Even in the times of slam-bang cricket, Ranji Trophy stands out because, for most of the players, this remains a springboard to the national team.
In the first leg of the tournament, which got over on Sunday, nine players — who are part of India A squad for four-day games in New Zealand — featured for their respective state teams. While all of them had a point to prove before flying out to the Kiwi land, all the nine players also were keen on getting into the groove.
But then, not all of them did have outings to remember.
Of course, the conditions will be different in New Zealand and it being a three-match series, opportunities will come their way, but if the first-leg of Ranji Trophy is anything to go by, then it is time for them to pull the socks up. While top batsmen like Murali Vijay and Hanuma Vihari featured in the first round, the four strike bowlers — Navdeep Saini, Rajneesh Gurbani, Deepak Chahar and Mohammad Siraj — were asked by the national selectors to skip the first game keeping the workload in mind.
READ: Never went to play county to get back into the Indian team, says Vijay
But, how did the four days pan out for the nine guys who donned the whites?
Tamil Nadu had fielded a strong side and had Murali Vijay as its opener against Madhya Pradesh. But, the India international faltered as he could pick up only 13 runs in Dindigul. While the match was interrupted by rain, Vijay could not convert it into a big score. It was a similar story for his state-mate, Vijay Shankar. The all-rounder scalped a wicket, giving away 51 runs and contributed 17 runs with the willow.
For Andhra boys, Hanuma Vihari and K.S. Bharat too, the first leg was a mixed outing. While Vihari could score only 19 runs and went wicketless, stumper-batsman Bharat played a knock of 76 against and took a couple of catches against Punjab in Visakhapatnam.
Youngster Shubman Gill, however, impressed in the same match, albeit for Punjab. The member of India’s U-19 World Cup winning team, Gill played a knock of 56 in the first innings, followed by a 54 in the second innings. The youngster played to his strength and gave some tough times to the Andhra bowlers.
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Elsewhere, a seasoned campaigner, Parthiv Patel, took three of catches and was involved in a stumping against Baroda in Vadodara. The Gujarat captain also contributed 25 runs. Interestingly, Patel has also been named in the India squad for the Test series against Australia and he would be hoping to get into shape in New Zealand.
Bengal’s Abhimanyu Easwaran has been a consistent performer for a few seasons now and is considered one of the major prospects of Indian cricket. But, the batsman could only pick up 97 runs in two innings — 21 in the first, 76 in the second — against Himachal Pradesh.
Maharashtra captain, Ankit Bawne, had a disappointing game as he could only score four runs against defending champion, Vidarbha, in Pune. The skipper, however, would be happy as his team got three points — thanks to a first innings lead.
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If most of the players had quite an average outing, Jharkhand’s Ishan Kishan let the willow do the talking, picking up 138 runs and also took a couple of catches. The young stumper-batsman, who is considered one of the promising talents, was dismissed for 18 in the first innings against Assam. But, he came back strong to play a knock of 120 in the next innings.
While these are still early days in the Ranji Trophy, it needs to be seen how the New Zealand-bound men shrug off the disappointments to impress in the faraway land.
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