Heavy snowfall in Kashmir means a majority of the Jammu and Kashmir players will not have the luxury of paying a short-visit home before they travel to Baroda to face Punjab in the quarterfinals of the Ranji Trophy only the second time the team has reached the knock-outs of the competition.
The inclement weather will force the team to travel from the north-east to Delhi,which will be their temporary base,before heading to the western region. The players are keen to switch off for a couple of days given that they endured some nail-biting moments before advancing to the quarterfinals.
At the end of Day Three of their last group game against Tripura in Agartala,the Jammu and Kashmir team shifted their focus to the result at Porvorim. Goa had beaten Andhra,which meant that J&K had to nose ahead on run quotient. The three points they were in line to gain put them on 28 while Goas addition of six points gave them the same tally. J&K skipper Parvez Rasool and his boys armed with pen,paper and calculator,set out to figure what they needed to do to pip Goa on run quotient.
Wednesday evening was unusual for us because we were doing a lot of mathematics. We wanted to be sure that we knew what we had to do,depending on the match situation,to get ahead of Goa on quotient, Rasool said on Thursday.
Rasool scalped six wickets on Day Four,to go with one on the previous day,to help bowl out Tripura for 272. However,the early loss of opener Adil Rishi and No.3 Ian Dev Singh saw another round of number crunching till J&K finished the day at 87 for two,a score that put them just .001 ahead of Goa in terms of the run quotient. Rasool,along with opener Bandeep Singh had the pleasure of seeing things through as the not out batsmen.
This is huge relief because it was touch and go with regard to the quotient. We had worked really hard this season and it would have been heart-breaking if we failed to make the quarterfinals,everything would have gone back Rasool said.
Starting from square one in J&K cricket could have completely undone all the positives of the 2013-14 season. This year,for the first time in many seasons,the Ranji squad was picked after selectors watched two-day trial games. The general practice before this was to select players based on their showing at practice nets,all-rounder Samiullah Beigh said. I picked up 15 wickets in three two-day games and hence made the team. Players were chosen on merit and not on reputation or seniority, Beigh,the highest wicket-taker of the side this season,said.
Majid Dar,who was part of the reserves when J&K progressed to the pre-quarterfinals in 2000-01,believes that this is the best squad his state has fielded. This is the first time I am playing in a Jammu and Kashmir team that is united. Earlier,there was this quota system,which meant that a certain number of players from Jammu region and Kashmir region were picked because there was this push for equal representation. This season,selection has been on merit, Majid said.
He recalls a season when almost all 30 probables were given a game because of the quota system.
Rasool said that he convinced the selectors that it was important to show faith in the group. There have been instances when the team has been chopped and changed after a couple of matches. I have tried to keep this side together because if players are not sure of their place they will lose confidence Rasool said.
Beigh also attributes the sides new-found belief to Rasool.
Once Parvez became the first player from the state to picked to the Indian team earlier this year,the players from J&K realised that it is possible to reach the highest level. His selection has made us believe that anything is possible
Brief scores: Tripura 280 all out and 272 all out in 103.5 overs (A Dey 63; Parvez Rasool 7/87) drew with Jammu & Kashmir 325 all out and 87/2 in 25 overs
Points: J&K 3,Tripura 1.