Withstanding the controversy laden two years, Team Rajasthan began its Ranji Trophy 2015 season on a promising note. Bereft of the services of experienced captain Pankaj Singh, the team showed great intent while facing formidable opponent Delhi in the opener at home.
The team looked brimming with fresh energy as the bowling unit cleaved through Gambhir’s boys on a lush green pitch and plush clean pace. Unfortunately, that was just a flash of enthralling fight that translated into meek surrenders in the games that followed.
Better late than never, Pankaj Singh’s comeback to the team at least evaded the possibility of relegation to the Group C in the Ranji Trophy 2016-17. Rajasthan’s outright back-to-back victories against Haryana and Odisha highlighted how experience at the helm comes handy while re-grouping the team and building over strength during difficult times.
Like the previous Ranji season, the batting this year too was wayward. Rajasthan’s batting failed to consolidate on the good work of its bowling counterparts. Lack of discretion, poor stroke selection and inexperience caught them off guard more often than not.
In eight league matches Puneet Yadav, Ashok Menaria and Vineet Saxena scored 524, 612 and 361 respectively, but whenever they flexed muscles and amassed runs it was often out of sync.
Bhatia the Catalyst
The seasoned all-rounder, though a late entrant, provided much stability and balance to the team with his consistent performance both with the bat and bowl. A thrifty bowler and a copious scorer, Rajasthan’s catch of the dropped Delhi veteran was undoubtedly a right move.
Scoring a domineering 290 runs and denting batsmen’s scoring rate with an economy of just 2.11, Bhatia was a valuable inclusion to the team.
Of all the four players who played all the 8 league matches, Dishant Yagnik, the man behind the stumps was least impactful. In the 3 games where he scored 40, 58 and 71, other players’ performance completely annihilated his contribution and on other occasions he was almost an absentee. He was always on the sidelines and it is time that selectors start scouting for another gloveman.
Finds of the Season
The three colts – Nathu Singh, K Ajay Singh and SS Dobal – who made their first-class debuts this year have shown great promise and are certainly bright prospects. Within no time Nathu Singh drew limelight with his spirited pace bowling. The trainee from MRF Pace Foundation has the ‘X-Factor’ that the selector Sandip Patel found too hard to ignore. High and consistent on pace, he was a quick pick in the Board President’s XI against South Africa.
In a largely pace dominated bowling attack, leg-spinner Ajay Singh could make his presence felt. Even on green tops, he with his slow deliveries could accurately dip, flight and turn the bowl, making it difficult for the batsmen to read him. In 6 matches he took 17 wickets and is the second highest wicket-taker for the team.
SS Dobal, though getting the opportunity late, made most of the 3 matches to show how attacking a stroke player he is. In his first game against Vidarbha, he impressed with his 51 not out, and showed promise of mending the cracks in Team Rajasthan’s batting order. His 43 and 52 in the games against Haryana and Odisha respectively acted as a catalyst in ensuring that the team ended past finishing line. He can be the right middle order batter to reckon with.
Pace bowling has been the mainstay for Team Rajasthan. The spearheads, Aniket Choudhary and Deepak Chahar, were outstanding and the team often piggybacked on their shoulders to intimidate the opponents. Whenever there were moments when Rajasthan looked dominating, it was always because of the duo, whose good work was often nullified and let down by the batting order.
And in the last two games when Rajasthan trumped opponents it was Pankaj Singh and Choudhary who played a massive role. Choudhary, who was adjudged man of the match against Odisha, is also the highest wicket-taker for the team. He took 25 scalps at an economy of 2.71, whereas Pankaj Singh took 16 wickets at an economy of 2.63 and pounced on whatever little opportunity he got to save his team from any further humiliation of defeats.