The success story of Services middle-order batsman Rahul Singh, who cracked two centuries this Ranji season, could well be one of the major ironies Hyderabad faces when the two teams clash in the Ranji Trophy Group C match at Bandra Kurla Complex here from Sunday.
Rahul played for Hyderabad in the Under-19 grade before deciding to play for Services this season as he was not sure whether he would get the desired chances. Now, he is the leading run-getter with 581 runs with two centuries and three fifties.
A performance which might just make the think-tank of Hyderabad wonder whether it is getting the priorities right in terms of picking the right combination even as the team looks to pick crucial points here to improve its tally of 10 from four games with one win, one loss and two draws.
It was a pity that Hyderabad frittered away a huge opportunity of wrapping up the match against Himachal Pradesh by falling 12 runs short of the target of 212 on the final day and settled for a draw.
It is undeniable that Hyderabad has to record at least two outright wins in the remaining games to be in contention for promotion to the Group B. What should be worrying for Hyderabad is the inconsistency of the top-order except southpaw and lead scorer Balachander Anirudh (337 runs from four games).
Opener P. Akshath Reddy started off the season in style with a century against Goa in Nagpur but faltered later on. So is the case with captain S. Badrinath, who scored just one fifty in four games so far.
If Hyderabad is to be in the hunt, these two have to come big so that the likes of Bavanaka Sandeep and wicketkeeper Kolla Sumanth can complement with useful contributions. It will be interesting to see whether Hyderabad will persist with new opener Benjamin Thomas given his failures in the two innings against Himachal.
However, in bowling, Hyderabad has a lot of variety with pace being handled efficiently by the trio of M. Ravi Kiran, Mohammad Siraj (top wicket-taker with 14 from four games), and left-armer Chama Milind.
It is high time they come up with match-winning spells rather than picking the odd wicket. With left-arm spinner Mehdi Hasan and leg-spinner Akash Bhandari doing a reasonably good job, it is doubtful whether offie Vishal Sharma will be preferred against Services on Sunday.
On the other hand, Services, at the bottom of the table with six points from five games, can hope for an improved performance to be a force to reckon with.
The batting line-up has the in-form Rahul Singh and Shamsher Yadav (five matches, 414 runs) but like for any team, the openers Anshul Gupta and southpaw Sumith Chatterjee have to put on a big stand at the start.
In bowling, spin has been its strength with offie Azaruddin Bloch, left-armer Vikas Yadav and leggie Muzzaffaruddin Ahmed expected to thrive if the medium-pacers Diwesh Pathania and Raushan Raj provide early breakthroughs.
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