Sheldon Jackson, Avi Barot, Sagar Jogiyani, Arpit Vasavada, Chirag Jani, Kamlesh Makwana,Jaydev Unadkat, Dharmendra Jadeja,Dipak Punia, Vandit Jivrajani, Hardik Rathod,Mohsin Dodia and Prerak Mankad.

Assam: Pallavkumar Das, Rahul Hazarika, Gokul Sharma (captain), Amit Verma, K.B.Arun Karthik, Tarjinder Singh, J. Syed Mohammad, Amit Sinha, Dhiraj Goswami, Arup Das, Krishna Das, Swarupam Purkayastha, Pritam Das, Wasiqur Rahman and Mrinmoy Datta.

Umpires: Messrs. K.Srinivasan and A.Nanda Kishore; Third: K.Srinath.

Match Referee: Narayanan Kutty.