What does Ranji Quarter-final mean to Kerala?
Kerala created history by entering the Ranji Trophy quarter-final for the first time, by beating Haryana by an innings and eight runs. Playing the pre-quarters in 1993-94 and 1996-97 was their best performance so far.
Jalaj Saxena is the stand-out performer for Kerala by scoring 482 runs and picking up 38 wickets. In the batting department, Sanju Samson leads the run charts for Kerala with 577 runs.
Sijomon Joseph, the 20-year-old left-arm spinner, has also made an impact by taking 19 wickets in four matches.
What does the Quarter-final mean to Kerala players?
They have never played any Ranji knockout so far. It will be interesting to see how they handle the pressure of being in a knockout match.
These knockout matches draw a lot of attention and runs scored or wickets taken will force the National selectors to sit up and take notice.
Jalaj Saxena has played 98 first-class matches, however, he has never got the opportunity to play for India. A good performance in the quarterfinal might well prove to be the final throw of the die for him.
Sanju, on the other hand, having impressed in the IPL, and played for India in one T20I, will be eyeing another national call-up. He has also scored a hundred against Sri Lanka for Board Presidents XI and the selectors have dropped hints about him being on the periphery.
What does the quarter-final entry mean to people in Kerala?
Kerala is not too dissimilar from the rest of the country. Parents in the state want their kids to focus on academia and this is where cricket takes a back seat.
Hence, only a handful of players in Tinu Yohannan, S Sreesanth, and Sanju Samson have played for India.
In Kerala, you could see a lot of talented players in school-level and college-level. However, only a few take up cricket as a profession because they don't believe they could make a profession out of cricket.
Now, with the quarterfinal entry, Kerala team have sent a message back home that they belong to the highest level. They have proved one and all that they are capable of beating big teams when they toppled Saurashtra by 309 runs. Winning five out of six group games is not an easy task at all and they have driven home the message.
The qualification is a proof that Kerala cricket is headed in the right direction. To hire a coach of the caliber of Dave Whatmore indicates the professional approach of Kerala cricket association.
The addition of Dave Whatmore who coached Sri Lanka to the 1996 World Cup will surely attract a lot of youngsters. And the results are quite evident, there will be more youngsters queuing up to play the sport.
Kerala has taken a decisive turn with this qualification and this only bodes well for the future of the state. Hopefully, in the coming years, there will be several players from the southern state who proudly don the National badge.
The state is watching, go well boys!