A hip injury has ruled out batsman Ambati Rayudu from Baroda's opening Ranji Trophy game against Bengal, which will begin in Vadodara on Sunday. Rayudu suffered the injury during the Deodhar Trophy in Mumbai last week.
Tushar Arothe, the Baroda coach, said Rayudu was checked by the NCA physios who ruled him out for 10-12 days. Arothe stated that Rayudu was expected to fit and available for Baroda for their next game against Jammu & Kashmir, from December 21. Krunal Pandya, who is yet to play a first-class game, has replaced Rayudu in the squad.
Rayudu has been the leader of Baroda's batting unit since he joined the state as a professional in 2010-11. His consistent performances for his adopted home were pivotal in his India call-up last year. He has scored 1770 runs at 55.31 in 25 matches for Baroda, including a double hundred in his first season when Baroda made it to the Ranji final. Since then, Baroda have made it to the knockouts just once, losing to Mumbai in quarter-final in 2012-13.
Baroda will also be without left-arm spinner Bhargav Bhatt, one of their key bowlers. Bhatt had fractured a finger on his bowling hand during the build-up to the season and is still regaining fitness. Bhatt is a part of the squad but is unlikely to feature in the playing XI, which could give Swapnil Singh a chance at a first-class comeback after three years.
The injuries mean that Yusuf Pathan and Munaf Patel, the senior pros for Baroda, will have to shoulder the additional responsibility. The duo will also have to step in with regard to player management, helping Baroda's new captain, Aditya Waghmode.
Bengal have been boosted by the return of skipper Laxmi Shukla for their season-opener. Shukla was appointed the captain of East Zone for the Deodhar Trophy but opted out of the tournament due to an ankle injury he suffered during the Vijay Hazare Trophy. "I would have been able to play the Deodhar Trophy but keeping in mind the long Ranji season ahead, I preferred to rest rather than aggravate the ankle injury," Shukla said.
With Manoj Tiwary and Ashok Dinda in form, Bengal would be looking to start the season on a strong note. Tiwary has scored successive fifty-plus scores in his last five one-day outings, including two centuries. Dinda, who finished as the highest wicket-taker for Bengal in the Ranji Trophy last year, took 4 for 33 in the Deodhar Trophy final against West Zone and was also named in the list of 30 probables for the World Cup.