Green carpet rolled out for Assam, Punjab

‘Sporting’, ‘lively’ and ‘grassy’ were some of the adjectives used to describe the pitch rolled out for the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal between Assam and Punjab, beginning on Wednesday at the Sardar Vallabhai Patel Stadium in Valsad.

Harbhajan Singh, back from his short but unproductive trip to Australia, will skipper the Punjab side.   -  G. Karthikeyan

‘Sporting’, ‘lively’ and ‘grassy’ were some of the adjectives used to describe the pitch rolled out for the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal between Assam and Punjab, beginning on Wednesday at the Sardar Vallabhai Patel Stadium in Valsad.

The good thing, though, was that nobody complained. Perhaps, both sets of players had other issues to cater to. Like getting used to white flannels again after nearly two months of limited-overs cricket!

“It’s all about making the right kind of adjustments in terms of line, length, approach and mentality,” said Barinder Singh Sran, whose brand of left-arm pace earned him plaudits in Australia recently. Sran will be itching to unleash a trick or two on the Assam batsmen, who have given a good account of themselves this season.

Harbhajan back, Yuvraj unfit

Punjab will also enjoy the services of skipper Harbhajan Singh, who did nothing but accumulate air miles on the short trip to Australia. Yuvraj Singh, whose cameo helped India complete a clean sweep in the T20 series, will miss this game due to a “back spasm”.

Punjab is in the quarterfinal by virtue of a second-place finish in Group B. Three outright victories, including a 243-run drubbing of Tamil Nadu in Dindigul, helped it notch up 26 points in eight matches. Uday Kaul (611 runs), Mandeep Singh (469) and Jiwanjot Singh (409) will be expected to do the bulk of the scoring. Leg-spinner Sarabjeet Ladda (25 wickets) has been the pick of the bowlers.

Fearless Assam

Assam, which stunned the likes of Delhi to finish third in Group A, has played some fearless cricket. Forever focused on the process, leaving the result to take care of itself, the Sanath Kumar-coached side is dependent on K.B. Arun Karthick, a professional from Tamil Nadu with 723 runs this season. Krishna Das, who has made the most of a charmed life following a horrific road accident many years ago, has a whopping 44 wickets to show for his efforts.

With two quality teams set to lock horns on an ideal wicket, one expects a cracker of a contest.

The squads:

Assam: Gokul Sharma (Captain), K.B. Arun Karthick (Vice-Captain), Syed Mohammad, Amit Verma, Pallav Kumar Das, Sarupam Purkayastha, Rahul Hazarika, Amit Sinha, Tarjinder Singh, Wasiqur Rahman (Wicketkeeper), Krishna Das, Arup Das, Pritam Das, Dhiraj Goswami, Mrinmoy Dutta

Coach: Sanath Kumar

Punjab: Harbhajan Singh (Captain), Manan Vohra, Mayank Sinha, Barinder Sran, Pragat Singh, Rajwinder Singh, Mandeep Singh, Siddarth Kaul, Jiwanjot Singh, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Himanshu Chawla, Deepak Bansal, Sarabjeet Ladda, Gitansh Khera (Wicketkeeper), Uday Kaul, Ravinder Singh, Jaskarandeep Singh

Coach: Arun Sharma