The Ranji Trophy 2018-19 season reached its business with the four quarter-finals set to get underway on Tuesday (January 15) in various parts of the country. While Vidarbha will take on Uttarakhand in Nagpur, Saurashtra and Uttar Pradesh will battle it out in Lucknow. Karnataka will face Rajasthan in Bangalore and the fourth encounter will be staged between Kerala and Gujarat in Wayanad.Vidarbha vs Uttarkahand – VCA Stadium, Jamtha, Nagpur
Last year’s champions will face off against the team that topped the Plate Group, Uttarakhand. Vidarbha won the Ranji Trophy title last time around and have topped Elite Group A this time in the league stage. Vidarbha are coming off a huge innings win against Mumbai and have players in form. The likes of Akshay Wadkar, Wasim Jaffer and Faiz Fazal have all been among the runs while Aditya Sarwate and Akshay Wakhare have had batsmen in all sorts of tangle throughout. There are also reports doing the rounds that Umesh Yadav might feature in the quarter finals which is bound to make the side even stronger. It won’t be easy for Uttarakhand, who will be without Rajat Bhatia, who is giving the quarterfinal a miss to travel abroad for a course in human bio-mechanics. It’s up to the likes of Vineet Saxena, Kartik Joshi and Deepak Dhapola for Uttarakhand to give Vidarbha some sort of challenge.
Saurashtra vs Uttar Pradesh – Ekana Stadium, Lucknow
Cheteshwar Pujara is set to return for the quarter finals and that will in itself be a huge boost for Saurashtra going into the all-important game. Pujara has been in the form of his life and with three centuries in the recent series against Australia which India won 2-1, his availability will surely make a difference. With three wins and five draws, Saurashtra finished second on the Elite Group A points table. What gives Saurashtra the edge is the number of experienced heads in the side and their form. Jaydev Unadkat has been among the wickets this season with 21 scalps in five games while Sheldon Jackson and Harvik Desai have accumulated runs aplenty. Throw in a Pujara in the mix and Saurashtra certainly become the team to beat. UP, on the other hand have had a slight inconsistent run. They pipped Jharkhand to second place in Group C and will have to bring out their A game to get the better of Saurashtra. The responsibility will again fall on the shoulders of left-armer Saurabh Kumar, who is their leading wicket-taker with 50 scalps so far in the season, and Rinku Singh, who has looked unstoppable in the middle-order with the bat. The likes of Akshdeep Nath and Ankit Rajpoot have also shown good form and UP will hope the side can come up with a collective effort come Tuesday.
Karnataka vs Rajasthan – M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore
With three wins, two losses and three draws, Karnataka had a tough time getting into the knockouts and will have their task cut out against a rampaging Rajasthan unit. Karnataka have shown inconsistent form so far this season. Having said that they have missed key players in Karun Nair, Manish Pandey, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, K Gowtham and R Samarth, who were out on India and India A duties. Barring Rahul, all of the other five players are likely to play the quarter finals and that is bound to up their chances. Under a new captain in Pandey, Karnataka will be keen on securing a semifinal berth second season running. Rajasthan, on the other hand, have been on a rollicking run so far. They won seven of their nine matches, most of them quite convincingly and topped Group C. Robin Bist and Mahipal Lomror have both aced more than 600 runs each so far while the pace bowling duo TM Ul-Haq and Aniket Choudhary have both picked up 47 wickets each so far. With Rahul Chahar as well in top form, Rajasthan have a formidable unit and are primed to give Karnataka a run for their money.
Kerala vs Gujarat – Krishnagiri Stadium, Wayanad
Both Kerala and Gujarat have so far had a slightly inconsistent run though the latter are certainly favourites going into the quarter finals. Parthiv Patel, after missing out on a bulk of the season as he was on India duties, is likely to come back into the side to further bolster Gujarat. The onus will once again be on Priyank Panchal, who is third-highest run getter with 887 runs in eight outings. The right-hander has hardly put a foot wrong so far and will be keen on continuing his form. Gujarat’s bowling has lacked the intent and that is one place they will want to improve going into the knockouts. For Kerala, it will once again be Jalaj Saxena on whom most of the responsibility will fall. Saxena has been Kerala’s second highest wicket-taker and the highest run-scorer so far, and will be hoping to carry on for his side. Apart from him Sachin Baby and Sandeep Warrier have also been impressive while Kerala will hope Sanju Samson too regains some of the touch that has been missing this season.
First Published: January 14, 2019, 2:02 PM IST