Kochi: Sachin Baby has been retained as Kerala captain for the forthcoming Ranji Trophy season.
The left-handed middle order batsman had guided Kerala to a maiden quarterfinal berth in 2017 and bettered it by taking the side to semifinals of the country's premier domestic competition last year.
Outstation professional and India discard Robin Uthappa was preferred over Sachin as captain for the Vijay Hazare Trophy one-day competition and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy Twenty20 Championships this season. However, Uthappa's poor from combined with the team failing to qualify for the knockout phase in both tournaments meant the Kerala Cricket Association top brass and coach Dave Whatmore went for the sensible option of retaining Sachin at the helm in the long format.
Uthappa and star all-rounder Jalaj Saxena are the two outstation professionals in the 16-member squad announced on Saturday for the opening game against Delhi.
Sanju Samson, who has been picked in the Indian team for the three-match Twenty20 International series against the West Indies, has been left out the opening match which begins on December 9.
Veteran middle order batsman Rohan Prem has been included in the squad subject to fitness.
Young batsman Rohan Kunnumal and leggie S Midhun are the new faces in the squad.
Kerala squad for opening game: Sachin Baby (capt), Rahul P, Jalaj Saxena, Robin Uthappa, Vishnu Vinod (wk), Rohan Prem (subject to fitness), Salman Nizar, Mohammed Azharuddeen (wk), Akshay Chandran, Sijomon Joseph, Sandeep Warrier, K M Asif, Basil Thampi, M D Nidheesh, Rohan Kunnumal, S Midhun.