Ranji Trophy knock-outs are meant to be far from being a no-contest. But with the defending champion Vidarbha having topped the group and up against first-class rookies Uttarakhand, a day before the start of the quarterfinal, not many expect the pahaadi boys to match the skills of the in-form Vidarbha outfit from Tuesday.

No wonder as the Vidarbha flock walked after finishing its fielding drills from the Vidarbaha Cricket Association stadium’s outfield to the nets area on Monday morning, the sound of the spikes hitting the driveway was so intimidating that more than a few of the Uttarakhand squad members turned around, perhaps in awe of some of the big names in the opposition unit.

Just like all the nine Plate league teams - eight debutants along with Bihar who returned to the Ranji fold - have relied heavily on their professional signings, Uttarakhand would have hoped for its seasoned pros to at least try and stretch the match into the fifth day.

But even on that count, Uttarakhand is depleted with captain Rajat Bhatia being unavailable for the big clash.

READ: Ranji Trophy: UP skipper Nath ready for Pujara challenge

Bhatia, a former Ranji winner with Delhi, who is at the fag end of his playing days, has been aiming to be a professional trainer and he had told the Uttarakhand management of his unavailability in January well in advance since he had to pursue an advanced course in human biomechanics in Hawaii, USA.

With its captain who was their highest run-getter in the league stage unavailable, the onus will be on the other two pros to avoid the match being lop-sided.

Vineet Saxena, who will lead in Bhatia’s absence, has already been a Ranji champion with Rajasthan while Malolan Rangarajan featured in a Ranji final for Tamil Nadu five years ago. It would be interesting to see if they can motivate the rest of the group to give its best.

Umesh in action

The task will be made even more difficult with Umesh Yadav having joined the Vidarbha squad for the first time this season.

Having spent almost two months in Australia as a member of the victorious Test squad without getting any game time, Yadav will be desperate to get into a rhythm.


The return of India fast bowler Umesh Yadav has further bolstered Vidarbha.


With Rajneesh Gurbani, the swinger, having recovered from his wrist injury he suffered against Mumbai, it will be a potent pace attack for Vidarbha.

Add to that the fact that Wasim Jaffer has been rewinding the clock with his silken touch right through the league stage and captain Faiz Fazal having cleared the fitness test after a troubled left heel, Vidarbha is set to steamroll into the semis.