Ranji Trophy: Maharashtra eyes quarterfinal berth

The top three teams in a group qualify for the quarterfinals and after its Ranji Trophy match against Assam, Maharashtra is in the third spot with 21 points. A win over Odisha will come handy for Swapnil Gugale's side.

Anupam Sanklecha, Naushad Shaikh, Ankit Bawne, coach Shrikant Kalyani and captain Swapnil Gagule clicked during a training session ahead of Maharashtra's Ranji Trophy match against Odisha at Krishnagiri, Wayanad.

Anupam Sanklecha, Naushad Shaikh, Ankit Bawne, coach Shrikant Kalyani and captain Swapnil Gagule clicked during a training session ahead of Maharashtra's Ranji Trophy match against Odisha at Krishnagiri, Wayanad.   -  P. K. Ajith Kumar

Kedar Jadhav may be missing from Maharashtra, but the side's batting has been so good this season that he may not actually be missed much in its Ranji Trophy Group 'B' match against Odisha, starting at the Wayanad Cricket Stadium here on Tuesday. Jadhav, the current India ODI star who is unfit, has an average of 65 from the three matches he has played for Maharashtra. But, there are three other batsmen who are also averaging more than 60.

Ankeet Bawne is leading the chart, with 646 runs, scored at an average of 80.75. His highest is 258 not out against Delhi last month. That, however, is Maharashtra’s only second highest individual score, behind Swapnil Gagule, who slammed 351 not out, in the same match at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. The duo, in fact, had put on the highest-ever partnership for any wicket in the history of Ranji Trophy when they added 594 for the third-wicket. Naushad Shaikh has also been in great form with the bat.

Maharashtra's bowling will be spearheaded by veteran seamer Anupam Sanklecha, who comes into this match in the form of his life: he has taken 10 wicket-hauls in his last two matches. In Chennai a few days ago, he had taken a career-best 14 for 94 to power his team to an innings victory over Assam.

That win puts Maharashtra in the third spot in the table, with 21 points, behind Karnataka (30) and Jharkhand (26). The top three qualify for the quarterfinals. A win in this match will be handy for Maharashtra in its quest to advance.

“We are confident of winning this game,” said Maharashtra's coach Shrikant Kalyani. “Yes, Jadhav’s absence is a setback, but we have enough bench strength.”

His counterpart Debasis Mohanty admitted his team was facing a strong opponent. “But, then, all sides in Group B are tough,” he said. “We have come here in a confident frame of mind, having done well against group leader Karnataka in our last match.” In the last match, Odisha had secured the first innings lead against Karnataka, to take its tally to 15 points. It is placed fifth, behind Delhi (18).

The Odisha batsmen haven’t amassed runs like those from Maharashtra, but Mohanty expects captain Govind Poddar, Biplab Samantaray, Subhransu Senapati and Abhishek Yadav, who scored a hundred on debut against Team Rajasthan at Patiala, to continue their decent form. For wickets, he would look up mainly to medium-pacer Suryakant Pradhan and left-arm spinner Dhiraj Singh. They have taken 19 wickets each.

The last match on this ground, between Delhi and Rajasthan, was played on a sporting wicket. The curator, T. Mohanan, has promised a similar strip for this game as well.

Squads:

Maharashtra: Swapnil Gugale (capt.), Murtaza Trunkwala, Naushad Shaikh, Ankit Bawne, Chirag Khurana, Vishant More, Akshay Darekar, Anupam Sanklecha, Mohsin Sayyed, Satyajeet Bachchav, Harshad Khadiwale, Rahul Tripathi, Pradeep Dahade, Prayag Bhatti and Shrikant Munde.

Odisha: Govinda Poddar (capt.), Basant Mohanty, Biplab Samantaray, Deepak Behera, Dhiraj Singh, Suryakant Pradhan, Abinash Saha, Saurabh Rawat, Subhransu Senapati, Alok Mangaraj, Manoj Nayak, Ansuman Gope, Abhishek Yadav, Sandeep Pattanaik and Ranjit Singh.