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R Ashwin’s absence is not the only blow for Tamil Nadu ahead of their match against Madhya Pradesh. Senior opener Abhinav Mukund is not available for the match due to personal reasons. And the hard-hitting Shahrukh Khan, who has hurt his little finger, is not a part of the squad either.The trio has been replaced with Kaushik Gandhi, Hari Nishaanth and L Suryapprakash, all top-order batsmen.
Washington Sundar returns for Tamil Nadu
Washington Sundar, after being a part of all three games in India’s 2-1 T20I series win over West Indies, has returned to link up with Tamil Nadu for their next Ranji Trophy game, against Himachal Pradesh in Dindigul, from December 17.
Making way for Washington is the uncapped medium pacer K Mukunth, who was among the reserves for Tamil Nadu’s first-round match, against Karnataka in Dindigul, which ended up being a thriller. Karnataka eventually won it by 26 runs after K Gowtham, the offspin-bowling allrounder, put on a stellar show with a 14-wicket match haul, along with a half-century in the Karnataka first innings.
K Gowtham out of round two with hairline fracture
Karnataka will be without the hero of their nail-biting win against Tamil Nadu for the second round of the Ranji Trophy, with K Gowtham having sustained a hairline fracture on his right foot. Gowtham was thus not named in a 15-man squad that will take on Uttar Pradesh in Hubli, from December 17 to 20.
It is not yet certain if Gowtham will be out for longer than one round or not.
A Karnataka team official said Gowtham had originally injured his foot during the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in Surat, but had recovered by the time the Ranji Trophy started. In the first round, Karnataka took on Tamil Nadu – having already beaten them in the Vijay Hazare Trophy final and the Syed Mushtaq Ali final – and Gowtham starred with both bat and ball in a thrilling 26-run win achieved in the final over of the last day.
Gowtham, 31, made a 39-ball 51 in the first innings to drag Karnataka to 336. He then took 6 for 110 as Tamil Nadu were bowled out for 307. He contributed 22 as Karnataka were bowled out for just 151. But Gowtham then turned the match Karnataka’s way after Tamil Nadu had motored to 49 without loss in a chase of 181, putting in a lion-hearted performance to take 8 for 60.
Those were the best figures of his career, and his match haul of 14 for 170 was also a career-best. However, Gowtham ended up bowling a total of 71 overs across two innings (out of the 173 overs Karnataka bowled overall), which aggravated the injury again.
Gowtham’s absence will mean Karnataka will be without two key players who were part of their win against Tamil Nadu, with Mayank Agarwal having been called up to India’s ODI squad, and thus also absent.
Assam v Jharkhand game shifted out of Guwahati
Guwahati will not host the upcoming second-round Ranji Trophy fixture between Assam and Jharkhand because of the ongoing political turmoil in the state following the parliamentary approval to India’s Citizenship Amendment Bill. Assam will instead travel to Ranchi, in Jharkhand, for the game.
Assam’s first home game against Services was abandoned after three days of play, with the visitors in sight of victory when curfew was imposed in the state. The match, however, was categorised as a draw, the toss having taken place, and Assam earned three points for their first-innings lead, with Services getting one point.
An Assam Cricket Association official confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that with “the security of the players” being “the most important thing”, it wasn’t possible to have cricket in the state while the unrest continued.
Word from the Jharkhand camp was also that they had been asked to go back home to Ranchi from Agartala – where they beat Tripura in dramatic fashion in their first game – instead of travelling to Guwahati.
The Services players, in fact, had to delay their departure from Guwahati because of the curfew. They had originally planned to leave on the evening of the final day, but were only able to depart the following day.
Umesh Yadav returns for Vidarbha’s game against Rajasthan
Defending Champions Vidarbha will be bolstered by the return of Umesh Yadav for their upcoming fixture against Rajasthan at home. Yadav missed his side’s opening match against Andhra as the India team management wanted him to take a break following his heavy workload across four Tests against South Africa and Bangladesh. But Vidarbha will have his services for the next game, and possibly the one after against Punjab at home as well.
“He was rested for the first match because of the heavy schedule [as decided by the India team management], but we have him for the second match,” a Vidarbha Cricket Association official told ESPNcricinfo. We will decide on him match by match, but we are hoping to have him for the next two matches too, because those are also at home.”
Umesh was the highest wicket-taker in the home Tests this season, with 23 strikes, that despite missing a Test.
No play in Guwahati following political unrest, curfew
The political unrest across Assam following the parliamentary approval to India’s Citizenship Amendment Bill has hit the ongoing Assam v Services Ranji Trophy match, with the final day’s play on Thursday called off because of the indefinite state-wide curfew.
Speaking to ESPNcricinfo, Debojit Saikia, the vice-president of Assam Cricket Association, said, “Yes, there is no question of the players coming from the hotel to the stadium because of the curfew. There has been a lot of violence in the state, and in Guwahati, already. Their security is our biggest concern. So we had to call off the game today.”
The Services players, who were in with a great shot of bagging points for an outright win with Assam 74 for 5 in their second innings, still 161 runs adrift of the victory target, did not fly out as planned.
“It’s not safe for them. We will take stock of the situation tomorrow afternoon and decide on the next course of action,” Saikia said.
As things stand, the match will be abandoned, and Saikia said that the ACA will speak to the BCCI to see if it can be replayed on a later date.
‘I thought it’s a time to grab it’ – Shaw on maiden first-class double
Prithvi Shaw, who has been in excellent run-scoring form since returning to the game after serving a doping ban, led Mumbai’s charge in their second innings against Baroda with 179-ball 202. He had hit 66 in 62 balls in the first innings too.
“It [double-century] was never on my mind. I was trying to score runs. That’s it,” Shaw was quoted as saying by The Indian Express after he hit his maiden first-class double. “But as I got closer to 200 runs I thought it’s a time to grab it. People do score hundreds, not that it’s easy to score hundreds, but I felt kuch bada karna padega (I had to do something big).”
Since making his comeback, Shaw hit 63, 30, 64, 30 and 53 in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 tournament, before the big runs in the Ranji game in Vadodara.
“I waited for this day, I feel this is the best time to show the world what kind of game I have. I believe I can do well and conquer things. To be honest I do think about the India comeback. I wasn’t dropped and I was out of the team. It was not a nice feeling.”
M Vijay fined for dissent
M Vijay, the Tamil Nadu opening batsman, was fined 10% of his match fee for expressing his displeasure at an on-field decision during the first day of the contest against Karnataka in Dindigul.
The Tamil Nadu players were unhappy with more than one decision by umpires Nitin Pandit and Anil Dandekar, and when, in the final session of the day, Pavan Deshpande was adjudged not out after a big appeal from bowler R Ashwin and his team-mates, the Tamil Nadu players all got together near the pitch.
With no technology available, the matter ended there, and it emerged after the day’s play that Vijay had been fined for “dissent”.
Wanted ‘someone young’ to lead Tamil Nadu – Karthik
Dinesh Karthik, who led Tamil Nadu to the finals of the Vijay Hazare and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy this year, has explained that his decision to not lead the side at the upcoming Ranji Trophy was down to passing the baton to the younger lot.
“I believe for so long we have had various captains, so now it is time to have someone young who can take [Tamil Nadu] forward,” Karthik, 34, was quoted as saying by Sportstar, the captaincy having been handed to allrounder Vijay Shankar earlier this week. “I think the captaincy should not be for just this year but for the next two-three years.
“We have a lot of young talents and it is important for these players to start thinking what’s the way [Tamil Nadu] should play to try to win the Ranji Trophy. If we give time, they will be able to do that.”
Tamil Nadu will kick off their campaign against Karnataka, in Dindigul on Monday.
Kerala pick Baby over Uthappa for captaincy
Sachin Baby, and not Robin Uthappa, will lead Kerala in the Ranji Trophy. Baby retains the captaincy, having led Kerala to the semi-finals in 2018-19. A season earlier, he had led them to their maiden quarter-final appearance.
Uthappa, who led the team during the limited-overs leg of the domestic season, will, however, still be key to the state’s batting fortunes. It is believed his underwhelming returns both as captain and batsman in the white-ball season led to the KCA’s decision of continuing with Baby.
Uthappa managed just 112 runs in eight innings at the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy. In the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20s after that, he managed 139 runs in six innings, with one half-century. Kerala failed to progress to the knockouts in either competition.
Goa rope in Smit Patel after CM Gautam’s arrest
Smit Patel, the wicketkeeper-batsman, has moved to Goa as a professional after two seasons with Tripura. He replaces CM Gautam, the former Karnataka wicketkeeper, who has been stripped of his contract in the wake of his arrest in the Karnataka Premier League spot-fixing scandal.
With Parthiv Patel keeping wickets, Smit moved out of his home state Gujarat before the 2016-17 season because of lack of opportunities with the gloves. In all, Smit, an Under-19 World Cup winner in 2012, has played 45 first-class matches, scoring 2479 runs at an average of 49.66 and effecting 101 dismissals behind the stumps.
Suryakumar Yadav is the new Mumbai captain
Mumbai, Ranji Trophy champions on 41 occasions, will begin the 2019-20 season with a new captain. The Mumbai Cricket Association announced in-form top-order batsman Suryakumar Yadav as the leader of the 15-man squad. He takes over from fast bowler Dhawal Kulkarni, who led the side last season in the red-ball competition when regular captain Shreyas Iyer was away on national duty.
Aditya Tare, the wicketkeeper-batsman, was named vice-captain for their first match against Baroda, with star players Ajinkya Rahane, Prithvi Shaw and Shardul Thakur also in the mix.
Sarfaraz Khan, the big-hitting middle-order batsman who moved to Mumbai last year from Uttar Pradesh, also found a spot in the squad after recovering from an injury he picked up at the Vijay Hazare Trophy. He did not feature in the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy season after switching because of the mandatory one-year cooling-off period.
Siddhesh Lad to miss Mumbai’s first game
Batsman Siddhesh Lad, one of the mainstays of the Mumbai side, will skip the first match of the season, away against Baroda, because of his wedding. He wasn’t named in the original squad of 15, to be led by Suryakumar Yadav, which has a strong batting contingent headlined by the captain, vice-captain Aditya Tare, Ajinkya Rahane, Prithvi Shaw, Jay Bista, Sarfaraz Khan and others.
Vijay Shankar to lead Tamil Nadu, M Vijay returns
Tamil Nadu allrounder Vijay Shankar has been handed the team’s captaincy for the first time in the Ranji Trophy, following their squad announcement for the first two matches, against Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh.
R Ashwin and M Vijay will also turn out for Tamil Nadu, with the latter having recovered from an ankle injury that saw him sidelined from the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Baba Aparajith will be Shankar’s deputy.
It is understood that Vijay Shankar pipped Ashwin to the captaincy role since the Test spinner may not be available when India tour New Zealand in January 2020 for a Test series.