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Ranji Trophy 2019-20: Will returning heavyweights Pujara and Saha make the difference in intriguing final?

  • Two India stars are joining ranks with their state sides to help them lift the coveted trophy. How will they impact the game?
ANALYST
Feature
Modified 07 Mar 2020, 15:00 IST

Cheteshwar Pujara
Cheteshwar Pujara

From Monday, heavyweights Saurashtra will take on a resurgent Bengal at home in Rajkot to claim the biggest prize in Indian domestic cricket, the Ranji Trophy.

Both teams are on the ascent after inspiring semi-final victories. Saurashtra, led by record-breaking pacer Jaydev Unadkat who has claimed an astonishing 65 wickets this season, overcame Parthiv Patel's Gujarat in a classic battle. They will now try to make the most of their home conditions and their batting firepower, which features the likes of Sheldon Jackson.

Bengal, on the other hand, have the best pace attack in the circuit, with the troika of Ishan Porel, Akash Deep and Mukesh Kumar wreaking havoc throughout the season. The team has displayed a new-found mental toughness that has helped them survive after being on the brink in tough matches.

Bengal got past a star-studded Karnataka who were the favourites in their semi-final encounter, thanks largely to their pacers utilizing the helpful conditions to the fullest. Veteran Anustup Majumder, who has been on a golden run in the knockout rounds, played two vital knocks to take Bengal to a position of strength.

However, as strong as both teams are, the return of two international stars, given the go-ahead to play for their sides, may change the complexion of the match.

Cheteshwar Pujara

Cheteshwar Pujara is a top batsman in red-ball cricket and a great value-addition to the hosts. After a lean run in the Tests in New Zealand where he only scored 100 runs in two matches, Pujara will be desperate to establish his credentials once again and win the coveted trophy for his side.

But in recent times, the man with purportedly one of the most solid techniques in the game has not looked quite so solid. In fact, experts have seemingly discovered a weakness against the in-coming delivery that Trent Boult and Co. utilized to great effect in New Zealand.

New Zealand v India - Second Test: Day 2
New Zealand v India - Second Test: Day 2

That is surely very encouraging news for the in-form pace battery that Bengal will rely on to get the wickets. However, with the pitch most likely to be a belter, Pujara might be instrumental to Saurashtra's chances - especially if it comes down to first innings lead.

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Wriddhiman Saha

That said, the return of Wriddhiman Saha might make a bigger difference to the Bengal set-up. By most accounts, Saha has the best technique in the world as a keeper right now and will be hungry to perform after being strangely dropped from the Kiwi series.

While he will be replacing an already competent keeper in Sreevats Goswami, the area where he might make a huge difference is the team's batting strength.

Bengal, apart from Majumdar and the veteran Manoj Tiwary, have struggled in that department, with captain Abhimanyu Easwaran going through a poor patch. It is here that Saha's inclusion might be crucial.

Saha behind the stumps.
Saha behind the stumps.

Saha, unlike at the international level, is a prolific first-class batsman with 13 centuries and an average of 43. After becoming a father for the second time, the man is in a happy place and has gone on record to say that he is determined to bring the trophy home.

Only time will tell whether lack of match practice will have an impact on the India international when thrown into such a big game. One thing is for certain though: both heavyweights will add heft to their respective lineups, and can single-handedly make a difference to their team's fortunes.

Published 07 Mar 2020, 15:00 IST
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