Top guns of the domestic circuit

Rajasthan's Pankaj Singh (left) and Rituraj Singh were too hot to handle.-R.V. MOORTHY Rajasthan's Pankaj Singh (left) and Rituraj Singh were too hot to handle.

Another Ranji Trophy season comes to an end. As usual there were players who excelled. G. Viswanath pays tribute to the silent soldiers and the newcomers who walked the talk this time round.

Robin Bist

Anyone who has seen Robin Bist defy the bowlers this season would have been hugely impressed with his technique and tenacity. Sticking to the basics has paid rich dividends for him, as he amassed 1035 runs with four centuries in this edition of the Ranji Trophy.

National selector and former Maharashtra opening batsman, Surendhra Bhave, says: “Bist is well organised and pays a lot of attention in constructing his innings.” The 24-year-old, Rajasthan middle-order batsman has scored his runs at an amazing average of 86.16 this year, with 176 as his best.

When Rajasthan won the Ranji Trophy for the first time last year, the professional players, Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Aakash Chopra and Rashmi Ranjan Parida got all the credit, but Bist, too, made an important contribution in the final against Baroda. His patient 77 in the first innings helped his side pile up 394 and put the early pressure on the fancied side from the West Zone.

The decision to move from Delhi (represented the state at the junior level) to Rajasthan has turned out to be a right one for him as he has found consistency, docking over 400 runs twice before in a season. Bist has so far played 36 first class matches and scored 2500 runs (52.08) with five centuries and 15 half centuries.

Vineet Saxena

Opening batsman Vineet Saxena played a huge part in Rajasthan's second successive Ranji Trophy triumph. The 31-year-old stood solid, carving out an innings of 257, spaced over 15 hours and 665 deliveries in the final against Tamil Nadu at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.

The figures straightaway say a lot about the way Saxena likes to play his cricket; it suits him and Rajasthan, which has now joined the select band of teams that has won the national championship back-to-back. The right-handed opener has been around for 13 seasons and has played 78 first class matches, scoring 4770 runs with 10 centuries and 24 half centuries.

This season, he surpassed his own abilities, dolling up 897 runs in just 10 matches, with two centuries and five half centuries. He forged a successful opening partnership with Test veteran, Aakash Chopra, always ensuring a good start to the Rajasthan innings. The duo batted for 104 overs in the final, putting up an opening stand of 236.

Pankaj Singh, Sumeet Mathur and Rituraj Singh

The fast bowling trio of Pankaj Singh (34 wickets), Sumeet Mathur (25) and rookie Rituraj Singh (26) captured 85 wickets overall, ensuring Rajasthan's steady progress to the final. The trio was at its best in a group game against Saurashtra, where Mathur led the pack with eight scalps. Pankaj Singh (7) and Rituraj with four were not far behind. The resulting win at Jaipur was Rajasthan's first of the season and set the tone for future success.

The senior statesman amongst the three, Pankaj Singh has already picked up 225 wickets in 60 first class matches. He struggled initially but came to his element in the match against Saurashtra, claiming five wickets in the first innings, Mathur reciprocated, scalping six, when Saurashtra came out to bat for the second time. It was young Rituraj who stole the show against Orissa picking up six wickets in an innings.

In the semifinals against Haryana at Lahli the trio snared all 20 of the opposing batsmen in a comfortable win. In the final, too, the trio accounted for eight wickets after the batsmen had done well to put Tamil Nadu on the mat after the first few days of play.

Suryakumar Yadav

The right-handed Mumbai batsman impressed everyone with his innings of 73 on his debut against Delhi at the Roshanara Ground, last year.

The 21-year-old shot into prominence two years back when he was adjudged the player of the tournament at the 24th Sportstar Trophy, a Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) selection event.

The mainstay of Rajasthan's batting, Robin Bist.-V. GANESAN

Like all Mumbai cricketers, Yadav has come through the junior ranks and scored heavily at all age group level. Raised on turf wicket — a regular feature at the Mumbai maidans — he likes to drive and is not afraid to go over the top and take some risks.

Yadav began the season well, stroking his way to a lovely 88 against Railways and thereafter made 200 against Orissa, 111 against Saurashtra, 64 against Punjab and 52 against Tamil Nadu to finish the year with 754 runs (fourth in the Ranji Trophy run-getters list).

Young Suryakumar Yadav had an excellent year with the bat for Mumbai. The 21-year-old shot to prominence after being adjudged the player of the tournament at the 24th Sportstar Trophy, two years back. Here Balwinder Singh Sandhu presents the Sportstar trophy to Yadav.-SHASHI ASHIWAL

These are early days for Yadav but he is sure to impress. Another Mumbai lad, Kaustubh Rawalnath Pawar, also did well, notching up 531 runs at an average 44.25 in eight matches.

Manoj Tiwary

Manoj Tiwary has been a symbol of commitment for Bengal. The aggressive middle-order batsman was back on the field for his state side, only days after scoring his maiden ODI hundred against the West Indies at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. His 187 (380 balls) ensured a positive result for Bengal and saved the side from a slide down from the Elite Division of the Ranji Trophy.

In his eighth season at the domestic circuit, Tiwary, played four matches, scoring 595 runs with three centuries for a splendid average of 148.75. For the discerning, his achievement, however, is not new. He has been Bengal's linchpin, scoring between over 500 runs on six occasions in the past seven seasons.

Tiwary brand of cricket keeps the attention riveted on him as he is never daunted by the opposition and is always ready for a challenge. He has achieved a lot already and at 26 he's has a bright future ahead.

Ashok Dinda

The frail fast bowler with his trademark ninja bandana was the other silver lining in what otherwise has been a disappointing season for Bengal.

Proof of his success is evident in his 293 wickets for Bengal, East Zone and India `A' in first class matches. His tally of 37 wickets (second best this season) included two 10-wicket hauls in a match.

Former India player and Bengal coach W.V. Raman says: “Dinda is really hostile as a bowler and has the heart of a true champion. He generally bowled on lifeless tracks but showed tremendous attitude. He showed that he's got the fire in him to bowl fast and in the right channel. He's an immediate option for India selection.”

Dinda took five for 98 and seven for 44 against Haryana at Lahli and then again five for 96 and five for 66 against Baroda at the Moti Bagh Palace Ground and had almost single-handedly bought his team a place in the knockout stage.

T. P. Sudhindra

While Dinda likes to hustle the batsman with pace and bounce, Sudhindra is a medium pacer who likes to keep it steady, always bowling the right line. His no-nonsense approach has made him the highest wicket-taker this season with 40 scalps.

Madhya Pradesh's T.P. Sudhindra led the bowling charts with 40 wickets.-

He has forged an excellent new ball partnership with Ishwar Pandey (25 wickets) for Madhya Pradesh. He was almost unplayable at the team's home ground, the Emerald International School Ground, some 10 km away from Indore city. His 18 wickets at the placid surface bears testimony to his ability.

Harshal Patel

Haryana's young medium pacer Harshal Patel shot to fame with two eight-wicket hauls against Karnataka (8 for 40) at Bangalore and against Rajasthan (8 for 34) at Lahli. Lack of opportunities saw him move from Gujarat to Haryana and he turned out to be their main strike bowler, taking 28 wickets. Part of India's under-19 squad at the junior World Cup in 2010, he has showed enough promise to stay in national reckoning.

Stuart Binny

Stuart Binny finally did justice to his talent, seven seasons after he had made his first class debut, way back in 2003-04. He missed two seasons in between because of his participation in the ‘rebel' Indian Cricket League (ICL). Making the most of the amnesty offered by the BCCI, Binny, pilled up 742 runs at an average of 67. 45. Not to be undone as a bowler he picked up 20 wickets, too.

Karnataka's Stuart Binny established his credentials as a true all-rounder with some fine performances.-G.P. SAMPATH KUMAR

Binny looked trim and focused this season and brings to the game a special appeal with his fluent stroke play and intelligent bowling. At 26 he is sure to serve Karanataka cricket well for many years ahead.

Ravindra Jadeja

The Saurashtra cricketer has always been one of the most effective all-rounders in the domestic circuit. He could feature in only four matches for his state side because of his international commitments.

Jadeja began with a triple century (314 against Orissa in 558 minutes and of 375 balls with 29 x 4s and 9 x 6s) at the Barabati Stadium and aggregated 433 runs and took 18 wickets over the season. In the last league tie against Railways he scored 28 and 45 and took six for 23 and four for 42 and won the match single handily for his team.

His regular services were sorely missed by Saurashtra as the team narrowly missed out on a place at the knockout phase. Tied on 16 points with Rajasthan, Saurashtra failed to make it to the quarterfinals because of a poor head-to-head result.