Other teams will be wary of Kerala, says coach Dav Whatmore

Kerala coach Dav Whatmore is confident of his team's good performance in the upcoming Ranji Trophy.

Dav Whatmore expects all-rounder Jalaj Saxena to continue his good form this season.   -  S. MAHINSHA

Dav Whatmore is back. And, the highly regarded Aussie cricket guru known worldwide for his professional zeal and acumen, has quickly settled down into business, busy preparing the Kerala team for the Ranji Trophy which gets underway across the country on November 1.

On his second tenure as coach of the side, which made history last year by getting to the quarterfinals of the premier championship last year for the first time, Whatmore felt the season ahead would be a tough and challenging one.

Speaking to Sportstar  after overseeing a three-and-a-half hour practice session of the boys under his charge on Thursday, Whatmore said: “I perceive that it would be a challenging one. As unlike in the past, the other teams would be approaching Kerala with far more seriousness, on account of what the side achieved last year.

“Understandably, the Elite Group B is a tough one what with there being teams with a higher pedigree. And even though, everyone, myself included, will be aiming to get their side to gain a place in the knockout, I feel the strategy should be to take one match at a time, give the boys the best of preparation and help them get through the matches in accordance with the situations as it develops in each game,” the 64-year old said.

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Whatmore observed that it was a great experience to have the 15-member squad announced a week prior to the start of the preparatory camp. “I am thankful to the selectors for that as this by itself has given the team the focus for the tough haul ahead.”

Throwing light into the kind of preparations that the team has been undergoing ever since the camp started on October 19, the Ceylon-born said, “Most of the boys have been playing serious cricket right from the start of the season. And, as such, the focus on the first three days was on checking of their physical fitness, before helping them through two tough sessions on match simulation over that many days. We shall repeat the same one more time in the coming days as well, backed with workouts in the gym.”

The key area of the preparation has been on the focus to help the batsman play a longer innings, the bowlers to sustain themselves to a longer spell and the fielders to remain all through.

Singling out all-rounder, Jalaj Saxena, Whatmore was full of praise for this outstation professional, “He was the backbone of the side last year, performing well with both the bat and ball. It is only natural that everyone expects him to continue with his good form this year too.

“It is not that others did not perform. We did have some splendid performances from Sanju Samson, Rohan Prem, Sachin Baby, all the pace bowlers and the two young spinners, Sijomon Joseph and K. C. Akshay.

But, I think they should improve upon their performances from last year by a notch or two. In the event, that are successful, it would do great wonders for the side,” he remarked.

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Asked if the first eleven would pick itself, the coach was of the opinion that it would depend upon the wicket which was offered to the teams. “True, there are quite a few automatic selections, but we will be giving a fair thinking on the all others as well, depending upon the wicket which is approved by the curators.”

Kerala is drawn to play Hyderabad in its first match of the new season at the St. Xavier’s cricket stadium, Thumba, from November 1 to 4. The other teams in the eight-team pool are: Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Bengal, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.