Robin Uthappa (left) and Cheteshwar Pujara are two of the batsmen to watch out in the 2011-12 domestic season © Getty Images
Robin Uthappa (left) and Cheteshwar Pujara are two of the batsmen to watch out in the 2011-12 domestic season © Getty Images


By Abhishek Navratan Jain


The future of Indian cricket will depend largely on this Ranji Trophy season which got under way on Thursday with 13 games across the country.


Why is the current Ranji Trophy season so important for Indian cricket?


The answer is simple. Over the next six month or one year, it’s very much on the cards that stalwarts like Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar will bid farewell to international cricket. And that would mean India would have to find quality replacements to fill the gaping hole left by these legends. Its five years since Sourav Ganguly quit Test cricket and India has yet to find a suitable replacement for him. So filling the void won’t be easy.


Having said that, it augurs well for Indian cricket the way promising players are emerging from the domestic scene. It’s heartening to see the national selectors experimenting with youth with an eye on the future. The induction of youth in the Indian team for the first Test againstWest Indies is thus a step in the right direction.


Who are the players to watch out in the 2011-12 domestic season?


The list is long…Manish Pandey and Robin Utthappa (Karnataka), Saurabh Tiwary (Jharkhand),  Abhishek Nayar and Rohit Sharma (Mumbai), Ravindra Jadeja and Cheteshwar Pujara (Saurashtra), Abhinav Mukund and Murali Vijay (Tamil Nadu), Suresh Raina (Uttar Pradesh) and Manoj Tiwary (West Bengal). Apart from these fairly known faces, there are some relatively unknown faces like Unkmukt Chand (Delhi), Mandeep Singh (Punjab) and Ashok Menaria (Rajasthan). These are the batsmen to watch out this Ranji Trophy season because these players are considered as future of Indian cricket as far as batting is concerned. Ajinkya Rahane (Mumbai) and Virat Kohli (Delhi) have been selected to play for India against West Indies in the first Test and a lot is expected from the two talented youngsters.


While bowling has been of much concern to India over the years, nevertheless there’s much hope. Among the contenders are Shantakumaran Sreesanth (Kerala), Praveen Kumar, Sudip Tyagi and R.P Singh (Uttar Pradesh), S. Aravind and Abhimanyu Mithun (Karnataka), Deepak Chahar and Pankaj Singh (Rajasthan) and Abu Nechim (Assam) as far as fast bowling is concerned.


Vying for the spin berth are talented youngsters like left-armer Iqbal Abdullah (Mumbai) and Bhargav Bhatt (Baroda), and leggie Amit Mishra (Haryana).


As far as all-rounders are concerned, Irfan Pathan’s name comes to the mind. He has recovered well from his injury and is looking forward to make a comeback in this domestic season. Apart from Irfan, there are three more potential all-rounders in Yusuf Pathan (Baroda), Baba Aparajit (Tamil Nadu) and Bhubneshwar Kumar (Uttar Pradesh).


Fast bowlers Varun Aaron (Jharkhand), Umesh Yadav (Vidarbha) and Ishant Sharma (Delhi) are in the Indian team for the first Test against West Indies and so are spinners Ravichandran Ashwin (Tamil Nadu), Rahul Sharma (Punjab) and Pragyan Ojha (Hyderabad).


As far as wicketkeepers are concerned, Parthiv Patel (Gujarat), Dinesh Karthik (Tamil Nadu), Wriddhiman Saha (West Bengal) and Naman Ojha (Madhya Pradesh) are among the frontrunners, though it is difficult to see them dislodge Mahendra Singh Dhoni.


The 2011-12 season will thus get greater attention from the selectors and fans as places will be up for grabs in the national team.


(Abhishek Navratan Jain is a System Engineer and is involved in family business. Cricket is his passion and loves to discuss the game anytime. He has had the distinct privilege of watching all the 99 centuries of Sachin Tendulkar and that too live! He is proud to have never missed a Tendulkar century.)