Ranji Trophy: Hyderabad starts favourite against Kerala

A semifinal finish at the Vijay Hazare Trophy provides an excellent springboard for Hyderabad as it embarks on its Ranji Trophy campaign in Thumba on Thursday.

Gearing up: The Kerala team warms up under the watchful eyes of Dav Whatmore (far left) in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday.   -  S. Mahinsha

Kerala takes on Hyderabad at the St. Xavier’s cricket stadium in Thumba, on Thursday, marking the start of another domestic cricket season. However, for now, the buzz is elsewhere.

With the city all set to host its first One-Day International (ODI) after a 30 years, it is only natural that the four-day tie has been pushed into the periphery, at least on the eve of the first day.

For the sides, it is a virtual do-or-die scenario; the overall strength of the eight-team Elite Pool B gives the teams little leeway, compelling them to perform well from the outset.

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Going by the past records, Hyderabad starts as the favourite, having won an overwhelming 35 out of the 50 matches played between the two teams over the years. Moreover, Hyderabad’s decent showing at the Vijay Hazare Trophy — a semifinal finish — should also provide an excellent springboard to the youthful team led by P. Akshath Reddy.

Rayudu, Siraj unavailable

The side is certain to have its own share of problems, too. Ambati Rayudu, who will be on India duty at the nearby Kariyavattom Sports Hub on Thursday, will be absent. So, too, will the fiery pacer Mohammed Siraj, now preparing to travel along with the India A team to New Zealand.

Read: Tamil Nadu searches for positive start with full-strength squad

Last year, Hyderabad was done in by the weather. The first two matches of the season was washed out completely; so much so that it was unable to overcome the loss of crucial points from these encounters and make the cut. Given such a background, it will be interesting to see how the side will fare against Kerala.

Kerala, on the other hand, will be raring to go and to ensure that its quarterfinal finish last season was by no means a flash in the pan.

Kerala acquitted itself well in all the matches in the league phase, surrendering the lead only against Gujarat, and demolishing the others in its path. The side, led by Sachin Baby, has already been preparing through the last fortnight, toiling hard in the red-soil pitch which should make for an interesting contest if the patch of grass is left untouched.

The teams
  • Kerala (from): Sachin Baby (captain), Sanju V. Samson (wicketkeeper), Jalaj S. Saxena, Rohan Prem, K. B. Arun Karthick, V. A. Jagadeesh, P. Rahul, Salman Nizar, Sandeep Warrier, Basil Thampi, M. D. Nidheesh, K. C. Akshay, Vinoop S. Manoharan, Vishnu Vinod and Akshay Chandran.
  • Hyderabad (from): P. Akshath Reddy (captain), Tanmay Agarwal, B. Sandeep, K. Rohit Rayudu, Mudassir Hussain, K. Sumanth (wicketkeeper), Mehdi Hasan, M. Ravi Kiran, C. V. Milind, Saketh Sairam, Akash Bhandari, T. Ravi Teja, Tanay Thyagarajan, Himalay Agarwal and K. S. K. Chaitanya.