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Ranji Trophy Report: Group C and D


Number_one_Best_Greatest_cricketGroup C

In this year’s Ranji Trophy season, there are 7 teams in each group and each team will play only 6 matches. Whereas last year, each group had 9 teams and every team played 8 games in the group stage. Due to this, there is less opportunity for teams to make it to knock outs. Also, players will get only 6 games to show off their talents if their team doesn’t reach the knockouts. Let’s have a look at how group C stacks up in Ranji Trophy this season.

1. Mumbai

Every year when a Ranji Trophy season begins, Mumbai is always amongst the teams likely to win. Ranji Trophy runners up in 2016/17 and winners in 2015/16: such a record should be good enough for any team. But not for the 41-time Ranji Trophy champion team. A season without winning the Trophy is a bad season. Such high standards have they set for themselves. Last season, they lost against Gujarat in the final.

Unlike many other teams, they rely heavily on youngsters. They have a great support system in the form of the maidans in Mumbai which keep on producing quality cricketers. This season too they have many challenges. Most of their players, like Prithvi Shaw, Shreyas Iyer, Shardul Thakur, and Dhaval Kulkarni are unavailable because of their duties with the India A team. Sameer Dighe has taken over as coach. They are expected to reach the quarterfinals but should not take the other teams lightly.

Player to watch out for:

Akhil Herwadkar: Herwadkar debuted for Mumbai at the age of 17 but then had to wait awhile for chances after that. He was part of India’s Under 19 team in 2012 and 2014. In 2015/16, he was the 2nd highest run scorer in the tournament.

2. Madhya Pradesh

For long time they were considered underdogs. But in the last few years they have produced talented players like Ishwar Pandey, Avesh Khan and Naman Ojha. Last season, they finished 6th in their group but a year before that they made it to semi-final.

They are led by Devendra Bundela, who will be playing his 22nd Ranji Trophy season. They have got variety in their bowling and prefer to play with 5 genuine bowlers as they have a top quality pace attack. Having comprehensively won their first match against Baroda, they are no longer underdogs but strong competitors.

Player to watch out for:

Ankit Sharma: A left-arm spinner who is also turning out to be a handy batsman, he scored his maiden century against Baroda. He has shown glimpses of his all-round skills in IPL. his role will be crucial for MP to qualify for the quarterfinals.

3. Tamil Nadu

Surprisingly, Tamil Nadu has won only 2 Ranji Trophy titles so far. They have provided many Test cricketers but still haven’t won a Trophy in the last 2 decades. Last season, they lost in the semi-final against Mumbai and a year before that in the final against Karnataka. They have been failing to raise their game in the crucial stages of the tournament.

This season they will hope to end the drought of Ranji Trophy titles. Led by Abhinav Mukund, this season is their best chance to win. They have the largest number of international players available for them. Along with Mukund, M. Vijay, Dinesh Karthik and R. Ashwin will feature for Tamil Nadu. With so many strengths, Tamil Nadu will surely qualify for quarter finals.

Player to watch out for:

Washington Sundar: He has been in top class form right from the IPL and was Man of the Tournament in the TNPL. This has been a fabulous year for Washington Sundar. He has the opportunity to end this year lifting a Ranji Trophy.

4. Baroda

Baroda suffered an innings defeat in their opening match against Madhya Pradesh. The last occasion they played a Ranji Trophy final was in 2010/11. Last year they finished 2nd last in group A. This season won’t be too different for Baroda. They are heavily dependent on Irfan and Yusuf Pathan. In fact, in their 1st match, Yusuf Pathan scored centuries in both innings Baroda STILL lost by an innings.

Baroda has some youngsters who can make in impact. Seamer Atit Seth impressed in the 1st game when he scored century and took 4 wickets. Deepak Hooda will be back for the next match, strengthening their batting. It will be difficult for them to qualify this season.

Player to watch out for:

Deepak Hooda: He has been the stand out performer for Baroda the past few years. Due to this, he has been promoted as vice-captain of the team. Hooda, an all-rounder, has to make most of his opportunities as he might get only 6 games in this year’s Ranji Trophy. Given the competition to enter the Indian team, Hooda should take this opportunity to strengthen his case for selection ahead of others.

5. Andhra Pradesh

Andhra Pradesh started the campaign well by taking a first innings lead and drawing against Tamil Nadu. However, this might not be enough. Hanuma Vihari will be their captain. Their batting looks good on paper. But there seems to be a lack of variety in their bowling attack.

They have the experienced Venugopal Rao to guide the youngsters. They performed decently in 2016/17, finishing 3rd in Group C. However, this season where the strong teams are equally distributed across groups, Andhra Pradesh will need to raise their game further. In this group, featuring teams like Mumbai and Tamil Nadu, reaching the knockouts seems unlikely for Andhra Pradesh.

Player to watch out for:

Ricky Bhui: He was part of the India Under-19 team in 2014 and the 2016 World Cup. He hasn’t got too many chances after that. He was a part of the Sunrisers Hyderabad squad for the last 2 IPL seasons. However, there hasn’t been an eye catching performance from him in Ranji Trophy. Andhra will expect Ricky Bhui to take more responsibility this season.

6. Odisha

Odisha ended up 3rd position last season and qualified for the quarterfinals, but the point difference between Odisha and the top 2 teams was very high: the top teams had 39 and 37 points while Odisha had only 22. They just managed to edge past Delhi and qualify.

It won’t be that easy for them in this season. In their 1st match against Tripura, rain played spoilsport as the 1st innings did not get over and thus both teams got 1 point each. This year they have a new captain, Govinda Poddar, but remaining squad is almost the same. Having lost an opportunity to secure a win against the weakest team, their prospects look fairly bleak.

Player to watch out for:

Biplab Samantray: An experienced Ranji Player, Samantray has been a part of the Odisha team for the last 7 years. He has been a pillar of the side but hasn’t made it even to an India A team. Odisha selectors took away his captaincy so he could focus more on his game.

7. Tripura

It is the weakest team not only in this group, but probably the tournament. Last season they finished last in group C. They still do not have enough talented players to compete with the bigger teams in the tournament. This year won’t be any different. Like Assam in Group A, Tripura can play spoilsport in the group by denying a victory or first innings lead to other teams.

Player to watch out for:

Smit Patel: Smit Patel, a wicket keeper from Gujarat, will be playing for Tripura this season. Part of the Under 19 side that won the 2012 U19 World Cup, over the years Smit has played some good knocks for Gujarat. However, Parthiv Patel was Gujarat’s first choice keeper so Smit had to sit out on most occasions. It will be interesting to see if he can make his opportunities with Tripura count.

Quarter-final probables: Mumbai, Tamil Nadu

Dark Horse: Madhya Pradesh

Group D

Let’s have a look at the teams in group D this year

1. Vidharbha

Vidharbha haven’t won Ranji Trophy yet. Last season they ended up at 6th position in their group. This year they will be coached by Chandrakant Pandit who did well in the last 2 seasons with Mumbai. Vidharbha will miss their ace pacer- Umesh Yadav. They have Wasim Jaffer- highest run scorer in Ranji Trophy history - in their squad.

Vidharbha has the potential to qualify but it won’t be easy, given that they have teams like Punjab and Bengal in their group.

They will be led by Faiz Fazal, who has tremendous Ranji Trophy experience. Their batting department looks good. The only the question is whether their bowlers will be able to take 20 wickets against all opponents in the league stage. Their chances of entering into quarter finals will depend on how other teams like Punjab and Himachal Pradesh perform.

Player to watch out for:

Akshay Kanewar: Known for his ability to bowl with both hands, he can be a handy bowler on spinning Indian pitches. He was recently picked for the Board President’s XI to play against Australia. Selectors are watchful this youngster as he can add huge value if he masters bowling with both hands. As Vidharbha do not having any other experienced spin bowler, he will be looking to leave a mark with his ambidextrous skills.

2. Bengal

One of the strongest teams in this group. They ended 5th in their group last season. Their last Ranji Trophy victory was way back in 1990. In their squad, they have Manoj Tiwari as their captain and Mohammad Shami to lead the bowling attack. Along with these two, Wriddhiman Saha and Ashok Dinda will be available for entire season. The presence of 4 international players is a big boost for Bengal.

In their first match, they took lead in 1st innings to earn 3 points. They missed out on victory by a narrow margin as they could take only 7 wickets in the 2nd innings against Services. They are expected enter the quarterfinals this time.

Player to watch out for:

Aamir Gani: His name is unheard for many. Gani is an off-break bowler and handy batsman in the lower order who made his debut in 2015/16 at the age of 19. In their first match this season, he took 5 wickets and scored a half-century in the first innings. As Pragyan Ojha moved on from Bengal, the responsibility of the spin department will be largely on Aamir Gani’s shoulders.

3. Punjab    

Punjab has huge potential not only to enter the knockouts but win the tournament. They have good mixture of international and talented domestic players. Last season, they finished 4th, narrowly missing out on qualification. Their main concern is inconsistency.

More than half of their players have played international cricket. That includes Sandeep Sharma, Manpreet Gony, Barindar Sran, Gurkeerat Mann. They have Yuvraj and Harbhajan Singh who are expected to lead them in tournament. They have Jiwanjyot Singh, who was the highest run scorer in 2012/13. Punjab scored 601 runs in their 1st match but still could not surpass the mammoth score of 729 set by Himachal Pradesh in 1st innings.

Player to watch Out for:

Abhishek Gupta: On his debut match against Himachal Pradesh this season, he scored 202 runs, helping Punjab come close to Himachal’s total. A right-handed bat who plays aggressive cricket, he is also a live-wire behind the stumps. He will want to carry on with his good form.

4. Himachal Pradesh

Last season Himachal Pradesh ended up 4th in their group. They were 1 win away from making it to the quarterfinals. This season they have started very well. They put up 729 against Punjab team and secured 3 points straight off. They have a different captain this year: Sumeet Verma has taken over from Paras Dogra.

They have a very young team with only 1 player above 30 years of age. Rishi Dhawan is the only international player in the squad. Along with him there are plenty of talented youngsters like Prashant Chopra, Ankush Bains and Mayank Dagar, all three with Under 19 World Cup experience. Himcachal Pradesh have a great chance of qualifying this season. Their real challenge will be in the knockout matches when they will face top teams from other groups.

Player to watch Out for:

Prashant Chopra: In first match against Punjab, Prashant Chopra played a marathon innings of 338 runs. This was the 10th highest individual score in Ranji Trophy history. He was part of the Under 19 side that won the 2012 World Cup in Australia. After scoring runs consistently the last 3 years, this can be the breakthrough season for him

5. Goa

Goa finished 6th in their group last season and have never won a Ranji Trophy. They have not even qualified to the knockouts. But they have talented players who can make it big using Ranji Trophy as a platform. Most of their players are seasoned campaigners. Their batting will mainly depend upon Swapnil Asnodkar, who shined for Rajasthan Royals in the first 2 seasons of the IPL. But they don’t have depth in their batting and their bowling looks quite weak. They have no chance of making it to the quarter finals this season.

Player to watch Out for:

Shadab Jakati: Though Goa’s chances are almost nil, Shadab Jakati will be looking to put up a good performance. He has played for 3 different franchises in IPL and has consistently put up decent performances. Goa’s 6 matches will be an opportunity to show off his skills in first class cricket as well.

6. Services

In 2012/13, Services surprised one and all by reaching the semi-final. That was their best performance in the Ranji Trophy since the fifties. Last season, they ended up 7th behind Goa in their group. As far as qualification is concerned, they too have no chances of getting there.

Nakul Verma will be their new captain. They have some new players in their squad as well. Services will play a crucial role for other teams looking to qualify for the quarters. If they deny a win or cause an upset, that will be quite an achievement.

Player to watch Out for:

Rahul Chahar: 18-year-old youngster Rahul Chahar has opted to play for Services this season. He made a name for himself at Rising Pune Supergiant and is currently a member of India’s Under-19 team. The leggie played for Rajasthan till last season. But to enjoy more opportunities, he chose to play for a relatively weaker team like Services. This is his chance to perform and get a proper taste of first class cricket.

7. Chhattisgarh

They made their debut in Ranji Trophy in last season and are thus the youngest team. They ended last season 2nd last in their group and registered their first ever victory in Ranji Trophy in debut season. They have Mohammad Kaif who will be their captain as well as mentor. Kaif has had a good amount of experience of Ranji Trophy as well as in international cricket.

They started this season well by taking a 1st innings lead against Goa to secure 3 points. They are a new team and will require some more seasons before they can aim for a spot in the knockouts. As this team is taking shape, they will look to explore their opportunities.

Player to Watch Out for:

Amandeep Khare: He put up brilliant performances at the Under 19 level and was part of the India squad in the 2016 U19 World Cup. In a tri-series match against Sri Lanka’s Under 19 side he scored 102 runs to help India reach victory. Ranji Trophy is a huge opportunity for him to repeat his performances in India’s premier domestic competition.

Quarter-final probables: Bengal, Himachal Pradesh

Dark Horse: Punjab, Vidharbha

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