Ranji Trophy | Where would your team finish ft. Elite Group C
In another fresh edition of the Ranji Trophy, all eyes will be set on the next Indian break-out star, after what Mayank Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari did with India. In this preview, we, at SportsCafe, take a look at Elite Group C teams and try to predict the position they might end up finish.
#1 - Jharkhand
It was a difficult choice to pick one among Haryana, Jharkhand and Maharashtra. But for me, Jharkhand trumps everyone else on multiple fronts. The team has a potent bowling line-up, led by Varun Aaron and has players like Anukul Roy and Ajay Yadav, who on their days could be as effective as any. That, coupled with Jharkhand’s strong batting line-up, makes them a solid contender to win at least six out of nine games. If the rain holds up, the first two round matches in North-East - Assam and Tripura - should be a cakewalk for them. We are expecting them to finish at #1 in the group.
#2 - Haryana
Not the recency bias for their performance in the Syed Mushtaq Ali - it is never a great indicator anyway - Haryana can sneak in through the backdoor to leave Maharashtra and Odisha behind in Group C. They are slated to play four matches in Rohtak, where the wickets love the pacers even more than Birmingham - and the games become lottery here. Their strong spin-bowling line-up, with Yuzvendra Chahal and Jayant Yadav dictating course, things might become interesting. Let’s get one thing straight- the oppositions are not really as strong as Haryana on paper, making the team from North India team the favourite to qualify for the quarter-finals.
#3 - Maharashtra
Sure enough, Maharashtra are a pale shadow of their former selves, having finished without a victory in the last season, and they have hardly improved this year. But the emergence of Rituraj Gaikwad to be more that a reliable batsman up top and the experience factor of playing big matches might work in Maharashtra’s favour. I am counting them winners for the clashes against Tripura, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Uttarakhand, and Services. They can comfortably take a minimum of three points against Odisha - a team they traditionally dominated - and Jammu and Kashmir. But the challenge of Haryana and Jharkhand - the first one away and the second one home - would not be easy. I am predicting them to finish third.
#4 - Odisha
Here comes my favourite team, but hell yeah. I wish I could keep them in top-two. Year by year the team banks on the success of their pacers but Basant Mohanty is not getting any younger. The failure to properly unearth the next Odisha bowling talent meant Odisha are in for another season of absolute frailty and it doesn’t help that the internal chaos dominated the team selection than ability. Like Maharashtra, Odisha can dominate small teams like Tripura, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Uttarakhand, and Services but it will be a real surprise if they can gain some points off Maharashtra or Jharkhand. If they drop points off the weak five teams, it could end up as an absolute disaster once again.
#5 - Jammu and Kashmir
Easily, the dark horse in the group, not fancied but can produce brilliance on the go. Remember the Mumbai thrashing? Only fools will sign off Jammu and Kashmir. Under the guidance of Irfan Pathan, J&K have developed massively - even accumulated three wins last year - but the fact of the matter lies elsewhere. Due to the unstable political situations, they are yet to finalise a home venue, which adds to the lack of game-time, and J&K are in for a shocker of a season. I am still putting them ahead of Assam and Tripura, majorly because of the oppositions’ unpredictability and lack of options. It would take a massive step-up to sneak in for the first four spots in the group.
#6 - Assam
From being the semi-finalists in the 2015-16 season to a team in absolute shambles, Assam’s stumble has been very disappointing. Put in Elite Group C last year, Assam had a disappointing run, with a total of three victories. It doesn’t sound promising especially when Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana have all massively improved and Assam have been left in the lurch with their fading stars. The emergence of Riyan Parag is a sweet story but how much he can do in red-ball cricket is left for hindsight, making them one of the most vulnerable sides in the group. Anything above #6 would be a miracle.
#7 - Tripura
Much like plate group teams, Tripura have gone on the professional route, with Tanmay Mishra, Harmeet Singh and Millind Kumar. With the batting comparatively becoming stronger, Tripura’s bowling front does not inspire any confidence. They might win a few points off Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh - again that is a big punt - and Services but their biggest opportunity lies in securing points off Assam, J&K and Odisha. The three teams will determine Tripura’s future but that comes at a premium. The North East team will need to ensure that Services won’t pull off an upset against them. That would be an improvement from the last season.
#8 - Services
The problem with Services is, unlike other teams, they can’t just bring in professional players to their system thanks to the legacy unit structure but in contrary, they have rather lost many players to the dream. Services, for little fault of their own, can do nothing better and it is very apparent that they would finish in the bottom three. The reason I kept both Chattisgarh and Uttarakhand below them is due to the fact that Services always unearth a player or two every season, who takes the wheel from the front and guide them to a position of respectability.
#9 - Chhattisgarh
Clubbed in Elite Group A and B, Chattisgarh ended up at the bottom of the table last year, without a single win. Players like Amandeep Khare and Jatin Saxena might have taken the limited-overs cricket by storm but Chattisgarh is yet to provide any challenge to established outfits in the red-ball format. I am backing them to take maximum points from Uttarakhand and might as well, Services, with a couple of innings leads too - probably Tripura and Odisha in best case scenario - but nothing much is expected from the central Indian team. #9, harsh, maybe.
#10 - Uttarakhand
This is cruel, isn’t it? Uttarakhand just blew every team to smithereens last year to qualify for the quarters where they gave eventual champions Vidarbha a run for their money. However, it was in plate and thinking they can come close to doing that this year would not be wise. With Unmukt Chand at the helm of affairs, Uttarakhand can dream but I won’t be too optimistic. This is down to the same conundrum that Tripura possesses - the team is relying too much on professionals and if the youngsters like Saurabh Rawat and Karnaveer Kaushal don't step up, it would be a difficult proposition for Uttarakhand to crack.