Ravindra Jadeja’s absence from the Indian team invariably sets off alarm bells in every Ranji opposition camp. (Source: File)
Maharashtra (fourth with 7 points) v Karnataka (first with 13 points), Pune
Both teams are coming off terrific wins against spirited opponents. Maharashtra managed to stave off UP by 31 runs while table-toppers Karnataka saw off Hyderabad by just 59 runs as they came very close to chasing down 360.
Railways (second with 13 points) v Hyderabad (fifth with 2 points), Karnail Singh Stadium, Delhi
Railways, the perennial mid-carders — since their brief yet heady heights of the mid-2000s — are one of the few teams in their group without any India or potential India players but have been led with the ball by seasoned pacer Anureet Singh. Hyderabad got no joy from their returning prodigal sons Ambati Rayudu and Pragyan Ojha in narrow defeat to Karnataka and have been left with a lot to play for.
Gujarat (second with 13 points) v Haryana (last with 0 points), Valsad
Gujarat are proving last year’s title win wasn’t a flash in the pan and have started their defence in dominant fashion with two wins. And Piyush Chawla is taken up the role of RP Singh as the veteran professional in the mix quite manfully. Haryana are generally good starters but have simply not got going this season. They lost by an innings and 31 runs despite Saurashtra having made only 278 in their only innings before being skittled out by Shahbaz Nadeem against Jharkhand leaving them pointless.
J&K (sixth with 3 points) v Kerala (third with 12 points), Thumba
Jalaj Saxena has spent the first few weeks of the season entering his name into various sections of the Ranji record-books, especially in Kerala’s previous match against Rajasthan. He became the third player in history to take eight wickets and score a century in the same match. The off-spinner has 26 wickets at 12.88 in three matches and is clearly on top of the wicket-taker’s tally. J&K, the only team who are stuck in the neutral venue era, meanwhile will have not just Saxena to deal with. Sanju Samson with two fifties in the last two matches is finding some form and the stage if perfectly set up for a big one.
Saurashtra (first with 14 points) v Jharkhand (fourth with 8 points), Rajkot
Ravindra Jadeja’s absence from the Indian team invariably sets off alarm bells in every Ranji opposition camp because they know he’ll take it out on them. Like he did with a double-century and seven wickets against J&K. And he’ll certainly be hungry for more on his favourite hunting ground at home. There’re also the likes of Cheteswhar Pujara, Robin Uthappa and Sheldon Jackson to deal with but Jharkhand are no pushovers and with the likes of Nadeem and Ishank Jaggi being their consistent selves, they have the potential to stall Saurashtra even if they might not be able to stop them.
Odisha (fifth with 2 points) v Mumbai (fourth with 4 points), Bhubaneshwar
With the national selectors having finally listened to the pleas of pretty much every Mumbai cricket fan, the multiple-time champions will do without their talisman Shreyas Iyer in Bhubaneshwar. He might instead be making his international debut for India in Delhi on Wednesday. Mumbai do have a rather illustrious replacement in Ajinkya Rahane, who will be joined by Shardul Thakur.
Andhra (second with 9 points) v MP (first with 14 points), Vizianagaram
Not many would have picked this as a top-of-the-table clash at any stage in Group C, considering the other heavyweights in the mix. But Andhra and Madhya Pradesh have both been in punishing form with bat and ball. Former India under-19 stars Hanuma Vihari, who scored a triple ton in the last game, and Ricky Bhui, who has back-to-back centuries, have been in free-flowing form. MP have had more contributors with Naman Ojha the obvious star. Second-generation leggie Mihir Hirwani took five wickets in the last game and is their leading wicket-taker.
GROUP C: Baroda (last with 1 point) v Tripura (sixth with 2 points), Baroda
GROUP D: Chattisgarh (fifth with 6 points) v Punjab (third with 8 points), Raipur & Vidarbha (fourth with 8 points) v Services (last with 1 point), Nagpur