Ranji Trophy: Confident Hyderabad faces Chattisgarh

Chhattisgarh will be up against an in-form Hyderabad, which is now fourth in the points table, in its Ranji Trophy Group C encounter at the Sardar Vallabhai Patel Stadium in Valsad on Monday.

Hyderabad coach B. Arun (left) in an informal discussion with Chhattisgarh captain Mohammad Kaif at the Sardar Vallabhai Patel Stadium in Valsad.   -  Amol Karhadkar

Despite adopting the multi-tier format instead of zonal leagues, the Ranji Trophy often sees familiar opponents taking each other on in the league stage. This season, however, Group C has had an exciting sense of an unfamiliar opposition right from the start, thanks to Chhattisgarh’s induction into the big league.

The new kids on the block will be up against an in-form Hyderabad outfit at the Sardar Vallabhai Patel Stadium in the cosy town closer to the Gujarat-Maharashtra border. Chhattisgarh, led by former India cricketer Mohammad Kaif, started its Ranji sojourn on an impressive note but has found going tough as the season has progressed.

Kaif himself had to miss two of its six games owing to a shoulder strain that has plagued him right through the season. As a result, having earned just two points from its last four games, the central Indian team finds itself placed eighth in a group of ten, with 11 points from six games.

Kaif's participation uncertain

Still, Kaif, who preferred to watch his teammates slog it out under the watchful eyes of coach Sulakshan Kulkarni and will take a call on whether to walk out for the toss only on Monday morning depending on how his shoulder is – said the team has made its mark.

“We may have not been able to post totals on the board consistently, but the boys have definitely showed promise,” Kaif said on Sunday. “It reflects in the fact that none of our opponents are looking at us as walkovers. Each of our players are being thought through by the opponents, which augurs well for Chhattisgarh team.”

While Chhattisgarh had an extended session, the Hyderabad camp preferred a lighter session on the eve of the game. While the team led by former Tamil Nadu stalwart S. Badrinath went through the paces, wicketkeeper K. Sumanth, down with fever, and coach B. Arun, the former India bowling coach, kept a close watch on the proceedings from the sidelines.

The Badrinath-Arun combination – imported at the start of the season – seems to have started wielding its magic, with the team that’s been desperately seeking resurrection in the recent years thrashing Services with a bonus point in Mumbai last week.

That win elevated it to the fourth place in the points table, with a game in hand. If the likes of B.P. Sandeep – fresh from a double – and C.V. Milind, who has made a mark with the willow besides picking wickets regularly with his left-arm pace bowling, continue in the same vein over the next four days, Chhattisgarh may struggle to live up to its reputation.

The teams:

Hyderabad: S. Badrinath (capt), Akshath Reddy, Tanmay Agarwal, B. Anirudh, B.P. Sandeep, K. Sumanth (wk), Mehdi Hasan, Akash Bhandari, Ravi Kiran, C.V. Milind, Mohammed Siraj, Vishal Sharma, Benjamin Thomas, Himalay Agarwal, Mudassir Hussain, Habeeb Ahmed (wk).

Chhattisgarh: Mohammad Kaif (capt), Abhimanyu Singh Chauhan, Abhyuday Kant Singh, Ajay Mandal, Amandeep Khare, Ashutosh Singh, Manoj Singh (wk), Siddharth Chandrakar, Panjaj Rao, Mohammed Shahnawaz Hussain, Avinash Dhaliwal, Sahil Gupta, Anupam Toppa, Shivendra Singh, Sumeet Ruikar, Abhishek Tamarkar.