Even before the season started, the cricketing circle was abuzz with the news of Dav Whatmore being appointed the coach of Kerala. That move, many felt, would help Kerala in the longer run. And on Tuesday, the predictions came true as the team drubbed Haryana to book a quarterfinals berth in the Ranji Trophy, for the first time.
Right from the beginning of the tournament, the side ensured that they played like fighters. That indomitable spirit actually did the side a piece of good as it managed to win five of its six games. With Sanju Samson leading from the front with the bat, and Jalaj Saxena picking up 38 wickets — Kerala players made it evident that they would not settle for anything less than a berth in the quarters.
Putting up a consistent show, the off-spinner-opening batsman, Saxena, has been a vital cog in Kerala’s wheels, and as it gears up for the knockout stage, the side would be hoping to keep the momentum going.
The defending champion played true to its reputation, qualifying for the knockout stages. The side, led by Parthiv Patel won five of its six matches and drew one.
Before this season, Gujarat brought in vastly experienced spinner Piyush Chawla from Uttar Pradesh and that worked wonders. The India discard scalped 31 wickets in five games.
This has been quite a historic season for Mumbai as it played its 500th Ranji Trophy match. It was celebrated with pomp and grandeur, with cricketers —past and present — soaking in the moment. But on field, it has not been too smooth a journey for Mumbai as it had to wait till the end to book a ticket to the quarters.
Under the leadership of Aditya Tare, Mumbai — which won the title 41 times — discovered a batting sensation in young Prithvi Shaw. He hammered three centuries to bolster the batting department. A star in the making, Shaw, shared limelight with Siddhesh Lad and Jay Bista, who too helped the side enter the knockouts.
This Karnataka is rock solid — both on paper and on the field. It has a sorted batting department, a flawless bowling department and has also got some brilliant fielders. Overall, it would certainly be a surprise if this well-oiled Karnataka side actually fails to reach the final.
While the entire team has fought brilliantly, young Mayank Agarwal has been the star of the side — picking up 1,003 runs so far. It is mainly because of him and Manish Pandey that the side has done remarkably well in the group stage.
While Agarwal has been the top performer, Pandey has also stood out scoring a century and a double century.
The team would want this pair to fire when the action gets underway in Nagpur as the side takes on Mumbai.
Before the season started, Bengal skipper Manoj Tiwary had told Sportstar that this could well be Bengal’s Ranji Trophy. That the captain was not wrong is evident by the fact that the side has stormed into the quarters, leaving behind a star-studded side like Punjab.
With young guns like Abhimanyu Easwaran, Abhishek Raman and Sudip Chatterjee in the ranks, the side has depth in the batting department. And, it bounced back in style, thanks to a five-for by Ishan Porel against Punjab.
As Bengal gears up for the Gujarat challenge at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur, it would be hoping to fire as a team.
Faiz Fazal has led from the front to ensure that Vidarbha reaches the knockout stage. With 710 runs from eight innings, the skipper hit a solid 206 against Himachal Pradesh to take his century count this year to four — one short of Mayank Agarwal’s. With a mix of young guns and old warhorses like Wasim Jaffer, the side has ensured that things go its way.
And even in the quarters, its prime target would be to keep things simple and eye a semifinal berth.
It may have picked up 21 points from six games, it still has not been the best of seasons for Madhya Pradesh. It has not been able to display its royal style on the field, and has time and again, struggled.
But then, under the able leadership of Devendra Bundela, the Madhya Pradesh side has made it to the quarters. This season has also seen the debut of Aryaman Vikram Birla, son of industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla. A good batter, Birla will be hoping to make it count, just like his team would be hoping to march on to the last-four.
This has been quite an impressive season for Delhi. With Ishant Sharma leading the side quite ably, the team has been able to strike the right chord. Gautam Gambhir struck a couple of centuries, helping the side overcome the odds and fare well. Taking lessons from last season, when seniors like Gambhir got into an ugly fight with coach K. P. Bhaskar, this time, the team management has ensured that things are in control. That has helped the side maintain cool. And ahead of the quarters, it would like to keep things that way!
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