Ranji Trophy’s bigwig, Mumbai, might have played their 500th match this season, but the story of the 84th edition of the competition is Kerala’s maiden entry into the knockout stage.
The changed format of this season saw fierce competition between 28 teams slotted into four different groups. Even formidable sides like Mumbai (41 times champions) and Gujarat (defending champions) secured a quarter-final berth in their final match. Sides like Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Saurashtra fell behind and their journey ended in the league stage itself as only the top teams qualified for the knockouts.
The venues that will host the four games are Jaipur, Surat, Nagpur and Vijayawada. All four fixtures will be played from 7 December.
The quarterfinal line-up of the @paytm Ranji Trophy 2017-18 is as below:
1. Gujarat v Bengal – Jaipur
2. Delhi v MPCA – Vijaywada
3. Kerala v Vidarbha – Surat
4. Karnataka v Mumbai – Nagpur
— BCCI Domestic (@BCCIdomestic) November 28, 2017
With the draws of the quarter-finals of Ranji Trophy announced, here we look at the how the teams are stacked up one against the other:
Mumbai vs Karnataka
With both teams loaded with some big names in their ranks and given the history of both sides, even the broadcasters couldn’t resist the opportunity to provide airtime to the high profile contest. Although both teams have had contrasting journeys to the final eight, Karnataka stormed their way into the knockouts remaining unbeaten in their six games – winning four while two games ended as draws. Meanwhile, Mumbai meandered their way to finish second in the group.
The biggest reason for Karnataka’s success has been Mayank Agarwal, while the likes of Manish Pandey and Ravikumar Samrath have also performed well for the side. The team's standout player has been Agarwal, who scored 1064 runs in 10 innings at a whopping average of 133. The 26-year old is taking giant strides towards VVS Laxman’s record of most runs (1415) in a single Ranji season.
On the other hand, Mumbai just about managed to scrape through into the knockouts with 21 points. Aditya Tare’s side finished with two wins and four draws. Albeit, one of the biggest gain from India’s batting nursery, Mumbai, has been Prthivi Shaw. The opener, who turned 18 earlier this month, has already scored three centuries in the domestic competition and doesn't look like stopping anytime soon. Mumbai’s middle-order batsman Siddhesh Lad has also been producing fine performances and the 41 time champions will need to bring their A-game when they take on the in-form Karnataka side in Nagpur.
Gujarat vs Bengal
In a pursuit of becoming the sixth side to defend their Ranji title, Gujarat won five out of their six games in the round-robin format to finish atop of their group. The Parthiv Patel led side finished with a staggering 34 points against their name, the highest among all groups. Priyank Panchal started off this season where he had left the previous one, having scored 538 runs at 67.25. The move to rope in leg-spinner Piyush Chawla from Uttar Pradesh ahead of the season have helped team reap good rewards as the Indian discard grabbed 31 wickets in five matches he has played.
On his heels is Bengal’s Ashok Dinda who has 30 victims to his name, including a 10-wicket haul. Bengal might not have many outright wins to show but the Manoj Tiwary-led side did enough to pip the star-studded Punjab and make their way into the quarter-finals. Youngsters like Abhishek Raman and Ishan Porel have played vital roles in their team’s success and would look to carry on against Gujarat at Jaipur.
Delhi vs Madhya Pradesh
Delhi might not have the services of their captain and strike bowler, Ishant Sharma, as the clash with Madhya Pradesh starts a day after India’s third Test against Sri Lanka in Feroz Shah Kotla, and this could prove costly for them. In the batting department, Nitish Rana and Gautam Gambhir have been among the runs and the team will rely heavily on the senior pros going ahead in the tournament. Madhya Pradesh topped their group but have didn’t quite hit their straps earning just 21 points in their six matches. Former Indian leg-spinner, Narendra Hirwani’s son, Mihir Hirwani, a leg-spinner too, took 25 wickets this season for Madhya Pradesh and he will be a vital cog if they have to edge past Delhi. The two teams will lock horns at Vijayawada.
Kerela vs Vidarbha
Appointing Dav Whatmore as the head coach worked wonders for Kerala as they created history when they defeated Haryana at Lahli by an innings and eight runs, sealing their spot in the last-eight of country’s premier domestic competition. Sanju Samson has been the hero for the Kerala side, having smashed couple of centuries and been the top-scorer for his side.
Jalal Saxena, the off-spinner who doubles up as an opening batsman for Kerala too has been a success story. With 38 wickets, he is the leading wicket-taker this season and he has smashed close to 500 runs at an impressive average of 60.25. Led by Sachin Baby, the team won five of their six games taking 31 points to finish behind Gujarat in Group B. Their quarter-final counterparts Vidarbha too defied odds by topping their group that included Bengal and Punjab. Batting heavy side Vidarbha boasts of some fine talent in Faiz Fazal and Sanjay Ramaswamy, who have done the bulk of the scoring with 710 and 665 runs behind them in this season respectively. Fazal has hammered four centuries this season. Veteran players like Wasim Jaffer will help the side as they progress towards the business end of the competition.