Vidarbha seek hat-trick as Ranji Trophy kicks off
Former India international and ex-Mumbai coach Chandrakant Pandit, who has guided them all this while, relies more on tactical acumen and preparation than individual brilliance.Updated: Dec 09, 2019 08:46 IST
Vidarbha will look to become the only team other than Mumbai to win three consecutive Ranji Trophy titles when the 86th edition of India’s premier domestic cricket competition gets underway from Monday. Mumbai, then Bombay, won 15 titles in a row across three decades, starting in the 1950s before winning three consecutive titles in the 1970s. There have been a few states, including Delhi and Karnataka, who have won two in a row but never three. Vidarbha, who depend mostly on solid teamwork as they have no major, current international stars, won the last two titles and will be eyeing their third.
Former India international and ex-Mumbai coach Chandrakant Pandit, who has guided them all this while, relies more on tactical acumen and preparation than individual brilliance. The tournament will also see traditional powerhouses Karnataka, Mumbai and Delhi in action while last year’s runners-up Saurashtra will hope to go one better this time. Karnataka, due to their depth in talent and presence of international players, remain one of the biggest challengers. Mumbai and Delhi have been on the downswing. Internal politics has been one of the causes. Selection issues, especially in Delhi’s case, have caused the slide.
Saurashtra will have the services of Cheteshwar Pujara as India don’t play Tests till their tour of New Zealand in February next year. Ajinkya Rahane (Mumbai), Mayank Agarwal (Karnataka), Ravichandran Ashwin (Tamil Nadu), Ishant Sharma (Delhi) and Umesh Yadav (Vidarbha) too are expected to play quite a few matches, if not all, till they are called away.
Here’s what you can look forward to this season
Milestone men: Former India opener Wasim Jaffer, who made 1037 runs last season and helped Vidarbha win the title, is 837 runs short of becoming only the fifth Indian to complete 20,000 runs in first-class cricket. Pujara will become the ninth Indian batsmen to get 50 first-class centuries as soon as he gets one. Former India and Karnataka bowler Vinay Kumar, who will represent Puducherry this season, is just three wickets shy of becoming only the second pace bowler after Pankaj Singh (409) to reach 400 Ranji wickets.
Biggest yet: The Ranji Trophy 2019-20 season will be the biggest one yet, with 38 teams—one more than the 37 that took part last year. Chandigarh will compete in the Ranji Trophy for the first time. The tournament will retain the same format as the previous edition. The tournament will have four groups, with nine teams each in Groups A, B, and 10 teams in Group C and the Plate Group. The top two teams from Group C and the top team in the Plate Group will progress to the quarter-finals of the tournament, along with five teams from Groups A and B. A neutral curator will be appointed to select the wicket for each fixture.
Technology: Last year’s edition witnessed plenty of controversy due to umpiring. Umpires complained of fatigue as there weren’t enough to officiate in the increased number of matches. There were calls for use of Decision Review System (DRS). The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) heard the call and in July 2019, considered the use of DRS for the knockout stages. The BCCI agreed to use a “limited DRS” system, which does not use Hawk-Eye and UltraEdge.
Prove a point: KL Rahul, who was axed from the Test side, but has been scoring heavily in shorter formats, will look to assert his Test claim once he returns to the longer format with Ranji Trophy. Shikhar Dhawan too has said he can give it a shot. Same with Rishabh Pant and Prithvi Shaw, who have lost their places in the Test side for different reasons following sterling starts. Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, who were India’s match-winners in one-day cricket not so long ago, have since been demoted. They’ll also look to impress. Also, left-arm pace bowler Khaleel Ahmed, after failing in the recent T20 series vs Bangladesh, will try to get his confidence back with Rajasthan.
Young guns: Shubman Gill and Abhimanyu Easwaran, who are knocking on the India team’s door, will hope one more good season will get them nearer. Gill, who has been part of the India squad but never got picked, will be particularly fancying his chances as there’s been a lot of support for him. Yuvraj Singh has said Gill should be picked post the 2019 World Cup. Yashasvi Jaiswal and Priyam Garg, who will be part of India U-19 team in next month’s Colts World Cup in South Africa, too are ones to look out for.