Prior to the season, not many might have predicted the line-up of quarterfinalists for the Ranji Trophy 2019-20. After two months of group stages, the quarterfinalists stand as follows:
Saurashtra v Andhra at CSR Sharma College Ground, Ongole
Jammu & Kashmir v Karnataka at Gandhi Memorial Science College Ground, Jammu
Bengal v Odisha at DRIEMS Ground, Cuttack
Gujarat v Goa at Sardar Vallabhai Patel Stadium, Valsad
While fancied teams like Karnataka, Gujarat and Saurashtra have made it, champions in the previous two seasons Vidarbha and traditionally strong teams like Mumbai and Tamil Nadu were among teams that failed to qualify.
Karnataka, who won the trophy twice in the last six years, will fancy their chances. They qualified as the third team from Elite Groups A and B, with four wins from eight matches. They are even stronger in the knockouts, with Manish Pandey returning after his India duties. He will not lead the side though, as Karnataka have stuck with Karun Nair. KL Rahul, though not a part of the Test squad, is not featuring in the side.
Karnataka have been driven by Devdutt Padikkal, who has scored 547 runs from eight innings. Abhimanyu Mithun, with 27 wickets, is their leading wicket taker. K Gowtham has struggled with injuries, but has played crucial all-round role in Karnataka’s run to the quarters.
Karnataka’s opponent, J&K, will be looking to extend their dream run. It’s only the second time they have qualified for Ranji knockouts, having made it as the top team from Group C. They won six matches out of nine, and are in great momentum.
Bengal, meanwhile, have been driven by Manoj Tiwary. Their captain Abhimanyu Easwaran had to miss a few games due to India A commitments, and has not been in the best of forms. Tiwary, the senior batsman, has stood up. He made a triple century earlier in the season and got Bengal into the quarters with two half-centuries against Punjab in a low-scoring last group match. Overall, he has 641 runs from 8 matches. Left-arm spinner Shahbaz Ahmed is their leading wicket taker with 29 scalps.
Odisha have been driven by their pacers, with Suryakant Pradhan (35 wickets), Rajesh Mohanty (32) and Basant Mohanty (30) leading the way.
Saurashtra do not have Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja, but are still a strong unit. The runners-up last year, Saurashtra will depend on their captain to take them one step further this time. Jaydev Unadkat has been in the form of his life, bagging 51 wickets from just 7 matches. In Pujara’s absence, Sheldon Jackson, with 605 runs from 7 matches, will be their strongest batsman.
Up against them will be Andhra, who qualified as the fifth team from Groups A and B. KV Sasikanth, with 35 wickets, has been the driving force for them while their batting has been a combined effort.
Gujarat will start as the overwhelming favourites against Goa, the only team qualifying from the Plate Group. Roosh Kalaria, with 30 wickets, has been their top performer with the ball while Axar Patel has got 24 wickets from only four matches. With the likes of Parthiv Patel and Priyank Panchal in the line-up, they should fancy their chances against Goa.