In Stats: 9 Players to Watch Out For This Ranji Trophy Season
Here’s a look at some players whose performance on the field could make them irresistible to the national selectors.
The 84th season of the Ranji Trophy – India’s premier domestic competition – is scheduled to begin from 6 October. The primary feeder to the national team and the platform which prepares cricketers for the challenges of international cricket, the tournament has undergone a change this season. Just like the previous edition, this season too, 28 teams will contest for the trophy. However, while the teams were divided into three groups last season, the 28 sides have been divided into four groups for the 2017-18 season.
Let’s identify a few players who have done well in the last few seasons, and have therefore put themselves under the spotlight; one or two more solid seasons could make these players a case hard for the selectors to ignore and bring these players into the reckoning for a place in the national team.
Priyank Panchal was one of the pillars of Gujarat’s journey to the Ranji Trophy last season. The opening batsman topped the run-scorers charts last season, scoring a mammoth 1310 runs. As a result of his performance, he was called up to the India A team for the tour of South Africa.
The 27-year old has already made a fantastic start to the season. In the opening match of this season’s Duleep Trophy, Panchal joined an elite list of batsmen who have scored hundreds in both innings of a Duleep Trophy match. He was also named in the India A squad for the Test matches against New Zealand A. How will the opening batsman counter the ‘second-season-blues’?
Still in his teens, Prithvi Shaw seems to have made a habit of making headlines. His first headline-capturing-performance was in 2013, when he scored 546 – then a record for the highest score made by an Indian cricketer in school-level cricket.
The teenager was given his first Mumbai cap in the Ranji Trophy semi-final last season, but was unnerved by the big occasion. Dismissed cheaply in the first innings, he made amends in the second essay, scoring a hundred in his debut match, and following it up with significant contributions in the final too.
The opening batsman was a consistent run-scorer when he toured England earlier this year as part of the India Under-19 team. More recently, he scored a hundred on debut in the Duleep Trophy final – becoming the youngest to score a hundred in the tournament final. On evidence of what one has seen, the Mumbai lad has all the ingredients in the making of an international cricketer – strokes, temperament and good head on his shoulders. Mumbai struggled to find a solid opening pair last season; will Prithvi combine with Akhil Herwadkar to form a solid pair this season?
Kaushik Gandhi was the one standout performer batting at number three. The batsman from Tamil Nadu has a penchant for big hundreds – he scored three centuries in the Ranji Trophy last season, and each one of those were scores in excess of 150.
In and out of the Tamil Nadu, since making his debut in 2011-12, last season was Kaushik’s defining season – he was Tamil Nadu’s second-highest run-getter with an aggregate of 785 runs. The 27-year-old’s performance last season was recognised when he was picked for the Duleep Trophy at the start of this season. One expects he will be a permanent fixture in the Tamil Nadu line-up for the whole of this coming season.
Captain of the Indian team that finished runner-up in the Under-19 World Cup in 2016, Ishan Kishan left a mark with his aggressive batting methods last season. The wicketkeeper-batsman was Jharkhand’s second-highest run-getter in the season; he scored 799, but several of those runs were scored by means of explosive batting, which destroyed the opposition in a matter of minutes. His standout performance last season must be his 61-ball 86 (studded with 9 fours and 6 sixes) in the fourth innings run-chase in the quarter-final against Haryana.
After a fairly productive IPL, Kishan has hit a lean patch in recent times. On the tour of South Africa with the India ‘A’ team, he only managed 56 runs in three innings, and in the Duleep Trophy more recently, he bagged 4 consecutive ducks.
There is no doubting Kishan’s ability. The 19-year old is among the cleanest strikers of the cricket ball you will find in the country. Will he be able to force his way out of poor form to another successful season?
Players who do the rescue job are made of special mettle and blessed with a special temperament. Mumbai batsman Siddhesh Lad is one such batsman – time and again, he has bailed Mumbai from troubled waters.
Remember the Ranji Trophy 2015-16 final against Saurashtra? Mumbai were down 8 wickets with a slender 15-run lead and Lad was left to bat in the company of numbers 10 and 11. That’s when he blew them away. Twenty from 55 balls when the 8th wicket fell, Lad then scored 68 from the next 46 balls he faced to change the course of the match. Mumbai ended up taking a 136-run first-innings lead, bundled out their opponents for 115, and walked away with the Ranji Trophy.
A left-arm seamer is possibly the only void in the Indian team. And that’s the reason there is excitement around the emergence of T Natarajan. The left-arm seamer caught the attention of experts in the Tamil Nadu Premier League 2016 – where he took 10 wickets for the Dindigul Dragons.
In his first full season with the Tamil Nadu senior team, Natarajan took 24 wickets in 8 matches in the Ranji Trophy last season and helped Tamil Nadu progress to the semi-finals.
Natarajan’s stock has risen in the last twelve months. He was signed up the IPL franchise Kings XI Punjab for a whopping Rs 3 crore – 30 times his base price of Rs 10 lakh. In this season’s TNPL, he picked up 9 wickets and had a brilliant economy rate of 5.39.
Kerala has produced several athletes of repute. But when it comes to international cricketers to emerge from the state, the count is still pretty much in single-digits. All eyes are now firmly on Basil Thampi, who has emerged a pace sensation from ‘God’s own country’.
The 24-year-old is new to the senior level of cricket and needs to be groomed. The pacer from Ernakulam has a long distance to go, but one sees a lot of promise in him – he consistently bowls 140 clicks and has the ability to bowl the yorkers regularly. He hasn’t had too much success in the few matches he has played so far, but one expects having been part of the IPL and having been on India A tours, he would have learnt a lot.
It wasn’t so much Mohammed Siraj’s consistent strikes with the ball and his rich bowling form that made headlines last season, but the price war that he attracted at the IPL 2017 Player Auction. Sunrisers Hyderabad signed up the pacer for Rs 2.6 crore.
Hyderabad’s highest wicket-taker in the Ranji Trophy 2016-17 – 41 wickets in 9 matches, with wickets coming at a strike-rate of 39.59, Siraj established a reputation as a wicket-taker, and it was therefore no surprise to see teams bid for him aggressively.
The pacer – the son of an autorickshaw driver – has enhanced his reputation further in the last few months. He excelled in the IPL 2017 – taking 10 wickets in 6 matches, while he struck with the ball regularly when playing for India A on the tour of South Africa.
Shahbaz Nadeem has been nothing short of sensational in recent times. At the end of last season’s Ranji Trophy, the left-arm spinner from Jharkhand became the first spinner to top the wicket-takers list in consecutive Ranji Trophy season since Rajinder Goel in the mid-90s; in the last two seasons, Nadeem picked up 51 and 56 wickets. He played a pivotal role in Jharkhand progressing to the Ranji Trophy semi-finals last season.
An excellent fielder, and a canny bowler in the limited overs formats, Nadeem has started this season well – he collected 14 wickets in two matches playing for India A against New Zealand A. Can he make it a hattrick of seasons at the top of the top wicket-takers charts?
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