It has been a season of disappointment for Kerala. At the half-way mark of the Ranji Trophy Group ‘C’ league, Kerala has just four points from four games, having been at the receiving end in all of them.

The team must be hoping for a dramatic turnaround of fortunes when it takes on Jammu & Kashmir at the Perinthalmanna Cricket Ground here from Saturday.

True, Kerala lost out narrowly in the race for the first innings lead — which has become so unjustly important on the lifeless pitches in domestic cricket — in a couple of games and hasn’t lost any game, but the truth is that Rohan Prem’s boys are at the bottom of the nine-team pool.

“We lost the first innings lead in the matches against Asom and Services by just 20-odd runs,” captain Rohan pointed out. “We were hoping more from our two home matches, but our bowlers didn’t get as much out of the wicket as we hoped.”

He expects the wicket to turn viciously. Much like M.S. Dhoni does, in every home Test. But, Rohan’s J&K counterpart, Ian Dev Singh, believes he could do an Alastair Cook and turn the tables on the host. “Our off-spinner Parvez Rassol took nine wickets when we beat Asom by 235 runs at Guwahati in our last match,” Ian said.

Deadly Rassol

Rassol was as deadly with the bat too in that game, making 67 and 120 not out (off just 106 balls). It was a kind of performance that lifted the entire team’s morale, which wasn’t that high following all the boycotts and bans of players, with allegations of unfair selection policy, and two innings defeats.

“Those controversies are behind us and I would rather concentrate on cricket than politics,” said Ian. “We are looking for a win, which would help in our bid to qualify for the knock-out stages.”

The Kerala captain too badly needs a victory. But he knows his bowlers will have to strike and hopes the additional spinner, who is almost certain to come into the side, would make a difference.

There have been six hundreds already for Kerala; even the absence of Sanju Viswanath, out with a groin injury, might not hurt greatly.

But, hundreds do not win as many matches as five-wicket hauls.

The teams (from):

Kerala: Rohan Prem (captain), V.A. Jagadeesh, Abhishek Hegde, Sachin Baby, Robert Fernandez, Akshay Kodoth, P. Prasanth, P.U. Anthaf, Prasanth Parameswaran, C.P. Shahid, Sandeep Warrier, K.R. Sreejith, Manu Krishnan, P.M. Anfal and N. Niaz. Coach: Sujith Somasunder.

Jammu & Kashmir: Ian Dev Singh (captain), Adil Rishi, Bandeep Dingh, Parvez Rassol, Hardeep Singh, Obaid Haroon (wicketkeeper), Manik Gupta, Ram Dayal, Mohammed Mudhasir, Waseem Raza, Sahil Sharma, Rohit Bhatt, Owais Shah, Manish Dogra. Coach: Bishan Singh Bedi.

Keywords: Ranji Trophy

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