Saurashtra were crowned the Ranji Trophy champions for the very first time last week as they defeated Bengal in the final in Rajkot. Led by the irrepressible Jaydev Unadkat, Saurashtra finally won India’s premier first-class cricket tournament after finishing runners-up in 2019, 2016 and 2013.
It was another hard-fought season of red-ball cricket which saw Gujarat and Karnataka reach the semi-finals before going down to Saurashtra and Bengal respectively. In typical Ranji Trophy fashion, there was plenty of grit, determination, skill, planning and patience on display right through the season.
The combined statistics from the Elite and Plate groups will see quite a few entries from the latter. But it makes it impossible to simply look at the numbers and figure out who was most impressive, since there is a big difference in the level of competition in both groups.
Most runs in Ranji Trophy 2019-20
|Rahul Dalal (Arunachal Pradesh)||9||17||1340||95.71||75.96||4||5|
|Taruwar Kohli (Mizoram)||9||16||998||71.28||60.04||3||5|
|Puneet Bisht (Meghalaya)||9||15||976||69.71||75.60||2||6|
|Paras Dogra (Puducherry)||9||13||967||80.58||85.57||4||3|
|Sarfaraz Khan (Mumbai)||6||9||928||154.66||78.64||3||2|
|Amit Verma (Goa)||10||14||848||65.23||72.04||4||4|
|Harpreet Singh (Chhattisgarh)||8||11||838||83.80||57.71||4||2|
|Babul Kumar (Bihar)||9||15||822||54.80||57.24||2||5|
|Sheldon Jackson (Saurashtra)||10||18||809||50.56||58.41||3||3|
|Smit Patel (Goa)||10||14||799||66.58||77.49||3||3|
Most wickets in Ranji Trophy 2019-20
|Jaydev Unadkat (Saurashtra)||10||16||67||13.23||2.81||28.2||7||3|
|R Sanjay Yadav (Meghalaya)||9||15||55||12.65||2.50||30.3||5||3|
|Harshal Patel (Haryana)||9||17||52||14.48||3.19||27.1||4||1|
|Diwesh Pathania (Services)||9||17||50||15.82||2.58||36.7||4||0|
|Manisankar Murasingh (Tripura)||9||15||49||17.02||2.83||35.9||3||1|
|Ashutosh Aman (Bihar)||9||16||49||18.10||2.43||44.6||5||1|
|Ishwar Chaudhary (Sikkim)||9||16||49||22.30||3.84||34.8||6||0|
|R Vinay Kumar (Puducherry)||9||16||45||11.31||2.82||24.0||4||1|
|Sagar Udeshi (Puducherry)||9||18||45||12.11||2.32||31.2||3||0|
|Saurabh Kumar (Uttar Pradesh)||8||14||44||21.09||2.57||49.2||5||2|
As is evident, there are a number of players in the list who play for teams that are in the Plate group. Not to take anything away from their efforts, but it would be unfair to suggest that they did better than the players who proved their mettle in the top division.
Here are the top ten performers from the 86th edition:
Jaydev Unadkat (Saurashtra)
He was, undoubtedly, the star of the season. And this feels particularly good to say for a fast bowler considering how slow and low Indian pitches usually are. Unadkat led Saurashtra from the front and finished with the second most number of wickets in a single season. Left-arm spinner Ashutosh Aman took 68 wickets for Bihar last season but that was in the Plate group. Unadkat’s seven-for in Gujarat’s second innings in the semi-final was, perhaps, the moment of the season and will be remembered for a long time. The 28-year-old left-arm pacer’s ability to get movement off a dull Rajkot track right through the season was mighty impressive. Unadkat’s relentlessness sets him apart and if there’s one player from the domestic circuit who deserve’s a look for the Indian team, it has to be him.
Arpit Vasavada (Saurashtra)
If Unadkat stood out with the ball, Vasavada stood out with the bat. The left-hander was solid as a rock for Saurashtra in the middle-order and ended up getting a century each time he crossed the fifty-run mark in the season. The 31-year-old’s best performances came at the most crucial times for his team – in the semis and final. He scored hundreds in both those games and played an instrumental role in the outcomes. Vasavada doesn’t have the most attractive game and can often get bogged down, but his methods and patience were just what Saurashtra needed as they rode on his efforts to clinch the title.
Sheldon Jackson (Saurashtra)
Saurashtra winning the title is a just reward for Jackson. The 33-year-old has 76 first-class games to his name and has been a strong pillar for his state team for years. Often flying under the radar despite impressive knocks, the right-handed middle-order batsman finished as the top-scorer of his team for the second successive season (he had got 854 runs last season). He slammed a ton in the semi-finals and also scored an 85 against Mumbai and a 161 versus Karnataka earlier in the season – underlining his status as one of the most dependable batsmen in red-ball cricket on the domestic circuit.
Akash Deep (Bengal)
Akash Deep will want to forget the final day of the season in a hurry because of his bizarre run out at a crucial point in the match. But the Bihar-born right-arm pacer played a key role in Bengal making their way to the final. Deep picked a six-for against Gujarat early in the season and kept putting in consistent performances from there on. He picked five wickets each in the semis and final and was often the go-to bowler for his skipper right through the season. The 23-year-old’s ability to get late movement at a decent pace will surely hold Bengal in good stead in the years to come.
Anustup Majumdar (Bengal)
In the quarters, semis and final, the right-handed middle-order batsman had scores of 157, 149 not out and 63 respectively. Majumdar’s effort for Bengal this season was truly memorable. Batting at No 5 or 6, the 30-year-old was calm under pressure and bailed his team out of trouble on most occasions. He would be gutted to miss out on helping Bengal get the all-important first innings lead in the final after fighting valiantly. Even so, his composure in the middle-order is a hugely positive takeaway for Bengal.
Sarfaraz Khan (Mumbai)
He finished as the fifth-highest run-scorer in the season but it’s probably fair to say that his is the most impressive performance on the list. Khan was absolutely devastating for Mumbai and was the only real bright spot for the 41-time champs. His 301 not out against Uttar Pradesh was one of the biggest talking points of the season. The 22-year-old’s family comes from UP, he grew up playing cricket in Mumbai, then went to play for UP for a few of years without any success, before returning to Mumbai and taking apart the UP attack. It has been quite the journey for the right-hander. He followed up his triple-century with a 226 not out against Himachal Pradesh in the very next innings. His scores of 8, 71*, 36, 301*, 226*, 78, 25, 177 and 6 at a strike-rate of nearly 80 highlight the kind of talent he possesses. Khan can surely go places if he can back up this performance next season.
Arzan Nagwaswalla (Gujarat)
Gujarat made their way to the semi-finals and their top performer for the season was young Nagwaswalla. The 22-year-old left-arm pacer picked a 10-wicket match haul against Punjab earlier in the season and followed that up with a string of solid outings with the ball. He bagged four-fors in the quarters and semis and was the standout bowler for his team in the final as well with figures of 5/81 in the first innings. Playing in just his second first-class season, Nagwaswalla showed he can be a mainstay in the future for the 2016-17 champions.
Rahul Dalal (Arunachal Pradesh)
The only player in this list from a Plate team, The Haryana-born Dalal had a sensational season. In terms of most runs in a single Ranji Trophy season, he is second on the all-time list now behind VVS Laxman (1,415 runs in 1999-2000). The 28-year-old right-hander’s scores this season were: 26, 6, 81, 178, 205*, 53, 84, 25, 267*, 36*, 51, 16, 68, 190, 35, 32 and 13. Although these knocks were against lower-division teams, it doesn’t take away from the fact that these are phenomenal numbers. Dalal was the only player to score more than 1,000 runs this season and could well be hired by a more reputed side going ahead.
Chintan Gaja (Gujarat)
The final two names on this list are of players who made all-round contributions to their respective teams. For Gujarat, apart from Nagwaswalla, Gaja was a key performer. The right-hand bat and right-arm medium pace bowler was brilliant in the semi-final against Saurashtra, scoring 61 in the first innings and then picking a seven-wicket haul. Even in the quarter-final against Goa, he scored a half-century and bagged a five-for. The 25-year-old chipped in with both bat and ball right through the season and brought great balance to the Gujarat side.
Saurabh Kumar (Uttar Pradesh)
Last but by no means the least, we have Uttar Pradesh all-rounder Saurabh Kumar. The left-handed batsman and left-arm orthodox spinner was the standout performer for his team. The 26-year-old scored crucial runs for UP and even returned with an impressive five five-wicket hauls in the season. His six-for against Karnataka followed by a ten-wicket match haul versus eventual champions Saurashtra in their own den gave a glimpse of the potential he has.
This report will be incomplete without the mention of a few other key performers. For Bengal, seasoned middle-order batsman Manoj Tiwary and young fast bowler Ishan Porel were mighty impressive. Tiwary was the top run-scorer for his team (707 runs) and his experience in the middle-order was priceless for them. Porel played just three matches in the season but his five-for against Karnataka in the semi-final was right out of the top drawer.
Goa made their to the semi-finals after topping the Plate group and a big part of their success was the effort by Amit Verma (848 runs at an average of 65.23) and Smit Patel (799 runs at an average of 66.58). Verma was, in fact, effective with his leg-spin bowling as well, picking 43 wickets in 10 matches.
Note: All statistics courtesy ESPNcricinfo Statsguru and all pictures courtesy Twitter @BCCIdomestic