Ranji Trophy: Batting, a cause of concern for Kerala

Bowlers have delivered consistently this Ranji season.

Kerala's bowling has been a revelation this season but its the batting that has proved to be a thorn in the flesh.   -  special arrangement

Bowlers win matches, yes. But, batsmen have to give them some runs to bowl at.

Kerala is finding that out this Ranji season. Its chances of qualifying for the knock-out have slimmed down, following the 10-wicket loss to Punjab here on Tuesday. Not only does it have to win its last match against Himachal Pradesh, but also hope for favourable results in other fixtures as well.

Potent bowling attack

It was among the top contenders till recently though, thanks to its stunning victories over former champions Delhi and Bengal. In a season which has seen giants like Mumbai and Tamil Nadu stutter, Kerala - it made it to its maiden quarterfinals last year - has done well to keep its reputation intact.

Coach Dav Whatmore and skipper Sachin Baby deserve credit for that, and as do pacers Sandeep Warrier, Basil Thampi and off-spinner Jalaj Saxena. Warrier and Saxena have taken 28 wickets each and have had five five-wicket hauls between them.

Thampi has 21 wickets. Together, they have forged one of the most potent attacks in the competition.

Batting woes

Jalaj has also topped Kerala’s batting charts with 479 runs at an average of 43.54, and is the only batsman in the team to cross the 400-run mark. The next highest scorer is Sachin Baby, who has 360 runs. The only other player to score more than 300 is Vishnu Vinod.

Vinod had made an astounding 193 not out, coming in at No. 8, against Madhya Pradesh and batted sensibly in both innings here, too. The only man to outscore him was Mohammed Azharuddeen, whose maiden hundred underlined his obvious talent.

The 24-year-old is a strokemaker of quality and needs to be persisted with. If he shows some restraint when required, like he did here, he could solve one of Kerala’s several problems at the top of the order.

Opener P. Rahul has made good use of the limited opportunities that have come his way, but his partner Arun Karthik has been a disappointment (200 at 20) and so has Kerala’s most gifted cricketer, Sanju Samson (215 at 21.5).

That none of Kerala’s batsmen are in the list of the top-50 run-getters alone tell a troubling tale about its batting. That has, of course, something to do with the square turners or the seamer-friendly tracks that they have played most of their matches on.

But, if you want to make progress as a team, you need batsmen who can deliver in all conditions.