Andhra is oozing confidence after two productive away fixtures and will aim to garner maximum points when its takes on neighbour Odisha in the first of its two back-to-back home contests at Dr. PVG Raju ACA Sports Complex here on Tuesday.
But what is worrying both teams is the rain forecast by the meteorological department over coastal Andhra in the coming days.
Andhra could not have asked for a better start to the tournament as it clinched the first innings lead against formidable Tamil Nadu and Baroda and it is placed second with six points next to pool leader Madhya Pradesh (7).
A well-planned gamble of a declaration, a challenging total and an exciting run-chase set up an engrossing finish in Chennai early this month, where Andhra came within 19 runs of creating a major upset in the first round against a star-studded Tamil Nadu.
In its next tie against Irfan Pathan-led Baroda at Vadodara , Andhra batsmen put up a powerful performance to notch 554 runs to dominate the proceedings and sent shivers down the spines of the host by dismissing six wickets in its second essay to draw the tie.
A methodical preparation
“We want to continue the momentum and progress match by match. We also have strong bench strength as backup. We started our preparations (for the season) in a methodical manner by taking part in a couple of invitation tournaments and a painstaking training camp,” said Andhra head coach Sanath Kumar.
Three centuries by experienced campaigner B. Sumanth (109), skipper Hanuma Vihari (150) and Ricky Bhui (145), crucial partnerships and productive spells by left arm spinner Bharghav Bhatt, medium pacers B. Ayyappa and Y. Prithivi Raj helped their team kick start the season in a rollicking fashion.
“I want to use Prithivi, who got six wickets in his debut match against Baroda, cautiously as he is susceptible to suffer back strain”.
The waiting game illustrated by both Vihari and Bhui against Baroda and Sumanth’s willing to stay in the middle and stitch partnerships against Tamil Nadu indicated the mindset of the batsmen. “Cricket is a game which relies on conditions and the players are fasting acclimatizing to them,” Sanath felt.
With former India International Y. Venugopala Rao deciding to quit the team for the rest of the season, the selection committee has included N. Jyothi Sai Krishna in his place for the rest of the season. While the Andhra camp is getting ready to troop in on a buoyant frame of mind, Odisha has little cheer about for it is yet to play a full-day’s game this season.
Its opener against Tripura proved to be a disaster as the match was washed out and only 70-odd overs were possible on the first day. “It is frustrating but we can control only the controllable. We are hoping for an uninterrupted play here,” said coach Shiv Sundar Das.
Andhra : Hanuma Vihari (Capt.), K. S. Bharat, D.B. Prasanth Kumar, Ricky Bhui, N. Jyothi Sai Krishna, B. Sumanth, M. Pranith, D.B. Ravi Teja, Ashwin Hebbar, P. Vijay Kumar, B. Ayyappa, K.V. Sasikanth, I. Karthik Raman, Bhargav Bhatt, Y. Prithvi Raj, Shohib Md. Khan.
Coach: Sanath Kumar
Odisha : Govinda Poddar (Capt.), Sandeep Patnaik, Nataraj Behera, Santanu Mishra, Abinash Saha, Subhranshu Senapati, Biplab Samantray, Saurabh Rawat (wk), Dhiraj Singh, Basanta Mohanty, Suryakanta Pradhan, Alok Sahoo, Alok Mangaraj, Deepak Behera, Subham Naik.
Coach: Shiv Sundar Das.