Ranji Trophy: Flat deck awaits Gujarat, Saurashtra in battle of equals

The two potent outfits will clash for a place in the final at the Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium.

Gujarat coach Sairaj Bahutule and batsman Priyank Panchal at practice on Friday. - VIJAY SONEJI

If you are in this part of the world now, wearing sunglasses and staying hydrated is a must. After all, summers have set in and the blazing sun has ensured that the temperature soars up to nearly 36-degrees Celcius.

As the cricketers from Saurashtra and Gujarat braved the heat and hit the nets at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium on Friday morning, their idea was simple — stay focussed and keep your cool! That’s the attitude both the teams plan to have over the next five days as they lock horns in a Ranji Trophy semifinal clash.

This has been quite a fruitful season for both Gujarat and Saurashtra, and as they aim for a spot in the final of the country’s premier domestic tournament, it is important that they play to their strengths.

Coming into the game after an overwhelming victory against Goa, Gujarat looks confident under the leadership of Parthiv Patel. At home, though, Saurashtra is certainly a force to reckon with it. With its captain Jaydev Unadkat leading from the front — he has taken 55 wickets so far — the home team will be hoping to make every opportunity count.

‘Ready’

“This is our fourth semifinal in the last seven seasons and the guys are ready to step up,” Unadkat said, making it clear that his young guns have learned the trick of surviving for long, even in the absence of India internationals Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja. That, Unadkat believes, is a big boost for the team.

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On a rather flat deck, the bowling department of both the sides will be put to test, and it needs to be seen how the sides take things in their stride.

With 33 wickets in his kitty, Gujarat’s hopes are pinned on Roosh Kalaria — who also impressed with the willow in the quarterfinal against Goa — and Arzan Nagwaswalla, who has bagged 34 wickets so far. For the home team, however, it’s Unadkat, who needs to find breakthroughs.

Clash of equals

There is enough firepower on the batting front, though. If Gujarat has Bhargav Merai, who has amassed 621 runs so far, and Manprit Juneja — 449 runs — in its ranks, Saurashtra, too, has top performers in Sheldon Jackson and Arpit Vasavada. With Pujara flying to New Zealand to join the Indian team, Sheldon and Vasavada stepped up to steady the ship in the league stage. While Sheldon has 680 runs in the kitty, Vasavada isn’t far behind, with 515 runs.

Gujarat's Arzan Nagwaswalla at practice. The seamer has 34 wickets in the Ranji Trophy this season. - VIJAY SONEJI

 

However, for both the sides it will be crucial for the top-order to fire and Gujarat captain Parthiv, who struck a century in the quarterfinals, will be hoping that Priyank Panchal overcomes his lean patch.

DRS watch

The semifinals will also see the use of limited Decision Review System, a first in domestic circuit, and both the teams are looking forward to this new dynamic. With the umpiring standards drawing flak over the last few years, the BCCI has decided to try out technology, albeit with limited tools.

In high-voltage clashes like these, one wrong decision could change the course of the game and as both teams chase their dreams of reaching the final, they hope that the howlers are avoided.

It’s been three long years since Gujarat clinched its last Ranji Trophy title, whereas Saurashtra hasn’t been able to cross the ‘final’ hurdle, despite featuring in two summit clashes. With another opportunity coming its way, the home team hopes to stay on course and get third time lucky.

The teams (from)

SAURASHTRA: Jaydev Unadkat (Capt.), Harvik Desai, Snell Patel (w.k.), Avi Barot (w.k.), Vishwaraj Jadeja, Sheldon Jackson, Arpit Vasavada, Chirag Jani, Prerak Mankad, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, Kamlesh Makwana, Kishan Parmar, Samarth Vyas, Kushang Patel, Chetan Sakariya, Parth Bhut. Head coach: Karsan Ghavri.

GUJARAT: Parthiv Patel Capt., w.k.), Priyank Panchal (Vice-capt.), Samit Gohel, Bhargav Merai, Manprit Juneja, Chirag Gandhi, Roosh Kalaria, Chintan Gaja, Arzan Nagwaswalla, Siddharth Desai, Rujul Bhatt, Dhruv Raval (w.k.), Kshitij Patel, Tejas Patel. Head coach: Sairaj Bahutule.

Umpires: S. Ravi & Rohan Pandit; TV umpire: C. Shamshuddin; Match referee: Sanjai Verma.

Last three meetings

November 2018 at Nadiad: Match drawn, Saurashtra took first-innings lead

November 2017 at Rajkot: Match drawn, Saurashtra took first-innings lead

December 2014: Match drawn, Gujarat took first-innings lead

Head to head

Played: 54

Gujarat: 15

Saurashtra: 6

Drawn: 33

Match starts 9.30 a.m.

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