Last season, run-machine Cheteshwar Pujara played in only one match — he scored 93 in that game — while Ravindra Jadeja did not figure in any. The two were on national duty during the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy season. And in the absence of these two stalwarts, Saurashtra did not have the wherewithal to be competitive in the nine-team league over a period of a little over two months. The team finished seventh in its group that also had Jharkhand, Karnataka, Odisha, Delhi, Maharashtra, Vidarbha, Rajasthan and Assam. Saurashtra won two matches and lost four.
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A finalist in 2015-16, the Saurashtra selectors chose 22 players, and none other than Jaydev Shah, Sheldon Jackson, Jaydev Unadkat and Arpit Vasavada played in all the matches. With its openers not firing, the team did not find its feet to post impressive totals. Skipper Shah was the most consistent batsman, scoring 617 runs with two centuries and as many half-centuries. Jackson scored 468 for an average of 33.50.
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Saurashtra tried four opening pairs: Mohsin Dodia and Sagar Jogiyani, Avi Barot and Jogiyani, Snell Patel and Amitoz Singh and Snell Patel and Kishan Parmar, but their inability to deal with the new ball efficiently has forced the team to sign up Robin Uthappa as a professional for the 2017-18 season.
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Saurashtra will play three matches at home, and the pitch at the Khanderi Stadium, known to be a feather bed, will offer plenty of assistance to the batsmen. Saurashtra was one of the teams that did not like playing at neutral venues, so the officials in Rajkot are delighted with the BCCI’s decision to revert to the home and away format.
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Left-arm seamer Unadkat was the highest wicket-taker for Saurashtra with 24 scalps. The other prominent bowlers were seamers Shaurya Sanandia (18 wickets) and Kushang Patel (15) and left-arm spinner Dharmendrasinh Jadeja (18 wickets).
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The team, coached by Sitanshu Kotak, did not put enough runs on the board to give its bowlers the confidence. Saurashtra’s batsmen scored five centuries and 11 half-centuries and this is simply not enough to compete against quality teams in the league.
Last season: Failed to qualify for the knock-out.