Key players to watch in Ranji Trophy final
The Ranji Trophy final between Karnataka and Maharashtra gets underway on Wednesday. While Maharashtra’s chances rest heavily on their batting, Karnataka will look to their bowlers to deliver the goods. Harish Kotian looks at the key players in the contest.
Karnataka will be looking to continue their excellent run while Maharashtra are eyeing a perfect end to one of their best seasons in domestic cricket when they clash in the Ranji Trophy final, starting in Hyderabad, on Wednesday.
Karnataka are high on confidence, having won six games in a row before securing a draw in the rain-hit match against Punjab in the semi-finals.
On the other hand, not many fancied the chances of Maharashtra, who progressed from Group C. But after beating 40-time champions Mumbai and a strong Bengal side in successive games en route to the final no one is betting against them pulling it off in the final.
While both teams are well-balanced, Maharashtra’s progress evolved around their batting, while Karnataka had their bowlers delivering the goods.
Ahead of the Ranji Trophy final, a look at the key players.
Kedar Jadhav: (1074 runs in 10 matches @ 89.50, 5 x 100, 2 x 50)
Kedar Jadhav is Maharashtra’s leading performer this season, having scored as many as five centuries, including a career-best innings of 327 against Uttar Pradesh. He is the leading run scorer with 1074 runs in 10 games, at an average of 89, a record for most runs by a Maharashtra batsman.
He played a key role in Maharashtra's thrilling comeback victory over defending champions Mumbai in the quarter-finals with a sparkling knock of 120.
Indeed, the team’s strength this season is their batting and they will hope Jadhav continues his magical run in the final against Karnataka.
Image: Kedar Jadhav
Rahul has risen to the occasion this season for Karnataka
KL Rahul (873 runs in 9 matches @ 67.15, 2 x 100, 4 x 50)
Rahul enhanced his reputation as one of the best young batting talents in the country with an excellent performance for Karnataka this season.
The 21-year-old has hit 873 centuries in nine matches, and has risen to the occasion virtually every time Karnataka found themselves in a crisis with crucial knocks, including a 133 against Mumbai, 92 not out against UP and 98 against Haryana, to name a few.
Rahul has made it a habit to go on and play on a big innings after getting a good start and Karnataka will be looking for another big knock from him in the final
Image: KL Rahul
Khadiwale plundered runs aplenty during the league stages
Harshad Khadiwale (980 runs in 10 matches @ 65.33, 3 x 100, 4 x 50)
Khadiwale made most of playing relatively weaker bowling attacks in Group C and plundered runs aplenty during the league stages. But the right-handed opener's batting dipped slightly in the last few games, with failures against Mumbai and Bengal, in the semis.
But Khadiwale, 25, has made a lot of people stand up and take notice of his batting, having scored 980 runs in 10 matches at an average of 65.
Maharashtra will be hoping he will come good in the final after failing in the previous two innings.
Image: Harshad Khadiwale
Darekar and Mithun will hold the key with the ball
Akshay Darekar (32 wickets in 10 matches @ 28.40, 5WI: 1, 10WM: 1)
Left-arm spinner Akshay Darekar emerged the key contributor for Maharashtra with the ball, claiming wickets aplenty.
The 25-year-old, who has 32 wickets from 10 games, has played an important role in the middle overs.
His best performance of the season was a 10-wicket haul against Assam, which helped Maharashtra win by 128 runs.
Abhimanyu Mithun: (36 wickets in 9 matches @ 23.83, 5WI: 2, 10WM: 1)
Former India pacer Abhimanyu Mithun has done well with the ball for Karnataka, claiming 36 wickets in nine games.
He played four Tests and five ODIs in 2010-11 before falling out of the selectors’ favour. However, after a consistent showing in the domestic season, he has made another strong claim for a place in India’s squad.
He single-handedly destroyed Odisha, claiming 11 wickets in the match, and also took seven wickets against Uttar Pradesh.
Image: Akshay Darekar
Fallah seems to enjoy the big stage
Samad Fallah (31 wickets in 8 matches @ 27.58, 5WI: 1, 10WM: 1)
Left-arm pacer Samad Fallah seems to enjoy the big stage. The 28-year-old sits on 31 wickets in eight matches, including 17 scalps in the last two games.
Fallah says he now has a measured run-up. His action may not be perfect but he is happy to get the job done using all the variations at his disposal.
He demolished Bengal with a superb ten-wicket haul that helped Maharashtra to the Ranji Trophy final after a long wait of nearly two decades.
Maharashtra last played in the Ranji Trophy final in the 1992-93 season, and lost to Punjab.
This time, though, Fallah is hoping to change the script.
Other key players: Zol, Munde and Vinay
The young Vijay Zol is another key player to watch out for after being discharged from the Under-19 World Cup squad camp to play in the final.
Shrikant Munde has excelled as an all-rounder, hitting 194 runs in eight matches while also claiming 30 wickets with his medium pace bowling.
Karnataka will be looking towards captain R Vinay Kumar to deliver with the ball after his gutsy showing in the semi-finals against Punjab.
Vinay had to initially leave the field due to back spasms but came back to run through the Punjab batting.
Punjab were sitting pretty on 223 for three before Vinay’s five for 27 saw them crumble for 270. In the final analysis, it proved crucial in the rain-hit semi-final.
Image: Samad Fallah