There are not many teams in domestic cricket who have the luxury of a decent pace attack. But Punjab is certainly among those few ones who have seamers upfront hunting in pairs. Sandeep Sharma and Siddharth Kaul are not new to the domestic circuit and they have created such an impact with their bowling performances that Punjab’s attack is being taken very seriously by the opposition.
Ask Sitanshu Kotak, a former opening batsman and the current coach of Saurashtra, their next opponents. “Punjab attack has the capability of taking 20 wickets which has helped them to do well in domestic cricket in the past couple of years. There is no doubt that they are a good overall side but what makes any team special is the bowlers. Be it national side or domestic side, unless a team has bowlers who can take those 20 wickets, there is no chance of getting a win,” Kotak says.
Kaul had once played with Virat Kohli in that famous U-19 World Cup triumph but their paths have diverged since. Kaul has spoken about it in the past. “It happens in life. There will be times when you get your due late. Kabhi Kabhar, kisi kisi ko time lagta hain par aap koshish karna bandh nahin kar sakte. (Some people take more time to reach a level but that shouldn’t deter you from trying hard),” Kaul had said. In the last couple of years he has been certainly trying his best.
The young pacers Sharma and Kaul aren’t similar and hence there is no monotony that can allow the batsmen to settle in. Sharma is all about swing and Kaul mostly relies on hitting the deck with his pace. When Punjab entered quarter-finals last season Sharma had taken 36 wickets while Kaul finished with 15. And in the season before that, Kaul and Sharma had finished with 44 and 40 wickets, respectively. The pair has started this season too on a strong note. They have taken 14 wickets each in the last three games, once again establishing that they are one of the most formidable new-ball operators in Ranji Trophy.
However, despite the performances of their pacers, when Punjab take on Saurashtra at the Khanderi Stadium on Sunday, all eyes will be on Yuvraj Singh, who will be coming here with two hundreds in the last two games. The Harbhajan Singh-led side arrived here with an outright win against Maharashtra that has pushed them to the top of Group B with 15 points.
Saurashtra so far haven’t had a decent start to their domestic season. They are placed second last in the group table with two points and are now hoping to cash in on home turf. Kotak admitted the fact that his side has not been able to perform away from home.
“Over the years we have a history of not doing well whenever we have played elsewhere. We are hoping this will change. The last two games we didn’t play as we wanted to and we know the fact that the games in future will only get tougher,” he added.
Saurashtra hope to secure atleast three points here to lift their morale but considering the way Punjab have been playing, it certainly won’t be easy. The Rajkot track has always been flat but against canny bowlers and with batsmen in some self-doubt, the road ahead isn’t going to be easy for Saurashtra.