It is a different homecoming for Sanju Samson. Jaipur may have been his second home as the Rajasthan Royals captain, but this time it is with the Kerala team that he has reached the Pink City to take on Rajasthan in the Ranji Trophy cricket tournament.
Sanju and his men are in good spirits too, after scoring a splendid victory against Jharkhand in the opening fixture at Ranchi, where just about everything had gone right for them.
After declaring on the final day, Kerala was able to bowl out the home side in under 62 overs (out of the maximum 67). The spinners — Kerala played four of them — had played the key role.
But against Rajasthan, Kerala may drop one of them to accommodate a seamer. So M.D. Nidheesh or N.P. Basil could come in.
There is cause for concern though as opener Rohan Kunnummal having picked up a niggle. But, P. Rahul, who had been unwell and missed out in the last match, is fit for selection.
The comeback men Rohan Prem and Akshay Chandran were the biggest success stories in batting at Ranchi and Kerala will be hoping that they would continue in the same vein. The team also will want the off-spinners Jalaj Saxena and Vaisakh Chandran, who was making his debut, to deliver yet again.
Kerala’s coach Tinu Yohannan feels the wicket at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium could encourage the seamers. “Rajasthan has a good seam attack with bowlers like Aniket Choudhary and Kamlesh Nagarkoti,” he told The Hindu.
Rajasthan did not get the kind of start it might have wanted to. In the drawn match at Porvorim, it had conceded the first-innings lead to Goa, despite making 456, thanks to fine knocks from opener Yash Kothari, Mahipal Lomror and Arafat Khan down the order.
Yohannan said Kerala’s aim was to post another victory before the home matches got underway. “We want to maintain the momentum,” he said.