Ranji Trophy Plate Group final: Meghalaya won hearts but have to win against Hyderabad

Shillong, Feb 16: Before the 2023-24 edition of the Ranji Trophy began, the Meghalaya Cricket Association was considering a radical idea – should it unilaterally decide to forgo the use of guest professional players for the first-class tournament? It was a tough decision, as MCA President Nababrata Bhattacharjee said, but, ultimately, the Association was determined to put its trust in local talent only.

Although a risk, the move has paid off for the state, as Meghalaya has qualified for the final of the Ranji Trophy Plate Group against Hyderabad starting on Saturday. The match will begin at 9:30 am at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad.
Meghalaya has been playing Ranji Trophy cricket since 2018-19 and has always utilised the services of guest players as under the regulations of the BCCI. The state has been served well by such professionals as Punit Bisht, DB Ravi Teja and others, who have groomed Meghalaya domiciled players over the years.

The team this season had their ups and downs – three wins in the round robin stage were balanced out by two heavy defeats. But there were remarkable moments along the way.
Kishan Lyngdoh, captain this season, broke records by hitting 268 to become the first Meghalaya domiciled player to hit a Ranji Trophy double century in the opening match against Arunachal Pradesh. That game also saw Ram Gurung strike a century on first-class debut.
Kishan would go on to hit four half-centuries in the remaining matches, including one against major side Hyderabad and another in the semifinal win over Mizoram. He is currently eighth in the country by runs scored this season – 657 at an average of 82.13.
Coming in at the middle order, Jaskirat Singh Sachdeva has not had chances to build big innings but has still shown himself to have a resolute character and has built up a reputation as something of a finisher with 295 runs at an average of 59.11.
There have been two wonderful stories on the bowling front of grit and determination.
Fast bowler Akash Kumar Choudhury had to miss the first two games due to injury but he came back in style with match figures of 10/79 against Nagaland in the third contest. He has carried that form through since and has picked up a total of 31 wickets in four matches to be 10th in the list of top wicket takers this season. But, clearly demonstrating his destructiveness, his average of 11.51 is the best of the Top 10.
The other story is that of Aryan Borah, who was part of the U-23 men’s team for the Col CK Nayudu Trophy when he got the call to join the Ranji team for the last group match against Sikkim. It was not his first Ranji game but it could prove to be life-changing as he shone with 12/129 before bagging 10/107 in the semifinal. These results have all but cemented his place in the playing XI for the final.
Meghalaya’s win in the semifinal was only the first time this season that they had won two games in a row.
They opened with victory over Arunachal Pradesh by an innings and 172 runs before following that up with defeat to Hyderabad by an innings and 81 runs. Then came an innings and 128-run win against Nagaland only for another defeat at the hands of Mizoram (by 191 runs). Chasing against Sikkim and in the semi against Mizoram brought victories by six wickets each time.
Now comes another test with Hyderabad. Both states have qualified for Elite Group cricket next season by reaching the final but both sides will want to end the season on a high and with the big prize.
The Senior Men’s Selection Committee of the MCA has reposed faith in the same 15 lads, who the playing XI will be drawn from on the morning of the first day.

Meghalaya squad for Ranji Trophy Plate Group final vs Hyderabad:
Akash Kumar Choudhury, Anish Charak, Arien B Sangma, Aryan Borah, Chengkam Sangma, Dippu Sangma, Jaskirat Singh Sachdeva, Kishan Lyngdoh (Captain), Pringsang Sangma, Ram Gurung, Riboklang Hynniewta, Raj Biswa, Sanvert Kurkalang, Swarajeet Das, Yogesh Tiwari
Standbys: Rounak Nongrum, Adarsh Joshi, Bijon Dey, Himan C Phukan, Manish K Rai, Lerry G Sangma
Support staff: Goutam Shome (head coach), Moisten Ch Marak (assistant coach), Vikash S Chauhan (trainer), Surojit Biswas (physio), Dister Marbaniang (manager)

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