Ranji Trophy news December 31, 2008

Saurashtra set sights on big prize

Cricinfo staff

Cheteshwar Pujara has been one of Saurashtra's star performers © Cricinfo Ltd

After making the Ranji Trophy semi-finals for the second year in a row, Saurashtra have set their sights on winning the tournament for the first time.

Two of their youngsters, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja, have been among the stand-out performers of the season and Saurashtra coach Debu Mitra drew confidence from the amount of talent in the side. "I can't guarantee that we will win," he told DNA. "What I can say is we have the talent to do so, but everything depends on who performs better on a particular day.

"Pujara, Jadeja, [Jaydev] Shah, [Sandeep] Jobanputra are all good players and if they keep on performing, they will surely play Test cricket and we will also win our first Ranji Trophy title."

Their next opponents are an in-form Mumbai, but they can take heart from their strong showing against Mumbai earlier in the season. "Saurashtra are the only team to have taken first-innings lead against Mumbai in the group league," former India and Saurashtra medium-pacer Karsan Ghavri, said. "So, if the batsmen manage to put up a score of around 450, Mumbai will be under pressure in semis."

They have already shown the ability to handle pressure this season; first by beating Hyderabad in the final league game to make the quarter-finals ahead of defending champions Delhi (who were one-point behind when the last round of matches started), and with a stirring fightback against Karnataka to make the semi-finals (after falling behind by 116 runs in the first innings).

Pujara starred in the quarter-final victory with a patient, unbeaten 112 on the final day. "My 189 against Punjab came off 182 balls and the 176 against Mumbai off 173," he told the Kolkata-based Telegraph. "But Monday (against Karnataka), my task was to stay at the crease for 90 overs."

His solid technique had prompted comparisons with Rahul Dravid, a batsman Pujara had wanted to seek tips from during the quarter-final. Dravid was impressed with Pujara's performances and asked him to continue batting the way he was.