Here, Cricketnext looks at five young players who will be looking to catch the eye in the 85th edition of Ranji Trophy.
While his compeer Rishabh Pant has already represented India in all the three formats, Kishan is yet to take that next step in his career. The wicketkeeper-batsman from Jharkhand has regularly been featuring in India A squads but this season will give him a chance to push his case for higher things. The left-handed dasher had a terrific 2016-17 edition where he scored 799 runs in 10 matches, decorated with three hundreds and two fifties, to help Jharkhand make their maiden semi-final appearance. That being said, consistency is Kishan's biggest challenge. He did manage 484 runs in six games next season but not once breached the three-figure mark. Kishan can rip apart any bowling attack on his day but what selectors would want him to do is score runs on a consistent basis.
Kishan led Jharkhand in the 2018-19 Vijay Hazare Trophy where he smashed 405 runs in nine encounters. The eastern state remained unbeaten throughout the group stage before losing a thriller against Delhi in the semi-final. The 20-year-old had an amazing Deodhar Trophy where he became the second youngest batsman after Sourav Ganguly (18-year-old) to hit a century in the final. However, Kishan is set to miss a couple of matches for his state as he will travel to New Zealand with India A for the last two four-day games and thee 50-over matches. India doesn't really have too many options in the wicketkeeping department apart from Rishabh Pant. The stalwarts like Dinesh Karthik, Parthiv Patel and injured Wriddhiman Saha won't be there for too long and if Kishan can succeed in amassing big runs this season, it won't be too long before he once again finds himself in the same dressing room with this Under-19 teammate Pant.
With scores of 50, 113, 267, 12, 40, 252* and 19 in the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy, Anmolpreet couldn't have asked for a better start to his first-class career. The right-hander mustered 753 runs at a Bradmenesque average of 125.50 in just five matches to end as tournament's fourth highest run-scorer. He was then straightaway drafted to the India Blue squad for the Duleep Trophy where he scored an eye-pleasing 96 runs to play a key role in helping his team to beat India Red by an innings and 187 runs in the final.
The 20-year-old has also represented Indian Board President's XI a couple of times which suggest he is already on the selectors' radar. He only played three games in the recently concluded Vijay Hazare Trophy but still managed to smash two centuries. Virat Kohli is the epitome of consistency and it comes as no surprise that the India captain is who Anmolpreet looks up to. Like Kohli, Anmolpreet bats at No. 4 in red-ball cricket, and like Kohli, Anmolpreet will hope his run-scoring juggernaut never ends.
"I don't really have any goals as such. I just want to focus on the present and do well for my team." Anmolpreet told Cricketnext. "I always try to score big centuries. Once I cross that three-figure mark, I try to keep going. Of course, the next target is to play for India A but I don't want to take any pressure. I just want to play my natural game. We (Punjab) have a good mix of young and experienced players, so the key will be how we utilise our resources. Young players like me, Shubman (Gill) and Abhishek (Sharma) will have to bat with more responsibility."
The right-arm paceman from Mumbai made his first-class debut against Tamil Nadu in the 2016-17 season and scalped four wickets in the first innings. In total, he picked up 21 wickets at an average of 32.71 in eight games that season but couldn't find a place in the next edition.
However, it was his performance in this year's Vijay Hazare Trophy that forced everyone to sit up and take notice. The 23-year-old bowled with some serious pace and was one of the catalysts of Mumbai's third Vijay Hazare title. In the three knock-out games, Deshpande claimed 10 wickets, including a five-wicket haul. It doesn't take too long to catch everyone's eye in Indian cricket fraternity if you have the ability to bowl quick and cause damage and that's what Deshpande will look to do the same in the upcoming tournament. But can you expect anything else from someone who has played khadoos brand of cricket ever since he took up the ball?
"I know every bowler wants to be the highest wicket-taker in the tournament but all I want to do is build on my Vijay Hazare form. I think I could have done slightly better in Vijay Hazare. I played with the attacking mindset in the knock-outs and that helped me. I get to bowl 10 overs in 50-over cricket but here I will get to bowl close to 17-18 overs a day and I will play with the same aggressive mindset," said Deshpande.
"Aggressiveness is something that defines me and I can't leave that. I have good pace and that's a huge advantage for me. Pace ke hi chalte agge badhunga (It will be because of my pace I will move forward in my career). I missed out on the 2017-18 edition because of injuries but this time I have focused a lot on my fitness. Having played a decent amount of cricket for Mumbai, now I try to read the game and bowl accordingly."
Mavi is yet to make his debut in first-class cricket but the 19-year-old pace sensation has already made a name for himself in a very short span of time. The right-arm pacer took nine wickets in six encounters at an astonishing average of 18.88 during India's successful campaign at the Under-19 World Cup earlier this year. He was then bought by Kolkata Knight Riders for Rs 3.2 crore in IPL 2019. Mavi didn't end up with great numbers but he did manage to impress everyone with his effort.
He got to work with the likes of Jacques Kallis and Simon Katich and that helped him both physically and mentally. Mavi made his debut for Uttar Pradesh in this year's Vijay Hazare and picked up a hat-trick in his very first game against Saurashtra. He ended the competition with eight wickets to his name and managed to break into Uttar Pradesh's Ranji Trophy squad. The red-ball cricket is altogether a different beast and it will only help him to get better. Mavi is still very young but he will want to make a solid first impression.
"Honestly, domestic cricket is tougher than playing for India A or in the IPL," said Mavi. "You get slow and flat wickets in India, nothing really happens from the pitch. Batsmen play shots unexpectedly; the preparation is also less as you don't get videos for all the players. In IPL and India A, you know everyone's strength and weaknesses. In domestic cricket, you have to analyse as you play."
Pappu Roy's journey to the top-level is one of the most heart-wrenching stories one can hear. The 23-year-old had to fight his way out of hell to make it to the Odisha Ranji Trophy squad. The left-arm spinner made his debut for the state in the Vijay Hazare and picked up 14 wickets at an average of 18.42 and an economy rate of just 3.79. Odisha managed only two wins in eight matches but Roy was able to create such impact that he found a place in the Ajinkya Rahane-led India C side for the Deodhar Trophy. He took six scalps in two matches, including the likes of Shreyas Iyer, Manoj Tiwary and Hanuma Vihari who have all played for India.
The second chapter has only begun for Roy and he will want to make sure the book doesn't end here.
"I am happy I was able to perform in my first Vijay Hazare and Deodhar Trophy," gushed Roy. "It felt good to play with the likes of Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina. I learnt a lot from them and that's a huge thing for me. Now I want to keep working hard and do well in Ranji Trophy. As of now, I haven't planned anything, will see how it goes."
2018-19 Ranji Trophyanmolpreet singhIshan KishanPappu RoyRanji Trophy 2018-19Ranji Trophy 2018/19Shivam MaviTushar Deshpande
First Published: October 31, 2018, 9:00 AM IST