Ranji Trophy 2019-20: Gujarat challenge for struggling Kerala

No clarity on Jasprit Bumrah's availability as a confident Gujarat takes on Kerala in a Ranji Trophy Group A fixture.

Battle-ready: Assistant coach Sony Cheruvathur, captain Sachin Baby, bowlers K.M. Asif, Sandeep Warrier and S. Monish at the Lalbhai Contractor Stadium on Tuesday.   -  P.K. Ajith Kumar

On a warm, humid Tuesday morning here at the Lalbhai Contractor Stadium, Piyush Chawla sported a big smile as he joined his mates at the nets.

The leg-spinner has every reason to be pleased these days after emerging as the costliest Indian at the IPL auction in Kolkata last week. The entire Gujarat team could afford to be relaxed on the eve of the Group A match against Kerala.

Raring to go

It had won its opening match at Hyderabad, and is raring to go for its first home match of the season, after enjoying a break of a fortnight.

For Kerala, the past couple of weeks haven’t been particularly memorable. After failing to convert its clear advantage into victory in the first game against Delhi, it managed to lose the second to Bengal within three days.

READ: Dhawan, Ishant return for Delhi's clash against Hyderabad

That it poured heavily for most of the scheduled final day at Thiruvananthapuram may not have made the batsmen feel any better, after they chose to get out of trouble by hitting out.

That left Kerala with just three points from its first two home matches. So, it has to come up with a much improved performance against Gujarat if it wants to qualify for the knockout stage for the third year in a row.

Kerala, however, has happy memories from its last game against Gujarat; it had posted a crushing 113-run victory in a low-scoring quarterfinal at Krishnagiri, at the beginning of the year.

Long-term memory won’t hurt Kerala either; on the same ground in 2007, it had beaten Gujarat by nine wickets. To do an encore, the visitors need plenty of runs from the likes of Sanju Samson, Robin Uthappa and captain Sachin Baby, on what promises to be a sporting track, and a steady effort from its bowling led by off-spinner Jalaj Saxena and swing bowler Sandeep Warrier.

The Bumrah question

Gujarat’s seamers, Roosh Kalaria, Chintan Gaja and Arzan Nagwaswalla had fashioned the win against Hyderabad, taking 14 wickets between them. But the biggest talking point here has been whether Indian spearhead Jasprit Bumrah — back in the National team after recovering from back injury — will play here to prove his match fitness. There was no conformation though.

The teams (from)

Kerala: Sachin Baby (captain), P. Rahul, Jalaj Saxena, Sanju Samson, Robin Uthappa, Vishnu Vinod, Salman Nizar, S. Monish, S. Midhun, Basil Thampi, Sandeep Warrier, Mohammed Azharuddeen, K.M. Asif, Sijomon Joseph, M.D. Nidheesh and Akshay Chandran.

Gujarat: Parthiv Patel (captain), Priyank Panchal, Kathan Patel, Bhargav Merai, Manprit Juneja, Dhruv raval, Rujul Bhatt, Axar Patel, Piyush Chawla, Roosh Kalaria, Chintan Gaja, Arzan Nagwaswalla, Samit Gohil, Siddharth Desai and Tejas Patel.

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