KOCHI: While a handful of talented individuals from Kerala cricket have barged into prominence over the years, the state as a collective entity had remained on the fringes. Kerala’s best ever showing in the prestigious Ranji Trophy that is widely regarded as a reference point in the domestic scenario, had been reaching the pre-quarterfinal in 1994-95 season. K.N. Ananthapadmanabhan-led Kerala had progressed as south zone winners before being stopped at the pre-quarter stage by Uttar Pradesh.
That bar of team achievement set two decades ago was further raised on Tuesday when a vibrant Kerala captained by Sachin Baby and coached by former Australian Test player Dav Whatmore, reached the quarterfinals of the competition for the first time. Kerala sealed the historic moment with a commanding win, by an innings and eight runs, against Haryana in Rohtak that placed them second in Group-B with 31 points, behind reigning champions Gujarat.
Kerala will take on Group-D winners Vidarbha in Surat next month, for a place in the semifinals. With five wins in six matches Kerala's Ranji season was spectacular and the manner, in which the once perennial bridesmaid of India’s domestic cricket crushed their closest rivals Saurashtra, in a crunch contest earlier this month that offered them a real chance at making the knockout, portrays a desire to excel, like never before. All-rounder Jalaj Saxena, who was retained as a guest player by Kerala, has been the star of the campaign. The Madhya Pradesh-native leads the wicket takers table with 38 scalps from 12 innings, including a match winning 8 for 85 against Rajasthan in October.
A rejuvenated Sanju Samson, who makes top-ten in the leading run-getters section, with 577 runs from 10 innings, including two centuries, has also been outstanding. With the mouth-watering tie against an unbeaten Vidarbha scheduled to start December 7 at the Lalabhai Contractor Stadium in Surat, Kerala will be hoping the fairytale continues....