Ranji Trophy: Dual role awaits Venugopal Rao

Primarily a batsman with vast experience of more than a decade, Rao will also play on-field mentor to the young team.

The 35-year-old Venugoapal Rao, who played 16 ODIs and over 160 first class matches.   -  V.V. Subrahmanyam

When former India International Yalaka Venugopal Rao walks onto the field representing Andhra in the upcoming Ranji Trophy season, he will be playing a dual role. Primarily a batsman with vast experience of more than a decade, Rao will also play on-field mentor to the young team.

“He will be the elder brother of team and he will be initiating the on-field corrective measures which coach cannot do. This season he has a lot more to offer and he is preparing earnestly,” says Andhra Cricket Association Director (Cricket Operations) Kinjal Suratwala.

The 35-year-old Venugoapal Rao, who played 16 ODIs and over 160 first class matches, has already exhibited his earnestness in the two major invitational tournaments that ACA played recently.

“His mature head was useful when ACA defeated the best of teams including Ranji Trophy champions Gujarat in the K.S. Thimmappiah memorial tourney organised by Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA). He also inspired young Andhra players in the Sir Vizzy Trophy invitational tournament organised for the first time in the 64-year-history of ACA in which six teams including a team from Kenya took part,” said Suratwala.

He says Venu has faced many fierce on-field gauntlets and intricate situations at several premier contests. “The wealth of knowledge he acquired will be put to use for the advancement of the team.”

Support staff

Suratwala, a well-known sports physician, says Andhra team, which is technically sound, was found wanting in the fitness area and the roping in of top class support staff has transformed the team into a fighting fit outfit.

“The boys have realised the importance of fitness and they are willing to go an extra mile and sweat it out. Professionals like former India trainer V.P. Sudarshan, former India U-19 physiotherapist Sreenivasa Rao and former India ‘A’ fielding coach Subhadeep Ghosh are busy infusing the importance of fitness among young players,” the Association Director said.

ACA general secretary Ch. Arun Kumar says the reciprocal domestic tournaments were helping the association to a great extent as they provided an opportunity to prepare a pool of players. “We have a pool of 30 players in each age group, breathing behind the back of the first 11.”

The comeback man

He says the grand comeback of Bodapati Sumanth, with a triple and double century, was a huge positive and the inclusion of the find-of-the-season UMS Girinath in the squad was also a big plus. “For most of the boys who played against Plate Teams, the two invitation tournaments helped them to play against quality Elite teams. In fact they successfully raised the bar of their performance and attitude,” opines Kumar.

Suratwala says Andhra lost the quarterfinal berth last year with a paltry margin of one point, and the primary reason was dropped catches at crucial junctures. “This is year the boys in a better frame of mind and the reverting back to home-away format by the BCCI has also bolstered their confident quotient.”

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