Ranji Trophy Plate Group - Nine teams ready for biggest challenge yet

Bihar is the only team which has prior experience of playing in a Ranji Trophy. The other eight teams — Sikkim, Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal, Mizoram, Nagaland, Puducherry and Uttarakhand — have their task cut out.

At a time when slam-bang cricket rules the roost, Ranji Trophy — the country’s premier four-day tournament — stands out for obvious reasons. It helps a cricketer to test his skill and patience in the longer version and gives the team a reality check.

The tournament will see nine new teams entering the arena in the Plate Group. Of the nine entrants, Bihar is the only team which has prior experience of playing in a Ranji Trophy, before its suspension some 18 years ago. The other eight teams — Sikkim, Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal, Mizoram, Nagaland, Puducherry and Uttarakhand — have their task cut out. While all the states have opted for three professional guest players, who come in with enough experience, it would be interesting to see how the home-grown talents deal with the situation.

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Most of these players have played the Vijay Hazare Trophy, which concluded earlier this month, and has got a hang of things. But then, the four-day format is completely different and faring well here would be a challenge.

FIRST ROUND FIXTURES (Nov 1-4)
In Kolkata: Sikkim vs Manipur
In Shillong: Meghalaya vs Arunachal
In Dimapur: Nagaland vs Mizoram
In Dehradun: Bihar vs Uttarakhand

 

Bihar, which has named India discard Pragyan Ojha as its skipper, had a remarkable outing in the Vijay Hazare, reaching the quarterfinals. And in Ranji Trophy too, the side will have plenty to look forward to.  While the experience of Ojha will help in getting the balance right, top-order batsmen Keshav Kumar and Babul Kumar will need to carry forward their rhythm to the four-day format. And if the batting clicks, then the team can actually dream big. The bowling department is heavily dependent on Ojha and Samar Quadri — who had a successful outing in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.

Coached by former India international Subroto Banerjee, Bihar will be hoping to get off to a good start against Uttarakhand — which is also a strong side.

Led by its seasoned campaigner Rajat Bhatia, the Uttarakhand side can actually put up a strong challenge in the Plate group. The side has Vineet Saxena as one of its professional players in the longer format. In the longer format, the Rajasthan batting ace will definitely be the man to watch out for.  Saxena has the ability to anchor the innings and guide the team to put up a big total. And that’s something Uttarakhand would want from him.

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Karanveer Kaushal, who became the first Indian batsman to slam a double-century in a domestic List A fixture during the Vijay Hazare Trophy, will also be a key player for Uttarakhand in the Ranji Trophy, but it needs to be seen how the youngster adapts to the format.

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Just like Bihar and Uttarakhand, Puducherry too have a strong line of professional guest players in Abhishek Nayar, Pankaj Singh and Paras Dogra. The team, which saw eight of its players being banned by the BCCI during the Vijay Hazare Trophy, has a tough task to regroup for the longer format, but with enough seasoned players in the ranks, the Rohit Damodaran-led side will be hoping for the lady luck to smile on it.

Even the six teams from Northeast have everything to play for.

While Shillong and Dimapur will be hosting the first round of home matches, Manipur and Sikkim will lock horns at a neutral venue (Kolkata). The teams from the Northeast have fought hard to come this far and they will be hoping to make it count.

Meghalaya has brought in three professionals — Punit Bisht, Gurinder Singh and Yogesh Nagar. With all of them having huge experience, Meghalaya can be expected to put on a good show.

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Sikkim, which relied on home-grown talents in the one-dayers, has roped in Bipul Sharma, Ishwar Choudhury and Milind Kumar to ensure that the performance of the side improves in the longer format.

Arunachal Pradesh will rely on homegrown batting talents like Techi Doria to fire. The side also has Samarth Seth and Kshtiz Sharma as professional players.

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Manipur has brought in domestic cricket stalwart Yashpal Singh and the team will be hoping for him to guide the side in the long season.

With Hokaito Zhimomi, captain Rongsen Jonathan and KB Pawan in the side, Nagaland has had a good outing in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and will hope to repeat it in the longer format.

With dreams to chase, the nine new teams are up for the challenge.

Players to watch out for

 

Pragyan Ojha (Bihar): The India international has the experience and expertise to contribute and he will be hoping to lead the side from the front. An ace spinner, Ojha will bolster the bowling attack.

 

Abhishek Nayar (Puducherry): The Mumbai-based cricketer has moved base this season and will be playing a key role in strengthening the batting for the team.

 

Bipul Sharma (Sikkim): Sharma is a utility player and Sikkim can gain from the all-rounder's experience in IPL and state side Himachal Pradesh to help tackle the long format.

 

Karanveer Kaushal (Uttarakhand): The youngster became the first Indian batsman to slam a double-century in a domestic List A fixture during the Vijay Hazare Trophy. And he will be hoping to repeat it in the longer format.

 

Techi Doria (Arunachal): Doria, more popular for his dreadlocks than batting, became the first cricketer from the state to hammer a hundred. The youngster will be hoping to keep it going in Ranji as well.