Ranji Trophy: Saurashtra receives Pujara boost against Maharashtra

Maharashtra and Saurashtra, both of which possess three points in the Ranji Trophy in the season so far, will want to redeem themselves when they face each other in a Group B fixture on Thursday.

Saurashtra coach Sitanshu Kotak was happy at the participation of Cheteshwar Pujara in the upcoming game.   -  Vivek Bendre

Mark Twain said, "Fortune knocks at every man’s door once in a life, but in a good many cases, the man is in a neighbouring saloon and does not hear."

Maharashtra skipper Swapnil Mansukh Gugale and Ankit Ramdas Bawne may have missed the milestone of a lifetime. Just 30 runs short of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene’s stand of 624, the highest ever for any wicket in all forms of the game, Gugale declared Maharashtra’s first innings against Delhi. The placid-faced Pune native said he felt a tinge of regret when he realised what he had done.

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Gugale seemed reconciled to his fate though with no trace of wishful thinking. “The decision was driven by our top priority for a Maharashtra win,” the triple centurion told Sportstar on the eve of the Ranji Group B match against Saurashtra at the Dr. P.V.G. Raju Andhra Cricket Association (ACA) Sports Complex here on Wednesday.

That exercise in futility may have replayed itself several times from the last week. Not to mention over 400 calls and 600 messages from sympathetic well-wishers that began to taper down on arriving in Vizianagaram.

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The 25-year-old said the teams were on par. It was a game of bat and ball and didn’t depend on reputations. “It was a bad opening day for us against Jharkhand,” he said of the first game they lost. “Our batsmen didn’t make enough for our bowlers to defend,” he rued.

Sitanshu Kotak, the coach of Saurashtra, which also possesses three points after two matches, said, “Having both Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja will be great, but even one of them, (this time Pujara), would be a boost for us."

Missed opportunity

It will be the third game for his men at this venue; the previous match was ruined by rain. “We played aggressive cricket, scoring 430 in 97-odd overs and bowled out Rajasthan for 105 in 38-odd,” said the mentor. After following on, Rajasthan was struggling at 30 for four off just 14 overs when the elements intervened in favour of the northern side.

Saurashtra recorded a resounding win over Vidarbha at this very ground in the quarterfinals last season. “We look forward to keep coming stronger and get players to produce performances at the right time,” the assistant coach of Gujarat Lions said of the Saurashtra squad’s worth ethic.

“Our seamers have bowled well. (The pitch) was greener last year, though,” said Kotak.

How the game pans out will hinge on how much moisture the pitch retains, especially in the first two hours of the opening day. His counterpart Shrikant Kalyani said it would be difficult to decide what team to opt for on the present playing surface. “I have told the boys to be positive. At the end of the day they must be convinced that they have given their best,” he added.

The teams (from):

Maharashtra: Swapnil Gugale (captain), Rahul Tripathi (vice-captain), Ankit Bawne, Harshad Khadiwale, Naushad Shaikh, Vishant More, Shrikant Mundhe, Chirag Khurana, Satyajeet Bachav, Nikit Dhumal, Anupam Sanklecha, Akshay Darekar, Murtaza Trunkwala, Prayag Bhati, Mohsin Sayyad. Coach: Shrikant Kalyani. Manager: Mohd. Poonawalla.

Saurashtra: Jaydev Shah (captain), Cheteshwar Pujara, Sheldon Jackson, Avi Barot, Chirag Jani, Jaydev Unadkat, Shaurya Sanandiya, Dharmendra Jadeja, Vandit Jivrajani, Arpit Vasavada, Dipak Punia, Samarth Vyas, Hardik Rathod, Sagar Jogyani, Kushang Patel, Amitoze Singh, Mohson Dodiya, Sunil Yadav. Coach: Sitanshu Kotak. Manager: Dr. Arjun Singh.

Match officials: Umpires: A. Nanda Kishore, K.N. Ananthapadmanabhan. Match referee: Rajib Deb Barman.

Other matches (Group B):

Delhi v Karnataka, Kolkata

Maharashtra v Saurashtra, Vizianagaram

>Assam v Vidarbha , Thumba

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