Ranji Trophy: Kerala looking forward to J&K challenge

'Neutral venue’ may be the most-talked about topic of the new domestic season, but Kerala is hardly perturbed about playing away from home conditions as it is all set to take on Jammu and Kashmir in a Ranji Trophy Group C match here on Thursday.

According to Kerala coach P. Balachandran, his team has adequate resources to play in any condition.   -  stan rayan

'Neutral venue’ may be the most-talked about topic of the new domestic season, but Kerala is hardly perturbed about playing away from home conditions as it is all set to take on Jammu and Kashmir in a Ranji Trophy Group C match here on Thursday.

According to Kerala coach P. Balachandran, his team has adequate resources to play in any condition. “Last season we had two outright wins, four first innings leads and two losses. We did well in our away matches. We have a balanced attack and the neutral venue concept is not threatening us in any way,” said Balachandran on Wednesday.

Kerala has roped in three professional players, Jalaj Saxena, Iqbal Abdulla and Bhavin Thakkar, to add more experience to the squad. “We hope that the presence of the experienced players will help us qualify for the knockout stage and earn us a place in Group A or B. We are waiting for it for a long time,” said Balachandran.

Kerala’s batting looks sound due to the presence of its captain Rohan Prem, Sachin Baby, Sanju Samson, Saxena and Thakkar.

Its faster bowlers, led by Monish K. and Sandeep Warrier, provide some edge to the team and the addition of Saxena and Abdulla has given the spin department more options.

Even though the rain threat looms over the match and the pitch was covered due to bouts of downpour, Balachandran was not too worried about what combination to field in the morning. “We have the right balance, so it does not matter what kind of track we get,” he said.

Kerala will be mentally boosted by the fact that it had got the better of Jammu and Kashmir in all three forms last season. It had taken the first innings lead in the Ranji encounter and had won the T20 and 50-over matches.

However, Jammu and Kashmir, armed with two professionals from Delhi in middle-order batsman Mithun Manhas and wicketkeeper-batsman Puneet Bisht, will pose a different challenge this time.

Coming from the troubled zone, the team has retained many of its key players – including Pervez Rasool, Ramdayal Punia and Samiullah Beigh in bowling and Ian Dev Singh Chauhan, Adil Reshi and Shubham Khajuria in batting – who have been the core of the side for some years now.

With Manhas leading the team, Jammu and Kashmir may spring a few surprises in the new season.

The teams (from):

Kerala: Rohan Prem (Captain), Sachin Baby (Vice-Captain), V.A. Jagadeesh, Bhavin Thakkar, Jalaj Saxena , Sanju Samson, Monish K, Iqbal Abdulla, Nikhilesh Surendran, Sandeep S Warrier, Basil Thampy, Manu Krishnan, Robert Fernandez, Nidheesh M.D., Vinod Kumar.

Jammu and Kashmir: Mithun Manhas (Captain),Parvez Rasool (Vice-Captain),Ian Dev Singh Chauhan, Bandeep Singh, Adil Reshi, Shubham Khajuria, Puneet Bisht, Umar Nazir, Ramdayal Punia, Amir Aziz, Mohsin Mufti, Pranav Gupta, Samiullah Beigh, Rohit Sharma, Zahoor Sofi, Amir Sofi.