Ranji Trophy | Where would your team finish ft. Elite Group B
With the group packed with super-star teams such as Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Mumbai and Baroda, only three teams can qualify to the next stage of the tournament. In this preview, we, at SportsCafe, take a look at Elite Group B teams and try to predict the position they might end up at.
With Group B deemed to be the group of death, it would be tough for many teams from the group to make their way into the quarter-finals, with at least one team qualifying from Group C and the Plate division.
Amongst Tamil Nadu, Mumbai, Baroda and Karnataka, it was always going to be Karnataka who were going to be favourites. With a mix of international and domestic players in good form, it is going to be a key season for Karnataka as they aim for treble. Led by Karun Nair, and aided by Shreyas Gopal, the side would feature Mayank Agarwal for the entire season, barring injuries. Last year, Karnataka won just three games and would certainly want to improve on that front this season. They are expected to win at least six games this season, barring an interruption from the Rain Gods. We are expecting them to top the group of death.
Saurashtra, led by Jayadev Unadkat, would end as the nearest competitors to Karnataka for the top position in the group. Seasoned batsman Cheteshwar Pujara’s presence might come in handy for the side as they aim to once again put up a masterful showing. With four games at the familiar Rajkot ground, Unadkat’s side would be expected to pick up at least four wins this season beating Baroda, Madhya Pradesh, Railways and Uttar Pradesh. With conditions in their favour, they could walk away with as much 32 points in the group just behind Karnataka.
#3- Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu would be hoping to bring their merry limited-overs form into Ranji Trophy, with Vijay Shankar leading the side. The squad would feature a mix of veterans and new talents in the state, with Abhinav Mukund and Murali Vijay opening the batting. Further, the presence of Ravichandran Ashwin, Baba Aparajith, Shankar and Dinesh Karthik could give them the vital experience to close out games. Playing four games on spinning tracks, Tamil Nadu could warrant a victory with their spin attack whilst also parallely bolstering a decent pace attack. Their only worry could be Karnataka, Saurashtra and Madhya Pradesh - three places where they have not had success.
Ranji Trophy giants Mumbai have fallen down the pack in the last few seasons, with one inconsistent display following the other. With their top-order stacked with Prithvi Shaw, Sarfraz Khan, Ajinkya Rahane and Suryakumar Yadav, the batsmen would be aiming to get the side off to good starts. In the 2018 season, Mumbai only won a single game, on top of which they were toppled by Gujarat and Vidarbha. With the return of Rahane in the team, Yadav’s side should be able to make a comeback, with registering wins against Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Railways. However, Karnataka, Saurashtra and Tamil Nadu are three sides that could give them a tough time this season. The absence of Shreyas Iyer would play a crucial role in the season, however, Rahane’s experience would easily fill in those shoes.
Last season, Baroda got home three wins and four draws while only losing once throughout the season. This season, they have a difficult start to their season as they face Mumbai in their very first match-up. Baroda’s beginning and end to the season are tough encounters, as they face start with Mumbai and end the group versus Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Saurashtra. If they continue the form that they showed last season, they might be able to get to a possible fifth spot this season. Baroda will have to play both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka away from home, which could be a real test of merit for them.
#6- Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh’s performance last year was incredible, albeit being in Group C. This year, however, they would be put to the right-test, and against spinning conditions, their batsman might falter away. Rinku Singh, Priyam Garg and Akshdeep Nath will continue to remain their key players this season as they aim to repeat their Group C heroics in the group of death. The last time they faced a top side in the league, it did not go well for them as they lost to Saurashtra in the quarter-finals of the Ranji Trophy. With Ankit Rajpoot in the ranks, UP would be aiming to finish higher in the group. However, with other top sides in the fray, they might have to settle for a mid-table finish.
#7- Himachal Pradesh
Himachal Pradesh finished above the likes of Tamil Nadu and Mumbai last year, but this year it might change given that they face Tamil Nadu away from home. Last year, Himachal had the advantage of playing at home against the Karthik-led Tamil Nadu side, where spin was rarely a threat. When exposed to spin last time, they faltered against the left-arm spinner Kumar Karthikeya twice in two innings, showing their vulnerability to slow bowling. Further, in the game against Hyderabad, they failed to tackle the threat of the opposition spinners, and this will be one of the stories leading up to their match against Tamil Nadu this season.
#8- Madhya Pradesh
Last season, Madhya Pradesh’s performance was consistent as they won three games, losing only twice all season. However, their two losses have been huge, with the first one being a nine-wicket loss in Delhi and the second one a 307-run defeat against Andhra. The game against Andhra, in many ways, highlighted the issues that are pertinent to the team. Their batting unit struggled in the game against Andhra, where they were bowled out for just 91 runs in the first innings, before being put to bat follow-on in the second innings. In the second innings, MP crumbled to 35/10 in just 17 overs, which was, without a doubt, one of the weakest performances that any team put in the entirety of the tournament last season.
Only five sides finished below Railways last season, and only two finished below them in Group A and B. The side, skippered by Arindam Ghosh, managed just one win throughout the 2018/19 season, one which came in the penultimate game of the season against Maharashtra. Prior to the game against Maharashtra, they suffered defeats at the hands of Karnataka, Vidarbha, Baroda and Saurashtra. They face the same opposition this time around to go along with the addition of Mumbai and Tamil Nadu, which is not going to do them any favours. The light at the end of the tunnel seems dark at the moment and is likely to stay the same way at the end of the season.