Ranji Trophy | Four Vidarbha players selected in Faiz Fazal-led SportsCafe Team of the Tournament

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Ranji Trophy | Four Vidarbha players selected in Faiz Fazal-led SportsCafe Team of the Tournament

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Bastab K Parida


As the Ranji Trophy has finally come to an end, it is time to look back at one of the most path-breaking seasons ever, with Vidarbha scripting history. We, at SportsCafe, have gone through the numbers and put them in context to form the Ranji Trophy 2018-19 team of the tournament.

While picking the team, I purposefully decided to leave the Plate group performers out, mostly to bring the balance to the team. There is no denying the fact that the likes of Milind Kumar, Ashutosh Aman, and Deepak Dhapola took the Ranji Trophy by storm and deserve more than a trifling mention, but it will only help when they will repeat the same in the elite group in next few years. 

Opener - Faiz Fazal (Vidarbha) - 752 runs, 16 innings, average 50.13 (Captain)

For those who are confused about Faiz Fazal’s selection ahead of Gujarat’s Priyank Panchal, I can hardly disagree with you. Panchal, after a comparatively difficult season of 2017-18, made run-scoring ridiculously easy this season, scoring 898 runs in 17 innings at an average of 59.86. However, Faiz Fazal is not far behind with 752 runs at an average of a shade over 50, all this while leading the team to the title. His 75 in the semi-final against Kerala was the reason of the team entering the final, and that put him ahead of Panchal in this XI. The way he led throughout the season was the reason that I selected him as the captain of my team. 

Opener - Abhimanyu Easwaran (Bengal) - 861 runs, 11 innings, average 95.66

Here is another terrific talent leaving his dream of playing cricket. It seems Abhimanyu Easwaran would satiate with anything less than that India cap. Despite missing the first few matches of the season due to his India A commitments, Easwaran hit three hundreds and as many fifties, including a well-crafted 201 against Punjab which helped Bengal be in the race for the knockouts until the last day of the tournament. The 23-year-old's unbeaten 183 against Delhi resulted in Bengal chasing down 322, which is their highest chase in Ranji history. To go with that effort, his average of 95.66 is too good not to take notice. 

No. 3 - Wasim Jaffer (Vidarbha) - 1037 runs, 15 innings, average 69.13

What is Jaffer having for his breakfast? Please let me know if you get an to know. The Mumbaikar, who has now two more titles with Vidarbha, is showing no signs of ageing as he scored 1037 runs at an average of almost 70. He was one of the fulcrums of Vidarbha’s championship run this time and his presence at No.3 meant it gave Fazal and Sanjay Ramaswamy to express themselves at the top. He anchored the innings quite brilliantly and made sure that even in the days of early collapse, the team wouldn’t lose the plot altogether. 

No. 4 - Shubman Gill (Punjab) - 728 runs, nine innings, average 104

He is a special talent and will be there for a long haul. After his solid performance with India U-19 and India A, this season epitomizes why he is that rightly rated in Indian cricket. While other Punjab batsmen couldn’t do much for the team, it was only Gill, who after returning from New Zealand tour with the India A team, batted with such authority against Tamil Nadu that made Yuvraj Singh comment that Gill would go on to achieve so much in his life. He is No. 4 in our team.

No. 5 - Rinku Singh (Uttar Pradesh) - 953 runs, 13 innings, average 105.88

Uttar Pradesh had a quarter-final run this year with Rinku Singh emerging as a star to help the team in the absence of Suresh Raina for most of the matches. While Rinku’s average of 105.88 is insane enough to take notice, it speaks a little about the context in which he scored those runs. In one of the group stage matches against Jammu and Kashmir, Rinku came out to bat when UP were at 79 for 5 and his 66 off 88 balls from No. 7 helped lift the side to 188. Then, against Haryana, UP were at 53 for 4 and Rinku's 43 from No. 6 ensured that when he was the last man out his side had the first-innings lead. His performance was the sole reason why UP made a run to the quarters this time.

No. 6 - Akshay Wadkar (Vidarbha, wk) - 725 runs, 16 innings, average 60.41

Vidarbha’s second consecutive championship run was a combined team effort and it had seen many forces coming together to script the success story. One among them is Akshay Wadkar whose 725 runs at 60.41 has little rivals, and he doubled up as a solid wicket-keeper to assist in 27 dismissals. Despite this being only his second season in Ranji Trophy, Wadkar was doing everything that a mature batsman would have done - a solid presence in the middle order. His 48 against Railways not only arrested the collapse but also ended up helping his team edge out the opponent.

No. 7 - Dharmendrasinh Jadeja ( Saurashtra) - 59 wickets, 19 innings, average 27.16

Barring Bihar’s Ashutosh Aman, no one has picked up more wickets than the other Jadeja from Saurashtra. His 59 wickets cost him only 27.16 runs per dismissal, but more than that, he didn’t even make Saurashtra feel that they lacked Ravindra Jadeja throughout. With the performance, he also put all the talks of being a turning-track bully to the bin with a brilliant away strike rate of 48.9. 29 of his total 59 wickets came at the away venue.

No. 8 - Aditya Sarwate (Vidarbha) - 55 wickets, 19 innings, average 19.67

Next to Jadeja on the list of highest wicket-takers of the season, Aditya Sarwate proved to be a big-match player with his 11-wicket haul in the final breaking Saurashtra’s back. The left-arm spinner from Nagpur was a relentless performer in the league stage as well, picking six five-wicket hauls in the entire tournament. For a moment, I thought of picking Jaydev Unadkat ahead of him, which would have given more cutting edge to the team, but Sarwate scores over the fact that he did extremely well in the final to be left out of the team.

No. 9 - Sandeep Warrier (Kerala) - 44 wickets, 18 innings, average 17.54

One of the success stories of Tinu Yohannan’s short coaching stint with Kerala, Sandeep Warrier took the domestic season by the storm to put him ahead of his good friend Basil Thampi. The well-built man has been a master of using his physique to great effect and this year came the coming of age of his talent where he picked up at an average of 17. Odisha’s Basant Mohanty and Rajasthan’s Aniket Choudhary had better averages than him, but Warrier’s impact landed Kerala in the semi-finals, which for a team like Kerala, is indeed a great achievement.

No. 10 - Tanveer Ul-Haq (Rajasthan) - 51 wickets, 20 innings, average 18.52

After making his debut back in 2015, Tanveer Ul-Haq has always remained under the shadow of Aniket Choudhary and Pankaj Singh. However, Pankaj’s decision to move to Puducherry reaped large dividends for him as Tanveer finally came to his own and formed a formidable pair with Choudhary. He was the highest wicket-taker among all pacers in the country and his insane average of 18.52 was equally spread out in both home and away conditions. Tanveer also brought the fear factor for the opposition, making him the most successful pace bowler in the country.

No. 11 - Ronit More (Karnataka) - 37 wickets, 16 innings, average 18.72

It is finally the season More proved that all the talks about his pace are not merely a hot discussion in Karnataka cricketing circles. When Vinay Kumar failed to make any sort of impact as a bowler, More started doing the job what Kumar used to do years ago - picking wickets consistently. More’s performance in the knockouts was as impressive as it could get and that is the reason why I picked him ahead of other pacers in the contention - Services’ Diwesh Pathania, Odisha’s Rajesh Mohanty, and Uttar Pradesh’s Ankit Rajpoot.

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