Ranji Trophy offers valuable practice for Indian Test stars

Ahead of the Test series against South Africa, some of the Indian players used the Ranji Trophy matches to get into rhythm and boost their confidence.

Cheteshwar Pujara performance in the Ranji Trophy has been disappointing with scores of 10, 27, 0 and 4.   -  REUTERS

Wriddhiman Saha made the most of his chances with Bengal. His half-centuries against Karnataka and Delhi showed that he was in fine nick.   -  SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

The significance of domestic cricket has dawned on the Indian players just in time. The defeat to South Africa in the T20 and one-day series, a precursor to the Test series, with the first match beginning in Mohali on November 5, showed how inadequate India’s preparation was. However, some of the players set to play for India in the Test matches represented their respective teams in the Ranji Trophy, thereby regaining some confidence and form.

For Ravindra Jadeja, the domestic competition came as a big boon as he forced his way back into the Test team on the back of a good all-round performance that must have exceeded his own expectations. With a haul of 37 wickets in three matches — against Tripura, Jharkhand and Hyderabad — and scores of 91 (versus Tripura) and 58 (versus Jharkhand) the left-armer underlined his utility as an all-rounder. Obviously, his presence should add depth to the Indian line-up, provided, of course, he plays to his potential. After all, the difference between domestic and international cricket is huge.

Wriddhiman Saha made the most of his chances with Bengal. His half-centuries against Karnataka and Delhi showed that he was in fine nick. He had given a good account of himself in the one Test that he played in Sri Lanka before he was sidelined by an injury, which paved the way for Naman Ojha’s debut. Saha, by far, is the best wicket-keeper in the country and is looking to cement his place in the Indian team.

Cheteshwar Pujara has minor concerns. His unbeaten 145 as an opener for India in the Test against Sri Lanka was a big confidence booster for this Saurashtra batsman, but his performance in the Ranji Trophy has been disappointing with scores of 10, 27, 0 and 4.

Pujara’s performance (he made 5 and 49 not out) for Board President’s XI against South Africa in Mumbai wasn’t all that encouraging either.

“I am prepared to bat at any position,” declared Pujara, who seemed desperate to seek a spot in the playing XI.

Tamil Nadu opener Murali Vijay shaped up for the tough assignment against South Africa by playing the Ranji Trophy match against Mumbai. Though success eluded him (he scored only 8 and 29 in the match), Vijay’s place in the playing XI is certain given his past and proven record. He should open the innings with Shikhar Dhawan in the first Test in Mohali.

  K. L. Rahul is a superbly talented stroke-player from Karnataka but has been inconsistent. Scores of 2, 2, 108 and 2 against Sri Lanka in the last series hardly do justice to his potential.

One half-century in four innings, against Vidarbha and Haryana, does not speak highly of Rahul’s form but the team management is convinced he has the ability to serve the national squad long and well. The Ranji Trophy also gave the Indian fast bowlers the stage to explore their strengths and hit the rhythm before going into the Test series against South Africa.

Varun Aaron managed a five-wicket haul against Kerala even as expectations have grown around this Jharkhand bowler, who has seldom performed to his potential.

  Umesh Yadav continued to disappoint. He showed early promise of spearheading the Indian attack but his erratic spells have cost the team dear and cast doubts on Yadav’s willingness to learn and shoulder the responsibility of leading the attack.

Delhi welcomed the return of Ishant Sharma to the team. He grabbed nine wickets against Vidarbha and two against Haryana before a muscle injury forced him to miss Delhi’s third match against Bengal.

The fast bowler was at his best in Sri Lanka, but came to grief following on-field altercations with the Sri Lankans.

Ishant’s boorish behaviour against Sri Lanka was unwise. It has not only cost him a place in the team but also deprives India of an in-form bowler for the opening Test against South Africa. The one-Test ban on Ishant would hurt India badly.

The Indian team management would hope for some of these players to come good in the Test series. It would also expect Virat Kohli to strike form. The Indian captain has been a shadow of the dominant batsman that he is. His form, needless to say, is going to be critical in India’s plans to stop the confident South Africans from winning the Test series too.

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