Cheteshwar Pujara will have a lot to prove this season to try and get back into India's Test playing XI    AFP
Cheteshwar Pujara will have a lot to prove this season to try and get back into India’s Test playing XI AFP

Saurashtra, formerly known as Kathiawar, and now including what used to be Nawanagar, has had a long and prolific history in Ranji Trophy. The former princely state won the Trophy in 1936-37 (as Nawanagar) and 1943-44 (this time as ‘Western India’), and were runners-up in 1937-38 (Nawanagar) and 2012-13 (for once, as Saurashtra). Albert Wensley was captain when they reached the finals twice (winning once) in 1936-37 and 1937-38, while Herbert Barritt led them to the title in 1943-44, and Jaydev Shah was captain in 2012-13. Saurashtra has produced some of India’s finest cricketers, including the men after whom the two premier tournaments in Indian domestic cricket are named. Read all Ranji Trophy 2015-16 team previews here

Apart from KS Ranjitsinhji and his nephew KS Duleepsinhji, Saurashtra was also home to one half of India’s first (and widely regarded as most threatening) pace-bowling duo, Amar Singh. India’s first great all-rounder Vinoo Mankad, who was also India’s first outstanding left-arm spinner, also played for Saurashtra. Then there was that inimitable six-hitter and canny left-arm spinner Salim Durani, and yet another left-handed all-rounder Karsan Ghavri. Saurashtra was also the birthplace of Pakistan’s Mohammad brothers: Hanif, Sadiq, Raees, Wazir, and Mushtaq. Saurashtra’s tendency of producing left-arm spinning all-rounders continued with Ravindra Jadeja being the latest practitioner. India’s ‘Wall 2.0’ Cheteshwar Pujara is another Saurashtra man who has all the makings of going down as one of India’s greats.

Key Players: There is no doubt as to whom Saurashtra will turn to for inspiration in the upcoming season of Ranji Trophy. Pujara and Jadeja have a lot of international experience; more importantly, both men are out of favour Jadeja more so than Pujara so they will have added motivation to succeed. Apart from the international stars, Saurashtra also boast of some talented young players in Sheldon Jackson, Jaydev Unadkat, and Avi Barot. Meanwhile they have the experienced trio of Jaydev Shah, Sagar Jogiyani, and Kamlesh Makvana. Saurashtra have not tasted much success in recent times, and were especially poor last season so they will want to redeem themselves this time around.

Saurashtra Squad for Ranji Trophy 2015-16: Jaydev Shah (c), Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja, Sagar Jogiyani, Sheldon Jackson, Arpit Vasavada, Kamlesh Makvana, Dharmendra Jadeja, Jaydev Unadkat, Chirag Jani, Avi Barot, Vandit Jivrajani, Mohsin Dodiya, Dipak Puniya and Abhishek Bhatt.

Schedule for Saurashtra in Ranji Trophy 2015-16:

Match Group Date Venue Time
Saurashtra vs Tripura C Oct 01 Oct 04 TBD 9:30 IST
Saurashtra vs Jharkhand C Oct 08 Oct 11 TBD 9:30 IST
Saurashtra vs Hyderabad C Oct 22 Oct 25 TBD 9:30 IST
Services vs Saurashtra C Oct 30 Nov 02 TBD 9:30 IST
Saurashtra vs Goa C Nov 07 Nov 10 TBD 9:30 IST
Saurashtra vs Himachal Pradesh C Nov 15 Nov 18 TBD 9:30 IST
Kerala vs Saurashtra C Nov 23 Nov 26 TBD 9:30 IST
Jammu and Kashmir vs Saurashtra C Dec 01 Dec 04 TBD 9:30 IST

Saurashtra benefit from their lowly position in group C. They are possibly the strongest side in the group and ought to dominate their opponents. However, that might be easier said than done, especially if Pujara and Jadeja are away on national duty, though the latter seems unlikely to be called upon given present form.

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek who loves cricket more than cricketers. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)