Ranji Trophy: Hyderabad battles for survival in Elite group as it hosts Rajasthan

Hyderabad lies bottom of combined Elite Group A and B having won just one of its six group-stage matches so far as it hosts Rajasthan in round seven.

Ranji Trophy

Hyderabad captain Tanmay Agarwal (right) should be hoping for a big knock from seasoned opener P. Akshath Reddy on the eve of the Ranji Trophy Elite Group match starting Monday.   -  V. V. Subrahmanyam

In what is fast turning out to be a season of despair, Hyderabad needs to change gears as it is now a struggle for survival in the Elite Group when it takes on Rajasthan in the four-day Ranji Trophy Elite Group at Rajiv Gandhi Stadium here on Monday.

The home team has just one win (against Kerala) from six games and and five losses is at the bottom of the table with six points and captain Tanmay Agarwal should be looking for some kind of team effort.

Coach N. Arjun Yadav says his team is clearly playing for pride now and the first objective against Rajasthan is to take a first-innings lead. “Yes, we are down but not out,” he said hoping for a stand-out performance at least in the last couple of games.

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In batting with the exception of wicketkeeper-batsman K. Sumanth, captain Tanmay Agarwal and Jaweed Ali in the last two games there was nothing much to rave about.

The combined failure of experienced duo of B. Sandeep (41 runs in four matches) and seasoned opener P. Akshath Reddy (172 runs in six matches) was the biggest bane for Hyderabad this season.

Even in bowling, though pace duo of Ravi Kiran (18) and Mohammed Siraj (17), the latter now on India-A duty in New Zealand, were amongst wickets, it was pretty obvious they never really ran through the opposition. And, all-rounder T. Ravi Teja in three matches looked a better batter (189 runs) than a bowler with just three wickets.

Even in the spin department, off-spinner Saaketh Sai Ram (three matches, four wickets) and Mehdi Hassan (six matches, 14 wickets) never looked like strike bowlers. Interestingly, leg-spinner Akash Bhandari is drafted into the squad for this match.

On the other hand, Rajasthan (10 points from five matches) will look to the experienced captain and all-rounder Ashok Menaria once again as he is the leading run-scorer this season with 440 runs and the only one to score a century even while hoping the likes of Rajesh Bishnoi, Mahipal Lomror, opener Yash Kothari to come good with the bat.

In bowling, Rajasthan owed its solitary win (against Kerala in the last game) to the left-arm spinner Shubham Sharma, who picked an 11-wicket haul. But, the focus will be on the experienced pacer Rituraj Singh and left-armer Tanveer-ul-Haq to get the early breakthroughs on a pitch which is expected to play true.