Ranji Trophy 2018-19: Kerala plagued by batting problems

The Kerala batting unit has failed to click as a unit and as a result its chances of qualifying for the knock-out stage has slimmed down drastically.

Vishnu Vinod has been one of the few bright spots in the batting department.   -  RANJITH PERALAM

Bowlers win matches but the onus lies on the batsmen to give them some runs to bowl at. Kerala is finding that out this 2018-19 Ranji season.

Its chances of qualifying for the knock-out has slimmed down, following the 10-wicket loss to Punjab on Tuesday in Mohali. Not only it has to win its last match against Himachal Pradesh, but also hope to have favourable results in others as well.

It was among the top contenders till recently though, thanks to its stunning victories over former champions Delhi and Bengal.

In a season in which giants like Mumbai and Tamil Nadu have fallen, Kerala has indeed done very well to keep intact the reputation it gained last year, when it made it to the quarterfinals for the first time ever.

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

Jalaj Saxena has been the star for Kerala by scoring 479 runs and picking 28 wickets.   -  Ranjith Peralamm

 

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

But, when one finds Saxena also at the top of Kerala’s batting charts and that he is the only one who has scored more than 400 runs (479 at an average of 43.54), one will realise that the team has got some serious issues with its batting. The next highest scorer is Baby, who has made 360.

The table below illustrates Kerala's leading batsmen in this Ranji Trophy season.

Batting MatchesInningsRunsAverage
Jalaj Saxena 71247943.54
Sachin Baby71036036.00
Vishnu Vinod4731853.00

The only other to score more than 300 is Vishnu Vinod, one of the few bright spots in the batting department. He had made an astounding 193 not out, coming in at No. 8, against Madhya Pradesh and batted sensibly in both innings in Mohali 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 in Mohali, 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 has come his way, but his partner Arun Karthik has been disappointing scoring just 200 at an average of 20. So has Kerala’s most gifted cricketer, Sanju Samson (215 at 21.5).

The table below illustrates Kerala's leading bowlers in this Ranji Trophy season.

BowlingMatchesInningsRunsWickets
Sandeep Warrier713226.528
Jalaj Saxena712246.328
Basil Thampi 713156.221

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

But, if Kerala wants to make progress as a team, its batsmen need to deliver in all conditions.