On eve of their opening Ranji Trophy game against Bengal, Baroda’s Munaf Patel spent his entire morning session with his young group of medium-pacers whereas Yusuf Pathan, who had just finished his batting, quipped with his team mates.
Yusuf and Munaf represent that pool of players, who have played for India, albeit briefly, and have been forced to return to the domestic fold to extend their careers. The fact that the spotlight were on these two former internationals was an indication that Baroda have failed to produce a youngster who can move up to the next level in recent times.
Their opponents Bengal are in the same boat. While Baroda heavily rely on players like Munaf, Yousuf and Ambati Rayudu, who will miss the season opener because of a hip injury, Bengal still look to old warhorse Laxmi Ratan Shukla, and Manoj Tiwary (9 ODIs), Ashoke Dinda (13 ODIs) and Wriddhiman Saha (on tour) to bail them out.
There have been instances of a player having a breakthrough season but unable to carry on with the same form in the next. Left-arm spinner Bhargav Bhatt finished with 47 wickets in his first season in 2009 but has not been able to replicate that kind of wicket-taking ability for Baroda. Bengal’s Shreevats Goswami, the wicket-keeper batsman who was part of the 2008 Under-19 World Cup winning squad, has failed to live up to the promise he showed early in his career.
Baroda coach Tushar Arothe admits that some of his players who have potential still have to fulfil it. “There have been players who had exceptional performances in one season but could not follow it up. The younger players need to be more consistent,” Arothe explains.
Baroda will be hoping that India U-19 Deepak Hooda does not disappoint. He was part of India’s Under-19 World Cup winning team and it waits to be seen if he can take the next step as he is set to make his First-Class debut.