2018-19 edition of Ranji Trophy was one of the most competitive ones in the recent history. With Saurashtra and Vidarbha fighting it out for the final honours, here are the top 5 batsman that impressed us the most:
5Puneet Bisht- Meghalaya
Puneeth Bisht has been a seasoned name in Ranji Trophy. Originally from Delhi, the Meghalaya batsman was simply a delight to watch in the 2018-19 edition. In 12 innings, Bisht managed to rake in as many as 892 runs, 5th-highest in the tournament.
Furthermore, his tally of 132 fours is rivalled only by Milind Kumar. Having started his innings on a disappointing note, Puneet slowly grew into the competition.
The wicket keeper’s crucial knock of 92 helped Meghalaya post 326 in the first innings against Manipur. They consequently won the match.
However, the 33-year old’s best performance came in his side’s last group match. Trailing by 219 runs against Sikkim, Meghalaya started nervously with 51-2 at one point. However, partnering up first with Raj Biswa (175) and then with Yogesh Nagar, Puneet scored a mammoth 343 runs, the best knock of his career.
The maiden triple century included as many as 54 boundaries, the highest in the tournament. As a result of the incredible knock, Meghalaya was able to put up a total of 826-7, the 6th highest such team-total in Ranji Trophy’s history.
4Rinku Singh – Uttar Pradesh
If there has been one young Indian batsman that attracted attention from around the country with his sublime performances, it has to be Uttar Pradesh’s, Rinku Singh. In fact, this has been a breakthrough season for the 21-year-old Aligarh-based cricketer. In the ten matches (13 innings) that he played, Rinku managed to score a massive 953 runs at an impressive 72.80.
Moreover, he boasted of a sublime average of 105.88, the second highest in the tournament (among cricketers who have scored above 700 runs). He also comes in at the third number when it comes to most centuries scored (4).
Singh’s best performance came against Services when his 163* helped his side post a humongous total 535. He was one of the most crucial contributors for UP’s run to the Quarterfinals. In the Quarterfinal as well, it was Singh who shone the brightest for the hosts against Saurashtra in Lucknow.
Having seen Jaydev Unadkat (2/65) and Dharmendrasinh Jadeja (3 /111) reduce his team to 54 for 4, Rinku was under immense pressure. Instead what panned out was very aggressive as well as a calm performance from the youngster, culminating into a fifth first-class century laced with 19 boundaries.
Singh’s 150 helped UP propel to a score of 385/10 against Saurashtra. However, that was not enough as UP would go on to lose the match by 6 wickets.
3Sheldon Jackson- Saurashtra
Another record-breaking wicketkeeper to feature on our list is a 32-year-old cricketer from Bhavnagar – Sheldon Jackson. This Ranji Season, the Saurashtra batsman has played as glamorous as his name!
Jackson announced his arrival in the 2018-19 campaign with blistering 147 run stands against Chhattisgarh. He then backed it up with a calm half-century to see off a draw for the visitors.
Although his form in the group stages has been impressive, it is his performance in the latter stages of the campaign that caught everyone’s eye.
In the big quarter-final fixture against Uttar Pradesh, Saurashtra was facing at a defeat, with 372 needed to win in the second innings. Although the Rajkot based side got an impressive start through Harvik Desai (116) and Snell Patel (72), things looked heading for the south at 236-4 and over 150 runs still needed for victory. However, Sheldon Jackson (73) formed a stubborn partnership with Cheteshwar Pujara (67) to oversee Saurashtra post the highest successful run chase in Ranji Trophy’s history.
One of his most impactful knocks came in the semifinals against Karnataka. Needing 278 runs to win, Saurashtra did not make the best of starts, being 3-2 at one point of time. However, Jackson scored a timely century along with forming another crucial 200-run partnership with Cheteshwar Pujara (131) to help Saurashtra win by 5 wickets and thus enter the finals.
Like Puneet Bisht, Milind Kumar too switched the allegiance from Delhi to another northeastern side, Sikkim in this case. The capital outfit would be surely displeased to have let go a player of Kumar’s caliber so easily. And why not? After all, Kumar has gone on to become the competition’s highest run scorer, breaching the 1000-mark in the group stage itself.
The 27-year cricketer scored a huge 261 run on his debut innings for his new team itself. His incredible knock formed 70% of Sikkim’s score of 372, one of the highest such percentages in the competition. It also showed an impact that he had on his side, as Sikkim went on to win the match by an innings and 27 runs.
Milind’s next victim was Nagaland, a team against whom he scored 224. The double century was again the difference between the two sides, as Sikkim went on to win by 9 wickets.
Milind Kumar of Sikkim in Ranji Trophy 2018/19:
261 vs Manipur
224 vs Nagaland
133 vs Team Uttarakhand
He fell 67 runs short of becoming the first player with three consecutive double centuries in the history of first-class cricket. #RanjiTrophy
— Sampath Bandarupalli (@SampathStats) November 22, 2018
Over the course of the game, Milind amassed an astonishing 1331 runs at an even more bewildering average of 121.00. Apart from the runs department, he also leads the charts when it comes to most centuries (6) and fours scored (189).
1Wasim Jaffer- Vidarbha
Wasim Jaffer may be considered as the poster-boy of Ranji Trophy, the fitting embodiment of a wine that only gets better with age. At 40 years, very few can manage the feats that the veteran Mumbai-based batting legend is achieving. Having started his Ranji Trophy career in the 1996-1997 season, Jaffer became the first player to break the 10,000 run barrier in India’s premier domestic competition.
He also holds the record for most centuries scored (40) apart from being the only batsman to score to double centuries after the age of 40.
This season has not been any less eventful, Jaffer again breaching the 1,000-run mark. He has scored 1003 in 13 innings (a figure that will change after the Ranji Trophy final), at an average of 77.15. Moreover, he also has the second-highest centuries (4) in the competition this season.
In his 2nd Ranji Game, a senior Mumbai player urged an 18 year old Wasim Jaffer to keep encouraging the bowlers as Saurashtra piled up the runs. Wasim replied, “That’s fine, but will we get to bat?” Wasim went onto get a triple century. He loved batting & still does.🙏
— Sanjay Manjrekar (@sanjaymanjrekar) January 16, 2019
However, the most important things about his knocks are how they have made an impact on Vidarbha, his team. Take for example his 178 against his former side Mumbai that helped Vidarbha trounce the 2015-16 champions by an innings and 146 runs.
Then there is record knock of 206 against Uttarakhand in the Quarterfinal. Trailing by 355 runs in the first innings, Jaffer’s knock helped Vidarbha dwarf the early challenge mounted by the minnows.
It thus perfectly signifies the unit that Vidarbha has grown into after the legendary batsman’s arrival. It is not a mere coincidence that the Nagpur-based outfit won its first Ranji title after Jaffer had arrived, a feat that may repeat itself this season.
Going by his run-scoring antiques, it sometimes feels who will outlast one another? – Ranji Trophy or Wasim Jaffer.
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