Medium-pacer Sony Cheruvathur, the 29-year-old with just eight first-class matches under his belt, has been appointed as Kerala's captain for the forthcoming season.

The team doesn't boast any heavyweights but the new coach Vedam Hariharan felt it was an opportunity for the youngsters to stand up to the challenge. "True, the last five to six years we had to depend heavily on imports for our batting," Hariharan was quoted as saying in the Hindu. "This year, we don't have men with heavy records. Players should now stand up to be counted." Hariharan, who has coached sides in Australia, Scotland and Ireland was roped in earlier this month.

Sadagoppan Ramesh and S Suresh, experienced hands from Tamil Nadu, were Kerala's outstation professional players last year but the Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) decided not to draft anyone in this time. Kerala begin their campaign with an away match against Vidarbha in Nagpur, between November 3 and 6, and host Services in Palakkad from November 15 to 18.

The side is also set to play a friendly against Karnataka in Bangalore from October 29 to 31. Kerala plays four of its five matches away from home but Cheruvathur, making his captaincy debut, wasn't deterred. "We do very well in away matches for we get tracks where we can use our fast bowlers," he said. Former Indian fast bowler Tinu Yohanan will be leading the pace attack along with the accurate Prasanth Chandran.

Squad for the first two Ranji Trophy games: Sony Cheruvathur (capt), VA Jagadeesh (vice-capt), Prasanth Parameshwaran, Sebastian Antony, Sambasiva Sarma, Rohan Prem, Robert Fernandes, Sreekumar Nair, Raiphy Vincent Gomez, Vinan G. Nair (wk), Tinu Yohanan, Prasanth Chandran, S Aneesh, P Prasanth, KJ Rakesh. Coach: Vedam Hariharan.