Standing at one end of the Karnail Singh Stadium,coaching the Railways womens team,Vinod Sharma looks across and chuckles as the men prepare for their league match against Orissa. He remarks how the side he coached to both their title wins in the 2000s seems to have this uncanny knack to come back from almost unsalvageable situations.
It always seems as if Railways catch the train just as it is leaving the station, he says indulgently. In 04-05,when they won their second title,they had to win their last two league matches to qualify for the second round a situation repeated last year as they clawed their way to the knock out phase. This season,Railways got off to a similar horror start after losing their first couple of matches to Mumbai and Karnataka.
But somehow,they have managed to come back from the brink. They managed a first innings lead against Rajasthan,saved a match against Punjab and crushed Uttar Pradesh by an innings. Although the side have 10 points from 5 games,they still need to win their final two matches against Orissa and then Saurashtra if they have any chances of making it to the knock-out round. But this time around,the Rail men have momentum on their side.
We were thinking of the end result. Instead,we should have been thinking about the process. Once the opposition gets advantage,it becomes almost impossible to pull ourselves back. We had to wait for that moment when the game is in the balance and then apply ourselves harder, says Abhay Sharma,the current coach. In the game against UP,everything finally came together.
Coming into the final stages of the league,the Railways side has finally hit its stride thanks to stellar performances from both the new and old hands. Krishnakant Upadhyay took seven wickets in his debut game while Nitin Bille scored his maiden century in his second. The seniors have also stepped in,with skipper Sanjay Bangar scoring 404 runs this season and Murali Kartik scalping two five wicket hauls.
While Railways will begin with the wind behind them,Orissa already have the same knocked out of them. With a solitary point this season,they are faced with relegation. But Orissa coach Debasis Mohanty has a positive way of looking at the upcoming fixture. At least we have nothing to lose, he says. They are fortunate that way,for Railways believe that they have everything to.