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For Maharashtra team,well begun is half done

Maharashtra’s coach Surendra Bhave says that a winning start to the season can do wonders for his side.

Written by Chinmay Brahme | Pune |
October 27, 2013 3:51:16 am

As Maharashtra prepare to face Tripura in their Ranji Trophy group C opener,on everyone’s mind in the Maharashtra camp is the desire to ensure that the campaign starts on a winning note. Maharashtra’s coach Surendra Bhave says that a winning start to the season can do wonders for his side. “If we begin well,it’s always good for the team to build on that beginning. We are looking to gain the maximum from this home game and we aim to hit the ground running,” he says.

Tripura,Maharashtra’s opponents at the MCA stadium in Gahunje on Sunday,are the proverbial whipping boys of Indian domestic cricket,but the team won a game outright last season,defeating Himachal Pradesh in Nadaun,and showing spurts of improvement over the last few seasons. Incidentally,Maharashtra did not register a single outright victory in eight matches last season.

Bhave was quick to say that even a domestic lightweight like Tripura cannot be brushed away lightly. “This tournament has matured to such a level that there are no easy teams. Even though we are in group C,any of the teams in this group can hurt us and we need to guard against that. They are a young side,they showed they could tough it out last season and we are readying ourselves fully,” he says. Maharashtra are expected to hand Vijay Zol,India’s under-19 skipper,his Ranji Trophy debut on Sunday. Zol already has scored a ton on his First Class debut,scoring 110 against New Zealand A at the end of August. The 19-year-old from Jalna received a ringing endorsement from Bhave,with the coach saying,“Vijay adds a lot of muscle to our batting line-up. He is a good smart batsman and his presence in the team is going to help us. However,the other three u-19 guys (Nikhil Naik,Jagdish Zope,Mohsin Sayyed) will be sitting out. However,they are taking in a lot of good things just by being in the senior team’s setup,” he said.

With a fair covering of grass on the wicket,Maharashtra captain Rohit Motwani says that it will be a good sporting strip. “The wicket looks good,there’s a fair bit of carry and with the grass it might just make things interesting for bowlers,” he says. Bhave was all praise for his fast bowling attack. With Samad Fallah,Shrikant Mundhe and Anupam Sanklecha expected to play,he says that his new ball bowlers are performing well. “The rhythm is good. They are hitting the right areas and the way they have bowled in practice,it is quite an encouraging sight,” he says. However,the strip,the same one used for the MCA stadium’s maiden ODI this month,is expected to be a good batting track. Bhave,however said that a final call on whether to bowl or bat would only be taken on Sunday morning.

Tripura’s coach,Bhaskar Pillay,says that his team picked from a rather minuscule talent pool in Tripura but that they are a confident bunch and a team not scared of playing aggressive cricket. “We lost a few games last season but then we won against Himachal,we ran Jharkhand very close. We don’t really have too many cricketers in the state,but this bunch is quite confident,” he says.

Tripura has roped in three professionals this year with veteran Abbas Ali leading the side. Yogesh Takawale,former Maharashtra stumper,will be turning out for Tripura along with former Karnataka wicketkeeper batsman,KB Pawan.

Pillay says that the three professionals in his team have a clearly defined role,that of being the fulcrum of the side and mentoring the young players from the state. “The basic reason behind going for professionals is that these guys have played a reasonable amount of top-level First Class cricket and bring a lot of experience with them. They are expected to perform over the course of the season and also help the youngsters find a footing at this level,” he says.

Both teams are at full strength with no injury worries. Pillay says that Maharashtra,relegated from the Elite group,are a dangerous side and breaking through their middle-order will be a formidable task.

Bhave,for his part,says that the pre-season had been spent in ironing out technical chinks in the Maharashtra batting. “We have focused a lot on technique. We have worked against the swinging ball and I am confident that my batters will rise up to the task on any type of wicket.” he says.

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