Sachin Baby is back as captain after a two year hiatus when Kerala begins another Ranji Trophy season with hope. Under new coach Dave Whatmore, Kerala is attempting to end its run of near misses and qualify for the knock out phase of the premier tournament for the first time in more than a decade.

The 28-year-old left hander has never been one to shy away from taking up responsibility though he quit the captaincy in the longer format two years ago to concentrate on his batting. Sachin accepted the captaincy again when the selectors and coach Whatmore found he was the right person to lead Kerala this season. "Captaincy is added responsibility and a challenge. Though I quit captaincy in the longer format, I was leading Kerala in the shorter format for the few seasons and leading the side again in the longer format is not a big deal. Of course, I will have to repose the faith the selectors have shown in me," he said.

Sachin expressed hope that Kerala will finally end the jinx and qualify for the knock out phase of the tournament. "We have been unlucky. If you look at our performance in the last two seasons we missed the bus by one or two points. We have high hopes for this season. But we have to be consistent. I am happy with the way the team has played well in the all-India tournaments at the start of this season. We had beaten stronger sides Mumbai and Punjab and it is a positive sign. The boys are keen to do well this season," he said.

"The group looks pretty strong. We have played some of teams in the past and had known their strength and weakness. But we have to play at our best and be consistent against good sides. Last season our openers were not consistent and the team suffered because of that. This time we have three players - Rahul, Arun Kathik and Azharudeen - who can open and hopefully we can expect them to come good. We will be playing three matches at home this season and we will have to win maximum points from these fixtures," he said.

Sachin said Dav Whatmore appointment has done a world of good to the confidence of the players. "Many of us were in awe of him when we assembled for the camp in Chennai. But soon all of us found out that Dav was a down to earth person who went out of his way to make us comfortable. He was easily approachable and players could meet him at any time of the day to seek advise. He had solutions for every problem. Dave’s coaching method was simple. He didn’t want us to overdo things but wanted us to spend quality time in the nets and gave individual attention to players," said Sachin.

The Kerala team will assemble in LNCPE for a short camp before it begins its campaign against Jharkhand on October 6.