Ranji Trophy: 3 most prolific seasons by a fast bowler
- 3 greatest Ranji Trophy seasons by a fast bowler in the 86-year history of the competition.
- All but one won the competition for his respective sides that season.
Indian domestic cricket's flagship competition, the Ranji Trophy, is not exactly a paradise for fast bowlers as is exemplified by the fact that five of the top-6 all-time wicket takers in the competition are all spinners.
Pankaj Singh became the first non-spinner in Ranji Trophy history to bag 400 wickets in the competition when the 6' 5" fast bowler bagged four wickets in each innings of Puducherry's win over Manipur in a group-stage game of the 2018-19 edition of the competition. Since then, only R Vinay Kumar has achieved the milestone, doing so while also playing for Puducherry, in a win over Bihar in Patna during their 2019-20 group-stage match.
More recently, Jaydev Unadkat led from the front as Saurashtra won their first Ranji Trophy title at the fourth time of asking, beating Bengal on first-innings lead in the 2019-20 final after being thwarted in their three previous finals by Mumbai (2012-13 and 2015-16) and Vidarbha (2018-19).
On that note, let us have a look at the 3 of the most outstanding Ranji Trophy seasons by a fast bowler.
#3 Ranadeb Bose (Bengal): 57 wickets in 2006-07
Bengal speedster Ranadeb Bose bagged 57 wickets in the 2006-07 Ranji Trophy to produce the best season by a fast bowler in the competition in 8 years.
In a blockbuster title match against Mumbai, featuring a bevy of international players on both sides, Bose bagged 9 wickets in the match but was outshone by another speedster, Zaheer Khan whose own 9-wicket match haul was instrumental in Bengal's 132-run defeat in a tall chase of 472.
Based on his domestic exploits which saw him bag five-wicket hauls in five consecutive matches to end the season, the 6' 4" fast bowler was selected for the Indian Test team against England although he did not get to play a match in the series.
Bose holds the distinction of being the only fast bowler in recorded history to bowl over 10000 deliveries in first-class cricket without bowling a front-foot no-ball.
#2 Dodda Ganesh (Karnataka): 62 wickets in 1997-98
Dodda Ganesh is the first bowler to breach the 60-wicket mark in a Ranji Trophy season when he did so for Karnataka in 1997-98. In one of Karnataka's most productive eras in the competition, Ganesh struggled for game-time in a team boasting internationals like Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad, and Anil Kumble. However he made the most of the limited opportunities which came his way.
Starting out as a wicketkeeper-batsman, Ganesh's talent was spotted by Gundappa Vishwanath as the fast bowler first made his mark on the domestic scene by picking the wickets of Navjot Singh Sidhu and VVS Laxman in the 1996 Irani Trophy.
Ganesh featured in 4 Test matches and a lone ODI for India and had his best Ranji Trophy season in 1997-98, picking up 5 wickets in the final against Madhya Pradesh as Karnataka lifted their third title in the competition in 4 seasons.
#1 Jaydev Unadkat (Saurashtra): 67 wickets in 2019-20
Saurashtra captain Jaydev Unadkat produced one of the most prolific seasons by a speedster in the 86-year history of Ranji Trophy when the left-armer picked up 10 wickets in the semi-final win over Baroda. He propelled the Gujarat-based team to their first title in the competition.
In the best season of his career, Unadkat picked up 5 wickets in an innings on 7 occasions and 10 wickets in a match thrice en route to overtaking Dodda Ganesh's 21-year old record for the best Ranji Trophy season by a fast bowler.
Unadkat's 67 wickets in the season was just one shy of the competition record of 68 which was achieved by Bihar's Ashutosh Aman in 2018-19.