Almost a year to the day since they were banned by the BCCI for refusing to play in Srinagar,against a Jammu and Kashmir side,because of security reasons,the Services team will be making their return to the Ranji Trophy when they take on Kerala at Delhis Harbaksh Stadium in a Group B match of the Plate Division. While they had played the one-dayers last season,Services have not played any first class matches since the end of the 2008/2009 season nearly two years ago.
When we were banned by the BCCI,we had just started our season. There was no way any of us could have even thought of opting for any other team. That entire year was wasted, said Services captain Yashpal Singh. Coming back after such a long period means that whatever form a player may have once had is lost. We will have to start from scratch once again, he added.
Services though will be boosted by their recent performances in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 trophy. They finished third in the North Zone Qualifiers and only failed to qualify for the knock-out stages after being edged out on run-rate.
One of their spinners Amrinder Singh finished with the second highest number of wickets in the qualifiers,including a five-wicket haul. The T20s have undoubtedly helped us. We picked up wins over teams like Punjab. It has definitely boosted the teams morale, said Services coach Raju. But the Ranji Trophy is a different league. It will not be easy for us. Raju concluded.
The Services coach was happy with the pitch,which appeared to be a perfect batting track. We have to ease ourselves back into this format, he said. Other players though felt that the nature of the track was such that points would be determined on the basis of a first innings lead and not on the basis of an outright victory. We have a number of good spinners in our side, said Yashpal. If we want to have any chance of moving into the Elite Division we will need to back our strengths,get a turning track and go for an outright win. We wont get a chance to chose the kind of tracks we play on when we travel for our away matches.
While doing well on the return to Ranji will be a primary concern,other players also mention the need to come up with strong individual performances. Pointing to the stands of the Harbaksh Stadium,which he indicates will be empty during the match on Monday,Yashpal said,Not many people take notice of a Plate match. While all of us are trying our best to get promoted to the Elite division,as individual players we will be hoping that with runs and wickets we can move into the zonal sides,where performances are taken note of.