Sheldon Jackson in the leading run-getter in the ongoing Vijay Hazare trophu 2015-16 (Photo courtesy: Twitter)
Sheldon Jackson in the leading run-getter in the ongoing Vijay Hazare trophy 2015-16. Photo courtesy: Twitter

It is still early stages in the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2015-16 but there have been a number of brilliant performances in the tournament so far. Many have stepped up to the plate to help their team achieve the desired results. Team India currently have a strong team and do not need to make immediate changes, but they can be rest assured that if anybody in the team does not perform there are many talented cricketers who are capable of taking their places. One must not take his place in the team for granted, because there does not seem to be a lack of bench strength. Pramod Ananth lists a few players who have performed exceptionally well in the tournament so far. READ: Vijay Hazare Trophy 2015-16: How MS Dhoni, Amit Mishra, Stuart Binny, others fared in 1st round

Sheldon Jackson (Saurashtra): Jackson hit back-to-back centuries for Saurashtra, with the first one coming against Madhya Pradesh. He scored 111 to help Saurashtra reach a mammoth total of 340. He followed it up with an unbeaten 150 in the match against Goa, courtesy of which his side won the match by 10 wickets, chasing 202. Jackson is now the leading run-getter in the tournament with 293 runs in three innings, with a staggering average of 146.50. He is a handy wicketkeeper as well, with two catches and two stumpings to his name so far. Given that MS Dhoni could be on his last legs as an international cricketer, Jackson looks like a viable contender for his role.

Baba Aparajith (Tamil Nadu): Aparajith has made valuable contributions to his side in all the three matches he has played so far. His scores of 77, 39, and 66 not out have gone a long way in ensuring that Tamil Nadu puts on a good show. Tamil Nadu now sit pretty on top of Group A with 12 points from four matches. Aparajith has 182 runs in three matches at 91, and has also has picked up two wickets with his off-spin.

Jalaj Saxena (Madhya Pradesh): Jalaj has carried on his good show in the Ranji Trophy 2015-16 season into the limited-overs as well. He is one of seven players who has gone past the 200-run mark this season. Added to this, he has five wickets to his name as well. Jalaj is one of Madhya Pradesh’s key batsmen in the middle-order, but has not been as effective as he can be with the ball in this tournament so far. His off-spinners have fetched him 46 wickets in the current Ranji Trophy season, and he will look to contribute more with the ball as the tournament progresses. READ: Vijay Hazare Trophy 2015-16: 10 players to watch out for

Naman Ojha (Madhya Pradesh): Jalaj’s teammate Ojha has not had a particularly bad tournament. He played his first Test in the final match of the series against Sri Lanka earlier this year, and has been knocking on the doors of the Indian selectors for a long time now. With Dhoni’s career in its twilight, Ojha could find a spot in the limited-overs formats once the Indian skipper calls it quits. Even in the Test arena, first-choice ‘keeper Wriddhiman Saha cannot take his place for granted as Ojha will pounce on any opportunity he gets. As far as the Vijay Hazare Trophy is concerned, Ojha has scored 219 runs at 109.50, which includes an unbeaten ton in the match against Uttar Pradesh.

Siddharth Kaul (Punjab): Kaul is the leading wicket-taker with 15 scalps to his name so far at an outstanding average of 12.06. His economy rate is under five, which is quite good for an opening bowler. The 25-year-old has a lot of potential and must be must be groomed. A chance in the India A side soon will do him and his bowling a world of good.

Dhawal Kulkarni (Mumbai): Kulkarni most recently played for Indian when they toured Zimbabwe under the captaincy of Ajinkya Rahane.  Having made his One-Day International (ODI) debut in 2014 in and against England, Dhawal has been consistent for India in the limited opportunities he has received. He is a stump-to-stump bowler and gets the ball to zip through at a decent pace. He is one of those players whose talent India must not waste and give him a look in every now and then. Kulkarni has picked up 10 wickets in the Vijay Hazare Trophy at little over 10 and an economy rate of under four. Although Harshal Patel is above on the list with 11 wickets, Kulkarni  has a much better average and economy rate, which cannot be ignored.

Noteworthy mention — Rajat Bhatia (Rajasthan): The 36-year old veteran will go down as one of those cricketers who was not fortunate enough to play for India. That, however, has not deterred him from giving his best in every game. In a low-scoring game against Assam, Bhatia single-handedly won the match for his side. He first finished with figures of 5 for 17 with the ball and then followed it up with a blistering 68 not out to ensure that Rajasthan got home by one wicket off the final ball of the match. It is a pity that a player of the stature of Bhatia has never been looked into by the national selectors. Overall, Bhatia has six wickets in the tournament and has scored  122 runs at 61 in three matches so far.

(Pramod Ananth is a reporter at CricketCountry. He has represented Karnataka table tennis under-15, and is a hardcore supporter of Liverpool FC. His Twitter handle is @pramz)