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Having proved their mettle at the group league stage, a determined Jammu and Kashmir is ready to lock horns with formidable Punjab team that consists of senior players like Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh in their maiden Ranji Trophy quarter-final appearance in Vadodara on Wednesday.
On paper, it might be a ‘David vs Goliath’ contest but Punjab captain Harbhajan Singh knows well that it would be foolish to take Perveez Rasool and Co. lightly as Rajasthan had showed during the 2010-11 season when they emerged from the ‘Plate Group’ to win Ranji Trophy defeating Mumbai and Tamil Nadu in the quarter and semi-finals.
“The boys are eagerly waiting for a good contest. We want to play more matches like these where we would be meeting teams like Punjab and Mumbai. This will also be an indicator of our improvement. It will be an honour to play against a player of Yuvi Paaji’s stature,” Jammu and Kashmir skipper Rasool said.
Harbhajan, who was out of action play after the first three matches due to shoulder injury, is set to play in the quarter-final at the Moti Baug ground which has helped both pacers and spinners during the course of the season.
Harbhajan, who has taken 18 wickets in three games, will like to get back into the groove while Yuvraj, who has scored 140 runs from three games without a single 50 will be itching to get a big score.
“I am fully fit and looking forward for some action,” said Harbhajan.
For Jammu and Kashmir, a lot will depend on how their skipper and premier player Rasool performs in the crunch game.
The all-rounder, who has already been a part of the Indian squad and has played for India A, has scored 550 runs and has taken 21 wickets in the tournament so far. Rasool has been complemented well by opener Adil Rishi, who has been the top scorer for J&K so far with 571 runs. The team is also dependant on their new-ball attack of left-arm pacer Samiullah Beigh and right-arm paceman Mohammed Mudhasir.
While Beigh has salped 33 wickets, Mudhasir isn’t far behind having bagged 30 wickets.
The pitch at Moti Baug ground is expected to help the seam bowlers, according to Rasool.
“They have kept a good layer of grass and I am expecting that there will be good carry throughout the match. As of now it looks like a pacer-friendly wicket. The seamers will certainly get good help from the track if they pitch it in right areas. We will decide on our XI tomorrow after having a final look at the track before the toss,” Rasool said.
For Punjab, their batting has been dependant on opener Jiwanjot Singh, who struck a brilliant 147 against a formidable Delhi pace attack on a green-top at Roshanara. Along with stand-in captain Mandeep Singh (492 runs) and pacer Sandeep Sharma, who has taken 30 wickets. They also have fast bowler VRV Singh and seamer Jaskaran Singh to help Sandeep.
With Harbhajan’s return, leggie Rahul Sharma or left-arm spinner Rajwinder Singh might have to sit out.