Post Punjab’s 48-run loss against Bengal, Punjab coach Munish Bali patted the team-members and spent more than 15 minutes cheering the team apart from applauding the effort of each of the players. The loss meant that Punjab’s hopes of advancing to the knock-out stage were dashed but with the team finishing at the sixth spot in Elite A and B group with a total of 24 points, Bali rates this performance as a confidence booster for the team.
Punjab had scored three wins apart from two draws and suffered two losses in the tournament.
“It was a young team and we saw nine players making their First-Class debut, seven players making their debut in Vijay Hazare trophy apart from three players making their debut in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T-20 Trophy. The only thing we lacked was more experienced players in the team,” shared Bali.
“The team made a good start by winning against Rajasthan at Jaipur and Hyderabad at Patiala and we would have liked to finish the group stage on a similar note. But unfortunately, we suffered the loss against Bengal. We were 93 for 2 at one stage but were bundled out for 151. It cost us the match but such is the nature of cricket. I told the players in the team meeting that it was a brilliant effort from a young team and this experience will also teach us a lot of things.”
While captain Mandeep Singh was the leading scorer for the team with a total of 696 runs in eight matches including four half-centuries, one century and one double century. Singh had played an unbeaten knock of 204 runs against Hyderabad at Patiala. Apart from Singh, 24-year-old Anmol Malhotra was the second-highest scorer for the team as he amassed 468 runs in eight matches including one hundred and three half-centuries in his maiden First-Class season. Malhotra scored his maiden First-Class century against Gujarat at Valsad. Even though Punjab lost the match, Bali rates that innings highly and believes that the youngster is the find of the season for the team.
Mandeep is a brilliant leader and he played some important knocks for the team including his double century against Hyderabad. For me, Anmol Malhotra has been the find of the season. He batted without any pressure in his maiden match and stitched a very good partnership with Mandeep against Rajasthan. His maiden century came on a seaming track at Valsad and he played some important knocks on turning tracks too. He is a good thinker of the game and this season has taught him many things. Apart from this, Baltej Singh did well in the bowling department. Siddharth Kaul has been our lead bowler and he too showed fine form. In the last match, Ramandeep scored a half-century while making his debut,” added Bali.
The Patiala-based coach, who had earlier worked as India U-19 assistant coach, also believes that the Punjab team will come out stronger in the next season and preparing well ahead of next season is the key.
“This year, the team played on different type of tracks which included seaming as well as spinning pitches. All the eight matches in Ranji Trophy were played on different type of pitches and the youngsters learnt a lot. The key for us in the next season will be to prepare well in the pre-season. Mandeep had gone to play in Chennai prior to this season. PCA will be introducing matches against other states prior to the season and such things will help us. As for me, I enjoyed the role of being the coach of the senior team and it also reminded me of working as assistant coach of the Indian U-19 team. Some of the players in Punjab team were part of the Indian U-19 team and we shared moments from their U-19 days,” concluded Bali.