5 cricketers whose Ranji performances could earn them IPL 2018 contracts
The 2017-18 Ranji Trophy, which was the 84th season of the premier tournament, recently came to an end. Ahead of this year's tournament, Vidarbha weren't among the list of favorites either. However, an incredible performance saw them lift their maiden Ranji Trophy, much like Gujarat did last year. From being a below-average team last season to finishing champions this season, it's been a miraculous transformation.
Every season sees new, previously unheard of players coming into the limelight and this year has been no different. With the Indian Premier League auctions looming large, scouts from all the franchises would have been keen observers of the Ranji Trophy.
Here are some players who packed a punch in the prestigious Ranji Trophy and are likely to make waves at the 2018 IPL auction.
#5 Anmolpreet Singh
Anmolpreet Singh is definitely one for the future. It took just five matches in the Ranji Trophy for the young man from Punjab to prove his mettle. He scored an incredible 753 runs at a ridiculous average of 125.50, including two massive 250+ scores.
The teenager was awarded the MA Chidambaram Trophy in 2015 for being the best Under-19 cricketer, by the BCCI. In 2016, he was picked for the U-19 World Cup and was given a chance to feature in the starting eleven for the first time in the quarter-finals where he hit a quick 42-ball 41. He shone in the semi-finals where his 72 runs earned him the Man of the Match award.
Anmolpreet finally got his chance in the Ranji Trophy in 2017 where he impressed with a half-century on debut against Himachal Pradesh. However, in order to accommodate Yuvraj Singh, Anmolpreet was mercilessly axed from the squad. He was asked to play in the U-23 CK Nayudu Trophy instead.
Anmolpreet didn't let this demotion tick him off though, and scored an incredible 202 against the U-23 Himachal Pradesh team. His sparkling knock saw him deservedly being recalled to the Ranji Trophy side, where he announced his return with a century against Goa. This was just the beginning though, as he then went on to hit two brilliant 250+ knocks. His knock against Chattisgarh was one to remember as he racked up 267 runs in a mere 262 balls. His other mammoth innings came against Services where he stayed not out at 252. Punjab skipper Harbhajan Singh admitted later that had he not declared, Anmolpreet looked set to go on to make the elusive triple century.
His stellar performance in the Ranji Trophy saw him earn a call-up to the Board President's XI to face Sri Lanka in a warm-up match. Though he didn't get a chance to bat, Anmolpreet will be pleased to know that his exploits with the bat aren't going unnoticed.
Aside from his staggering numbers, the IPL scouts will be impressed with the brisk rate at which he scores his runs. His ability to bowl right-arm off-breaks helps his case too. All in all, Anmolpreet would be a valuable addition to any team.
#4 Prashant Chopra
In the 2017-18 season, Chopra created history with his spectacular knock of 338 off 363 balls, the tenth-highest individual score in the history of Ranji Trophy and the maiden triple-century by a Himachal Pradesh batsman. What made the innings even more special was that he completed his triple century on his 25th birthday.
Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Chopra has racked up an incredible 1316 runs at an average of over 73. His ability to accumulate big scores, that too at a high strike rate, makes him an exciting prospect in the shorter formats of the game. His excellent form should see him bag a deal at the upcoming IPL auction.
#3 Jalaj Saxena
Jalaj Saxena has featured in the domestic circuit for quite some time now, having made his Ranji debut in the 2007-08 season. At the age of 31, a national call-up seems unlikely, but Jalaj rekindled his hopes in the recently concluded edition of the Ranji Trophy. He was the highest wicket-taker in the tournament with an impressive 44 scalps, and even added 522 runs.
Jalaj has done consistently well with both bat and ball since as early as the 2012-13 Ranji season. His impressive performances saw him feature in the India-A squad in 2013. He was signed by the Mumbai Indians in 2013 as a replacement for Lendl Simmons and was then bought by the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the 2015 auction for ₹10 lakhs. However, he didn't get a chance to feature for either of the two teams.
T20 cricket is known to favor all-rounders and Jalaj is among the most happening all-rounders around. He will be hopeful of not only bagging a deal in the upcoming auction, but also of getting a chance to feature in the starting eleven.
#2 Mayank Agarwal
Mayank Agarwal probably didn't need to perform well in the Ranji Trophy to earn a contract in the IPL auction, as he would most likely have been picked anyway. However, his performance in the Ranji Trophy could see him earn more money than he would have otherwise. He finished the tournament as its highest run-scorer, having racked up 1,160 runs. He scored an unbeaten triple-century against Maharashtra in November 2017.
Agarwal came to prominence in the previous decade when he finished the leading run-getter in the 2010 U-19 World Cup. In the shortest format of the game, Mayank made a mark in the local Karnataka Premier League in 2010, where he finished the Man of the Series. Mayank made his debut in the Indian Premier League for his home team, the Royal Challengers Bangalore. He has featured in every season since then, albeit for different franchises. He played for the Delhi Daredevils from 2014 to 2016 and for the Rising Pune Supergiant last season.
After a promising start to his IPL career, Agarwal slacked off in the last two editions. He played just three games in each of the 2016 and 2017 seasons, scoring a total of just 53 runs. However, his incredible showing with the bat in the Ranji Trophy is certainly not going to go unnoticed. He will be itching to carry his good form into the IPL as well. Given his IPL experience and incredible form, Agarwal is more or less certain to capture a healthy deal at the IPL 2018 auction.
#1 Rajneesh Gurbani
Underdogs Vidarbha miraculously won their maiden Ranji Trophy title. One of the pivotal reasons for their success was the emergence of 24-year-old pacer Rajneesh Gurbani.
Gurbani finished the tournament as its second-highest wicket-taker with 39 scalps. He incredibly won the Man of the Match award in all of Vidarbha's knockout games. His spell of five for 38 in Kerala's first innings in the quarter-final saw them bundle out for just 176 runs. This helped Vidarbha bounce back in the game after a mediocre first innings with the bat.
Gurbani made a long-lasting mark in the semi-final with a marvelous performance against a strong Karnataka lineup. His figures of 5 for 94 and 7 for 68 guided Vidarbha to a narrow 5-run victory in a humdinger of a match. Rajneesh then lit up the final with a hat-trick in Delhi's first innings which restricted them to a lowly total of 295. Impressively, all three hat-trick victims were dismissed bowled. His figures of 6 for 59 earned him the Man of the Match award for his third consecutive match.
Gurbani's ability to swing the ball either way is the reason behind his exceptional success. Gurbani's near flawless Ranji Trophy performance couldn't have come at a better time, with the IPL auction just a few weeks away.