Vijay Hazare Trophy | Saurashtra will be the team to beat, takes on Kerala in its opener

Saurashtra’s Jaydev Unadkat will look to add to his impressive domestic credentials.

Saurashtra’s Jaydev Unadkat will look to add to his impressive domestic credentials.

Defending champion Saurashtra is the team to beat in Group ‘A’ of the Vijay Hazare 50-over Trophy, which commences here on Thursday. In its opening fixture, Saurashtra takes on Kerala at the Alur grounds. Saurashtra’s Jaydev Unadkat, the highest wicket-taker in the previous edition, will look to add to his already impressive domestic credentials.

Saurashtra will face a stiff challenge from traditional heavyweights Mumbai. Led by experienced Test player Ajinkya Rahane, the side depends on the likes of batter Sarfaraz Ahmed, pacer Shivam Dube and spinner Shams Mulani to come good.

Ace batter Suryakumar Yadav, southpaw opener Yashasvi Jaiswal and fast bowler Dhawal Kulkarni are not part of the Mumbai squad. The Mumbai-Saurashtra outing, scheduled for Dec. 1, could well decide the fate of this group.

Kerala, meanwhile, has the talent to spring a surprise. Explosive wicketkeeper-batter Sanju Samson is the skipper, and in Rohan Kunnummal and Sachin Baby, the unit boasts of a strong batting line-up. All-rounder Shreyas Gopal, who represented Karnataka for several seasons with distinction, now features in the Kerala squad.

Kerala will aim to improve upon its performance last year, when it was taken out by Jammu and Kashmir in the first knockout round. Railways, Tripura, Pondicherry, Odisha and Sikkim — none qualified for the knockout rounds last year – are the other teams in the mix.

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