Kerala, Vidarbha battle weather ahead of each other

The dire situation caused by the cyclonic conditions has turned out to be a dampener; so much so that the two teams will take the field on Thursday without a proper net session on Wednesday. There are 30 nets at the sprawling venue here, but none could be used because of a wet surface.

(From left) Kerala bowling coach Tinu Yohannan, coach Dav Whatmore, captain Sachin Baby and batsman Rohan Prem.   -  P.K. Ajith Kumar

Kerala, a first-time entrant into the knock-outs and Vidarbha would have hoped for an ideal preparation before the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal to be played at the Lalbhai Contractor cricket stadium over the next five days. But the dire situation caused by the cyclonic conditions has turned out to be a dampener; so much so that the two teams will take the field on Thursday without a proper net session on Wednesday.

There are 30 nets at the sprawling venue here, but none could be used because of a wet surface. After arriving here, Kerala was lucky to get one training and practice session on Tuesday. Vidarbha coach Chandrakant Pandit said his team practised in Nagpur from December 1 to 3 but admitted that there was nothing like getting some net practice at the venue itself.

READ: It’s great being part of this team, says Kerala's Rohan Prem

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in a way could be faulted for scheduling the crucial match in the diamond city overlooking of the election date to the Gujarat State Assembly. Surat and its neighbourhood is to vote on December 9.

But now, it is all too late to even to discuss this aspect, but still it was a pity to witness the struggles undergone by Kerala and Vidarbha on the eve of the match. Vidharbha was left fending for itself by going through the motions in a make-shift indoor facility — made out of the car parking area of the Surat District Cricket Association — while Kerala showed a bit more enterprise getting some last-minute practice within the rain-soaked playing arena itself.

Two opinions, as always, remain on the nature of the pitch, which was uncovered for the first time in three days for the benefit of the umpires and the match referee this morning. Whilst some believe that the turf will remain flat and benefit the batsmen of either side, others remain steadfast that there will be a definite result, as the grass even though shaved a bit prior to the start of the encounter, can be well prove to a bowler’s paradise citing the two positive results which champions Gujarat earned early this season.

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On paper, it should be seen that Vidarbha under Faiz Fazal, holds a slight edge over its opponent given the smooth sailing it had in the league phase prior to topping Group D, backed as it were by some solid batting display by the skipper himself, fellow-opener R.Sanjay, Wasim Jaffer and Ganesh Satish besides the consistent support extended by its bowlers, off-spinner, Akshay Wakhare, left-arm spinner, Aditya Sarwate and medium pacers Rajneesh Gurbani and Lalit Yadav to the team’s cause all through.

Vidarbha besides, also holds the trump card, of possessing the inside knowledge of the Kerala team that was coached by Pandit in the 2014-15 season. It was during his tenure that almost the current senior players  were blooded in at this level.

On the other hand, it will be a mistake to write off Kerala, still fresh from its five wins through the preliminary chapter of the newly-formed seven-team league prior to entering this unexplored territory. In all-rounder Jalaj Saxena, Kerala boasts of the leading wicket-taker of the tournament and not to the forget the inimitable Sanju V. Samson and Basil Thampi, the latest entrant from the State to make it to the National squad, being selected for the upcoming Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka later this month.

The team which has been moulded well by the experienced and crafty Dav Whatmore has been the surprise packet of the ongoing championship and given the role played well by its bits and pieces men all along should also be counting on its chances to progress further, displaying the confidence, in the event of the match going through in full steam.

Of course, the toss also is another factor which could play a vital role in the outcome before a semifinalist is spotted.

Teams (from):

Kerala: Sachin Baby (captain), Sanju V. Samson, K.B. Arun Karthick, Jalaj Saxena, Rohan Prem, Mohammed Azharuddeen, Salman Nizar, Basil Thampi, Sandeep Warrier, M. D. Nidheesh, C.V. Vinod Kumar, Sijomon Joseph, Vishnu Vinod, Fabid Farooque Ahmed and K.M. Asif.

Vidarbha: Faiz Fazal (captain), Ganesh Satish, Rajneesh Gurbani, Wasim Jaffer, Akshay Karnewar, Lalit Yadav, Siddhesh Neral, Sanjay Ramaswamy, Aditya Sarwate, Akshay Wakhare, Apoorv Wankhade, Siddhesh Wath, Shalabh Shrivastava, Akshay Wadkar and Shubham Kapse.

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