Vijay Hazare Trophy: Coach Tinu hails Uthappa, Sreesanth after Kerala enters quarters

Kerala head coach Tinu Yohannan is a happy man after his side entered the quarterfinals of the Vijay Hazare Trophy for the first time in eight years.

The Kerala team poses after entering the Vijay Hazare Trophy quarterfinals.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

It took Kerala just 8.5 overs to smash 149 runs that left the Bihar bowling attack stunned at the KSCA Stadium in Bengaluru last Sunday.

The nine-wicket victory, achieved with 41.2 overs to spare, has fetched Tinu Yohannan's boys a place in the knock-out round of the Vijay Hazare Trophy one-day tournament – for the first time in eight years. Little wonder, the coach sounded rather happy as he spoke to Sportstar.

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“Yes, this was a great effort by the boys. I could not have asked more of them,” Tinu said. 

Indeed. Kerala did exceedingly well, despite being denied the services of its two main pace bowlers - Basil Thampi and K.M. Asif, who were both injured. To add further woes, Kerala was also handicapped by the absence of its bowling spearhead for the last several seasons - Sandeep Warrier, who has moved to Tamil Nadu.

“Given those circumstances, I thought we could utilise the available resources rather well. S. Sreesanth ensured that the absence of Thampi and Asif didn't impact our bowling," the coach said.

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The veteran seamer, on a comeback trail after serving a seven-year ban for his alleged role in the IPL spot-fixing scandal, took 13 wickets from five matches. 

“He bowled really well, much better than he did at the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 tournament. It was nice to see him using the conditions at Bengaluru to swing the ball," he said. 

The former India pacer also praised Jalaj Saxena, the ever-reliable off-spinning all-rounder, and the other professional Kerala has retained for the season – Robin Uthappa, the opener who could take a lot of credit for the team's great run.

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Uthappa's sequence at Bengaluru, where he has played most of his cricket was outstanding as the senior batsman registered scores of 107, 81, 100, 0 and 87 not out. 

“Robin was brilliant, and he is the main reason why we qualified. When he hits a purple patch, he can be unstoppable," Tinu said.

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The India Test seamer-turned-coach is also delighted with the performances of the team's new kids – Vatsal Govind and K.G. Rojith. 

“Vatsal's 95 against Karnataka (in our only defeat in the tournament) should give him a lot of confidence. He is one batsman who could serve Kerala for a long time,” said Tinu. 

“I thought all-rounder K.G. Rojith also gave a good account of himself, especially as an all-rounder.”

In the quarterfinals, Kerala will take on Karnataka at New Delhi on March 8.