Bengal skipper Manoj Tiwarys big goggles hid his eyes from betraying any emotion while he spoke at length about why the Suresh Rainas and Virat Kohlis of this world moved up the pecking order while he slipped following bouts of injury and lack of big runs.
A few feet away Kohli,fresh from a match-winning century in the second One-day International against Australia at Visakhapatnam,stretched his sinews while lying down on the massage table. The No.3 in the India ODI line-up is widely seen as someone who has developed the right kind of aspirations to succeed at the international level.
At 21,Kohli is three years junior to Tiwary. The Bengal batsman played his first and only One-dayer six months before Kohli wore the India blue. During his course of 21 50-over games,Kohli became the fastest Indian to 1,000 runs. When the time comes,like Uttar Pradeshs Suresh Raina and Saurashtras Cheteshwar Pujara,Kohli would want his name to crop up in the selectors minds when one of the big stars in the Test line-up are unavailable.
When you make runs in ODI there is a tendency to get carried away. I dont want that to happen as I need to adapt to the longer version now. Scoring big runs in the domestic season adds to the confidence and hopefully I can stack up enough so that eventually when there is a place in the Test squad I am considered, Kohli said elaborating on the significance of the tournament.
On the eve of the Group A Elite match,Kohli allowed Delhi coach Manoj Prabhakar to tweak his technique a wee bit to help him make the adjustment from ODIs,where innovation is the name of the game,to the four-day format. Prabhakar and Delhi,a team which has not consistently pulled their weight,will bank on runs from Kohlis bat in the early part of the season,before he is whisked away for national duty again,in a quest to enter the final. While for the Delhi batsman making runs in the Ranji Trophy will make his curriculum vitae more appealing,for Tiwary and Bengal this game and the season is about redemption and revival.
When newly-appointed coach Prabhakar talks about Delhis fortunes under him,it is almost has if he has a premonition of glory. For WV Raman,who landed the Bengal job this season,it about starting from scratch. Raman,Tiwary said had helped him realise how important it is to concentrate on the game and shut out everything else.
Four seasons ago,Tiwary made everyone sit up and take notice of his stroke-making abilities with a promising 94 in front of a packed house at the Wankhede against a full-strength Mumbai attack,with Zaheer Khan in the ranks,in the final.
He became the first among equals of the next generation of batsmen and earned himself an ODI call up against Bangladesh but injured his shoulder during a fielding session and was out for eight months. In early 2008,he flew in as a last-minute replacement for an injured Yuvraj Singh and was yorked by a beauty from Brett Lee before opening his account. Injury again saw him sit out of the second season of the IPL.
More recently,Tiwary made news for damaging the dressing room during the Vijay Hazare Trophy and being slapped with a one-match ban after a match against Jharkhand in February.
I have learnt to deal with the disappointments in my career so far. The next couple of seasons will be crucial for me and for the team. I am at a stage where I need to make runs to get noticed again. The difficult times when I was out due to injury and runs were not flowing has taught me tough lessons, Tiwary said.
Last season Bengal won just one game and finished sixth in their group. We are going through a revival process. Our group is being called the group of death. But I would call it the group of opportunity because a good performance against the big teams Mumbai,Delhi and Tamil Nadu- will not go unnoticed, Raman said.
Delhi,Bengal share nets
When the Bengal team arrived for practice at the Feroze Shah Kotla on the eve of their Ranji Trophy game against Delhi they were told that the hosts were also training at the venue at 9am. It meant there wasnt enough place for both teams at the main practice wickets. Bengal were directed to train beside the centre wickets but they were too damp. Bengal team manager Naresh Ojha then made a request to the Delhi and District Cricket Association officials to allow Bengal also to train along side the hosts at the main practice wickets. We were told that we could train at 9 am. But when we arrived here we got to know that Delhi was also alloted the same time. There was some miscommunication on their part. This is the eve of the season opener so we didnt want to disrupt our training schedule, Ojha said.
The wicket for the match on Monday has also attracted close attention from one and all and is not exactly to the liking of Delhi coach Manoj Prabhakar who is in favour of rolling out sporting pitches. However,a good portion of the grass has been shaved off ahead of the game,something that has caught the team management by surprise.