Numbers can be misleading sometimes. Consider this: coming into the Ranji Trophy 2018-19 knockouts, Saurashtra had only one player among the top 40 run-scorers in the tournament. And their batsmen hit only five hundreds - the least among the eight teams to qualify for the quarter-finals.

But dig deeper, and we find five Saurashtra batsmen with more than 400 runs - only Gujarat and Jharkhand had the same number.

Perhaps that was the reason Saurashtra coach Sitanshu Kotak wasn't too worried. It's a team game and one individual may not win you matches. He pointed to Punjab and Shubman Gill. "For Punjab, their opener Shubman Gill was absolutely outstanding," Kotak said ahead of his side's quarter-final game against Uttar Pradesh in Lucknow. "But despite him scoring so heavily, they couldn't qualify. Because their other batsmen weren't as consistent. So I am not sure if you can say our batsmen failed."

With Cheteshwar Pujara available for only one league match because of his responsibilities with the Indian Test team, and Jaydev Shah retiring midway through the tournament, the responsibility fell on the shoulders of Sheldon Jackson in the main. And while, by the end of quarter-finals, Jackson had 692 runs from nine matches at 49.42, including a century and a seven half-centuries, it was more of a collective effort that steered Saurashtra forward.


Harvik Desai couldn't sleep the whole night. He was unbeaten on 83 at stumps on day four of the game against UP. While his side still needed 177 to nail the highest-successful chase in Ranji Trophy history, his immediate concern was the next 17 runs. Prior to this, the 19-year-old had scored six half-centuries, but failed to get to three figures.

Desai, India's wicketkeeper-batsman during their successful Under-19 World Cup campaign in New Zealand in 2018, was drafted into the side after regular opener Avi Barot picked up an injury just before the start of the tournament.

Playing as a pure batsman, the youngster not only registered his maiden hundred as Saurashtra pulled off the record 372-run chase but also became the side's leading scorer - 738 runs at 43.41 from nine games.

While Pujara was playing a lead role in India's historic series win in Australia, Vishvaraj Jadeja cashed in on the opportunity to bat at No. 3. In his debut match, the 20-year-old scored 97 against Maharashtra in Nasik, followed by a 71 against Mumbai in Mumbai and 105 not out against Vidarbha in Rajkot.

So good was he that when Pujara returned to the side, they played Jadeja at No. 3 and Pujara at No. 4, adding depth to their batting.

Saurashtra's collective batting effort in Ranji Trophy 2018-19
Player Inns Runs HS Ave 100/50
 Harvik Desai  17  738  116  43.41   1/6
 Sheldon Jackson  17  692  147  49.42   1/7
 Snell Patel  17  561  91  33.00   0/4
 Arpit Vasavada  15  455  120  30.33   1/2
 Jaydev Shah  9  427  165  61.00   1/2

Outside of them, Snell Patel, Saurashtra's wicketkeeper, chipped in with useful half-centuries at the top of the batting order, while Arpit Vasavada also made important contributions, including a hundred and two half-centuries.


Saurashtra's batting collective peaked when they needed it the most - during their quarter-final game. Having conceded a first-innings lead of 177, Saurashtra were set a daunting target.

Desai and Patel gave Saurashtra a 132-run opening stand, and Pujara and Jackson then scored unbeaten half-centuries to take the side home by six wickets. It was such a team effort that Pujara's 67 not out was the fourth-best indivisual score of the innings.

Despite all this, what might be a concern for Saurashtra is that their batsmen have failed to convert their fifties into hundreds. Their main batsmen have 28 half-centuries among them but only six centuries.

"If I look at our batting, I am a lot more satisfied because eight or nine players are scoring runs for me," Kotak said. "The first six players are scoring runs, maybe not scoring hundreds, but scoring 450 in eight games when you have three result wickets, I think that's pretty good.

"On top of that, the lower order is contributing more or less in every game, so I am not sure if that's a very consistent batting performance from the whole team or that's a batting failure. We had some three result wickets, so that also doesn't help at times. On those wickets, you don't score 500. It's more like a 350 kind of wicket."

He, however, conceded, "I still believe we could have had at least five more hundreds, instead of the 70s and 80s. Obviously we can always work on it, but all in all our batsmen have been absolutely fantastic."

As Saurashtra prepare to take on Karnataka in the semi-final in Bangalore, they will hope for more of the same.

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo