Ranji Trophy 2022-23: Mumbai, Vidarbha, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Tamil Nadu top five contenders for coveted silverware. Madhya Pradesh lift the Ranji Trophy in 2021-22.
The 88th edition of India’s premier first-class cricket tournament, Ranji Trophy 2022-23, kickstarted across the country less than a week ago with 38 teams segregated into five different groups – four Elite groups consisting of 8 teams each and a Plate group consisting of 6 teams. Each of the teams will fight over a period of three months to be crowned India’s red-ball champions in the Elite and Plate categories.
The first round of matches concluded on Friday with all the 38 teams starting their campaigns. A total of 19 games were played across the country and 12 teams opened their 2022 Ranji campaign with a win and the rest resulting in a draw. The traditional giants of Indian domestic cricket Mumbai (record 41 times Ranji champions), Vidarbha and defending champions Madhya Pradesh started their 2022-23 campaign with a resounding win in their respective opening fixtures.
The other teams that are expected to go deeper into the tournament are Tamil Nadu and Delhi who were not able to get the desired result out of their first games. While Tamil Nadu had to settle for a heart-breaking draw, Delhi suffered a defeat at the hands of Maharashtra.
Let us discuss in detail on why the aforementioned five sides – Mumbai, Madhya Pradesh, Vidarbha, Delhi, Tamil Nadu - are the favourites to clinch the ongoing Ranji Trophy based on their team combination and their performance in the first game and the road forward.
Mumbai have won the Ranji title a record 41 times and no team is even in the vicinity to break that record. They came close to winning their 42nd trophy last season where they finished runners-up to the eventual champions Madhya Pradesh.
This year has started on a positive note for the Ajinkya Rahane-led Mumbai team where they defeated Andhra Pradesh by 9 wickets. Tanush Kotian was the stand-out performer for the team as the all-rounder took 6 wickets in the game and scored a crucial 63* lower down the order and helped Mumbai reach 331 in their first innings. Armaan Jaffer scored a century while Yashasvi Jaiswal continued his good run of form in recent times. Experienced campaigners Ajinkya Rahane, Tushar Deshpande and Shams Mulani all had a great game.
Squad: Ajinkya Rahane (c), Armaan Jaffer, Shashank Attarde, Mohit Avasthi, Tusar Deshpande, Royston Dias, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Sarfaraz Khan, Tanush Kotian, Shams Mulani, Musheer Khan, Suved Parkar, Prasad Pawar, Siddharth Raut, Prithvi Shaw, Suryansh Shedge, Hardik Tamore
Overall, Mumbai have a plethora of experienced players in their ranks and none more so than their leader Ajinkya Rahane who has led India in the past. Also their top-3 comprising of Shaw along with Jaiswal and Jaffer, are the players to watch out for in the future. The middle-order which has the in-form Sarfaraz Khan makes Mumbai an early favourite to lift the Ranji Trophy once again.
Mumbai will next play Hyderabad on December 20 in what will their first home fixture of this Ranji season. Interestingly, the traditional rivals of Delhi are also pitted against Mumbai in the group stage and they will face off between January 17-20 in Delhi.
Madhya Pradesh (MPCA)
The reigning Ranji champions Madhya Pradesh registered a comfortable win in their opening round fixture against Jammu & Kashmir in Jammu. They completed outplayed the J&K as Aditya Shrivastava’s men won by an innings and 17 runs. MP’s three of the top four batters including Rajat Patidar, all scored half-centuries as they made 308 batting first.
But the fatal blow came in the form of India international Avesh Khan who took 8 wickets in the game (5/33 and 3/53) as they blew apart J&K for a mere 98 & 193 in the respective innings.
Squad: Aditya Shrivastava (c), Rajat Patidar (vc), Anubhav Agarwal, Akshat Raghuwanshi, Avesh Khan, Yash Dubey, Gaurav Yadav, Harsh Gawli, Saransh Jain, Kumar Kartikeya, Himanshu Mantri, Kuldeep Sen, Shubham Sharma
MP have a largely settled team with some talented players in all the departments. Patidar has been on the fringes of the Indian side recently and done well in the Indian Premier League (IPL) for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB); Avesh is in the scheme of things for national reckoning for quite some time now, and MP also have in their ranks the exciting left-arm spinner Kumar Karthikeya.
Shubham Sharma who made 608 runs last season, will be a crucial member of the team along with the opener Yash Dubey who was quite successful in the opener’s role last season. The impressive young middle-order batter Akshat Raghuwanshi and Gaurav Yadav, a medium pacer, make this team a complete one this season.
They will next face Chandigarh in Indore on December 20.
Next up is the former Ranji champions Vidarbha who are led by the veteran prolific opening batter Faiz Fazal. Vidarbha took on Railways in their opening game of the season at the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) Stadium in Nagpur, and won the clash convincingly by 194 runs. This was largely thanks to their skipper Fazal who made twin centuries in the game (112 and 103), their wicketkeeper batter Akshay Wadkar also making a ton in the second innings (130) and the veteran spinner duo of Aditya Sarwate & Akshay Wakhare taking 9 wickets each in the game.
Squad: Faiz Fazal (c), Akshay Wadkar (vc), Harsh Dubey, Ganesh Satish, Rajneesh Gurbani, Mohit Kale, Lalit Yadav, Sanjay Raghunath, Aditya Sarwate, Atharva Taide, Aditya Thakare, Akshay Wakhare, Apoorv Wankhade, Siddhesh Wath, Yash Thakur
Vidarbha have a wealth of experience in their line-up including Ganesh Satish and all the senior stepped up in the opening game. They have pacer Rajnesh Gurbani who has done well in the past, and youngsters like Atharva Taide in their ranks who will sure be a crucial player going forward. Overall, a solid team and one to watch out for.
They next meet Tripura in Nagpur from December 20 in their second round game.
Tamil Nadu (TNCA)
Tamil Nadu may not have a Ranji Trophy title for quite some time now, but they are definitely a strong unit particularly in the shorter formats. They play an aggressive brand of cricket and their first match this Ranji season against Hyderbad was a clear case in point. Their openers Sai Sudharsan and Narayan Jagadeesan cracked centuries in quick time, riding on their spectacular Vijay Hazare form.
The duo almost won them the game in a 144-run chase where Tamil Nadu made 108/1 in just 7 overs and the game was deemed a draw as bad light played spoilsport much earlier.
Squad: Baba Indrajith (c), Ravisrinivasan Sai Kishore (vc), Affan Khader, Ajith Ram, Baba Aparajith, Aswin Crist, NS Chaturved, Narayan Jagadeesan, R Kavin, Pradosh Ranjan Paul, Sai Sudharsan, Sandeep Warrier, Vijay Shankar, H Trilok Nag, Lakshminarayanan Vignesh
This performance of the team will give them the much-needed confidence going into the tournament, with the likes of Baba brothers, Sai Kishore, experienced Sandeep Warrier, Vijay Shankar in the ranks. TN side looks to be a formidable one this season.
They will next face Andhra Pradesh in the second round game in Coimbatore on December 20.
Delhi is the only team in the list that has lost their opening game as they went down against Maharashtra by 9 wickets in Pune. Though they may not have any points from the game, Delhi side is pretty strong on paper.
Squad: Yash Dhull (c) Anuj Rawat, Ayush Badoni, Harshit Rana, Himmat Singh, Jonty Sidhu, Lalit Yadav, Nitish Rana, Vaibhav Rawal, Ishant Sharma, Hrithik Shokeen, Dhruv Shorey, Simarjeet Singh, Lakshay Thareja, Shivank Vashisht, Pranshu Vijayran, Vikas Mishra, Mayank Yadav
Led by a young skipper Yash Dhull who has been given the responsibility for the first time, Delhi comprises many star performers. The likes of Nitish Rana, Anuj Rawat, Ayush Badoni and Dhruv Shorey have played IPL and done well. Simarjeet took a 4-wicket haul in the first innings and with veteran Ishant Sharma in the wings, the duo can unsettle any batting line-up.
Next up, Delhi will face Assam in Guwahati on December 20.
The Ranji Trophy 2022-23 group fixtures will get concluded on January 27 next year and the knockout stage will commence on January 31 with the final scheduled to be held between February 16-20.