An enthralling season of Ranji Trophy 2017-18 ended on Monday with underdogs Vidarbha beating Delhi by nine wickets in the final to win their maiden Ranji Trophy.
It was a fabulous season marked with memorable performances. While Vidarbha players occupied the top half of both batting and bowling statistics tables at the end of the season, there were others who showed sparks of individual brilliance despite their team's failure to make it to the final stages of the tournament.
Then, there were players who failed to make any meaningful contributions throughout the entire season. Some of them were Indian team discards, while others were young players who had done well in previous seasons.
Let us now have a look at the hits and misses in this Ranji season.
Rajneesh Gurbani (M-6, W-39, Avg-17.12, Economy - 3.04, BBI-7/68, 5WI-5, 10WM-1)
The 24-year-old Vidarbha medium-pacer made headlines for all the right reasons this season. Having played only six matches as compared to eight or nine by most other players, Gurbani claimed a total of 39 wickets and ended up second on the wicket-taker’s list, just five short of Jalaj Saxena.
Although he kept producing decent outings in the group stages, he really struck form in the final stages of the tournament. He followed up a five-wicket haul against Kerala in the quarter-finals with back-to-back fifers in the semi-finals against Karnataka to fashion a thrilling five-run win. He claimed another five-wicket haul in the final which included a scintillating hat-trick as well. It made him only the second player to do so in a Ranji final.
Mayank Agarwal (M-8, Runs- 1160, Avg-105.45, 100s-5, 50s- 2, HS- 304*)
The talented Karnataka batsman always had the potential to make it big but it was his lack of temperament that had let him down in the previous seasons. Things looked pretty similar this season as well as he started his campaign with poor scores of 31 and twin ducls in both innings against Assam and Hyderabad respectively.
However, things turned around quite rapidly for him as he amassed 1033 runs in 7 innings in the month of November alone. His scores that month read 304*, 176, 23, 90, 133*, 173 and 134.
So, from a precarious position of being dropped from the team, Agarwal turned his fortune around quite interestingly to rise to the top of the run charts. Although Karnataka’s fabulous season was halted by Vidarbha in the semi-finals, Agarwal’s tally of 1160 runs in 13 innings put him on top of the run-getter's list this Ranji season.
Jalaj Saxena (M-7, W-44, Avg- 17.11, economy - 2.36, 5WI-3, 10WM-2, BBI-8/85)
Kerala made the right move by signing up Jalaj Saxena this season. He relayed their faith by claiming 44 wickets in seven matches at a stunning average of 17.11. He topped the wicket-taker’s list this season and became the first bowler from Kerala to achieve the feat in Ranji Trophy.
His best match figures of 11/77 came in Kerala’s very first match of the season, against Jharkhand, as he accounted for 6/50 in the first innings while claiming 5/27 in the third. Moreover, he churned out another memorable performance of 8/85 against Rajasthan in the group stages and showed how lethal he can be.
Faiz Fazal (M-9, Runs-912, Avg-70.15, 100s - 5, 50s-1, HS- 206)
The Vidarbha skipper led by example this season as he ended up second in the run-scorer’s list with 912 runs in 9 matches along with leading his team to a historic title-winning campaign.
Fazal scored three consecutive centuries — 125, 136 and 142 against Chhattisgarh, Services and Bengal respectively — and also scored a double hundred against Himachal Pradesh in the group stages. He capped off a fabulous season with a solid 62 against Delhi in the final.
Anmolpreet Singh (M-5, Runs-753, Avg-125.50, 100s-3, 50s-1, HS-267)
Punjab didn't have the best of seasons but their middle-order batsman Anmolpreet Singh produced some good performances with the bat. He amassed 753 runs in just five matches and outscored a lot of established players. His innings of 267 runs off just 262 deliveries against Chhattishgarh was an absolute treat to watch.
Despite playing only five matches, he stood fourth on the list of most runs scored by a batsman in this season, behind Agarwal, Fazal and Ramaswamy Sanjay, all of whom had played eight or more matches. Sanjay’s and Anmolpreet’s run tally differed by just 22 runs.
Suresh Raina (M-5, Runs-105, Avg-11.67, HS-33)
A couple of years back, the Uttar Pradesh southpaw used to be one of the first names in the Indian limited-overs squad. However, his performances kept deteriorating with time, and his failure to pass the Yo-Yo test resulted in his exclusion from the side. Now that he recently cleared the same test, all he needed was to churn out some good performances in the Ranji Trophy to get back into the India squad reckoning. However, he failed miserably with the bat this season, scoring only 105 runs in 9 innings at a dismal average of 11.67 and a highest score of just 33.
Barinder Sran (M-3, W-6, Avg-61.66)
A year back, Barinder Sran was seen as the front-runner to take up the vacant left-arm pacer's role in the Indian squad. He impressed everyone with a three-for on his ODI debut against Australia and also with his crucial spells in the 2016 edition of the IPL.
However, his form has tapered off this year. He failed to impress in the IPL as he fell out of favour after playing only one match. And now in the Ranji Trophy too, he proved to be ineffective claiming only six wickets in three matches at an average of 61.66.
Unmukt Chand (M-4, Runs-128, Avg-25.60)
Unmukt Chand has been seen as one of India’s brightest batting prospect for a long time. However, things have turned upside down for him in the last couple of years. An India call-up looks distant, and now he lost his place in the Ranji side too, as he returned with only 128 runs in six innings.
Pankaj Singh (M-5, W-13, Avg-34.69)
Rajasthan pacer Pankaj Singh, who has represented India in two Tests and an ODI, finished this season with just 13 scalps to his name from five matches. Such dismal figures certainly don't do justice for a bowler who has 427 wickets to his name in 109 first-class matches.
Aditya Tare (M-5, Runs-237, Avg-23.70)
The explosive Mumbai wicket-keeper and skipper has been a pretty consistent performer in domestic cricket over the years. However, he failed to make a mark this year, aggregating just 237 runs in five matches at an average of 23.70.
Those figures certainly don't seem like representing a player with an experience of 61 first-class matches and over 3500 runs to his name.